Travellers affected by storms told ‘take caravans or lose benefit’

Storm-affected Travellers have been told that any family which refuses all reasonable offers of replacement accommodation will have their emergency housing payments stopped, writes Eoin English.

It follows the revelation that some residents who lost their caravans during Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Eleanor, have refused offers of new caravans, slowing down a €631,000 replacement programme on two halting sites in Cork.

The details are contained in a report, due to be presented to councillors on Monday.

It shows how the cost of emergency accommodation for the families hit by Hurricane Ophelia was almost €6,000 but rocketed to at least €26,553 after Storm Eleanor.

The costs are ongoing until all replacement caravans are delivered, but the accommodation payments to four families were ceased after issues arose with receipts.

File photo of Spring Lane halting site.

The report says private security had to be hired after council staff were subjected to alleged “harassment, threats and intimidation from the families affected by the storms” and that 11 health and safety incidents have been officially logged with the health and safety section of Cork City Council by the staff of the Traveller Accommodation Unit.

The report also reveals how some €256,000 was spent replacing 14 caravans at the Spring Lane site and five at the Carrigrohane site after Hurricane Ophelia, with half the money coming from the council’s Traveller accommodation revenue budget.

A further €375,000 was spent replacing 11 caravans at the Carrigrohane site and 13 will require replacement at the Spring Lane site. Half of this money will need to be sourced from the council’s own resources.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Ken O’Flynn said it was disappointing to see the behaviour of a minority causing great hardship to the “honest decent members of the Traveller community”.

But he said the city has to adopt a “zero tolerance approach” to any abuse of staff.

“Nobody should be going to work and be at fear of abuse,” he said.

Cllr Mick Nugent said it was regrettable that issues had arisen with the receipts of some of the affected families.

- Irish Examiner


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