There are approximately 25,000 Travellers in Ireland, constituting less than 1% of the total population. In view of this, providing well-serviced accommodation for all Traveller families is not an unrealistic aim. Despite legal obligations regarding Traveller-specific accommodation placed on local authorities through the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, there are still Traveller families living by the roadside without basic facilities available to them.
Un-serviced sites lack regular refuse collection, running water, toilets, bath or showers, access to electricity and fire precautions. Living in these conditions greatly reduces the life expectancy of the Traveller community, which is now comparable to that of the settled community in the 1950′s. Studies have shown that there is a critical link between improved accommodation for Travellers and better uptake of education, health and employment services; in addition, better serviced accommodation is an important factor in alleviating the serious hostility and discrimination shown to Travellers by many in the settled community.

Travellers can still be evicted from public land, even if there is nowhere else for them to go, through the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002. Nomadism, a traditional way of life in which a community has no permanent settlement but moves from place to place, usually seasonally and within a defined territory, is an important part of Traveller culture. However it is under threat due to the failure of local authorities to provide the relevant accommodation they are legally obliged to do so.

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Traveller-specific accommodation includes serviced halting sites, group housing schemes and transient sites. Authorities are required to implement an accommodation programme that would include this range of accommodation provision as well as standard local authority housing for Travellers who would prefer it.

In 1995, the report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community recommended that 3,100 units of Traveller specific accommodation be provided nationally by the year 2000. By the end of 2004 only 98 units of this accommodation had been provided. The number of Traveller families across the country awaiting permanent accommodation at the end of 2004 was in excess of 3,500*

(*Source- Irish Traveller Movement)

In the Offaly Traveller Movement community consultation 2012 respondents spoke of the poor facilities for Travellers in Offaly, particularly those that wanted to live on sites or other forms of Traveller specific accommodation.  Some respondents spoke of their experiences of living on unofficial sites, many for a significant number of years, without access to basic facilities such as running water, toilets, electricity or refuse collection.  Respondents spoke of the fact that due to the lack of Traveller specific accommodation in Offaly, many Travellers are ‘forced’ to accept a house when they would prefer to live in Traveller specific accommodation.

One Offaly Traveller stated:

…There is nothing for Travellers that don’t want to live in houses.  Some are forced to live in houses because they do not have anywhere else to go

 The OTM accommodation worker and accommodation working group respond to the situation in a number of ways:

  • Raising awareness and knowledge of services in Offaly by providing information through an outreach service to Traveller community on accommodation needs
  • Providing accommodation clinics to Travellers living on the unofficial and official sites throughout Offaly
  • Providing information through “drop in centres” to Travellers living in Offaly
  • Supporting Travellers to access local accommodation services
  • Linking service providers with families
  • Documenting accommodation needs
  • Working with Offaly County Council and the Town Councils to help families with their housing applications
  • Supporting families that are facing eviction
  • Representing Travellers on the Local Traveller Accomodation Consultative Committee (LTACC)
  • Forwarding discrimination cases to the Irish Traveller Movement legal department and European Network against Racism (ENAR) Ireland.