Underspending on Traveller accommodation 'shameful', says advocacy group

ireland
Underspending On Traveller Accommodation 'Shameful', Says Advocacy Group
Darragh O'Brien. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images
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Vivienne Clarke

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has said that the allocation process for funding Traveller accommodation will be changed in 2021 to a central application process after criticism from a group which works to improve the living conditions of Travellers and Roma people.

“We've increased the fund substantially for next year, that will be managed centrally and the local authorities will effectively put forward their plans to myself and Minister Peter Burke, so we can manage those through the system, it needs to happen,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Half of the funds allocated for Traveller accommodation this year was not spent, this was not an unusual occurrence, the Minister said.

“Myself and colleague Peter Burke will be changing the process for next year.

"The allocation of monies for Traveller accommodation will remain open during the course of the year - so as opposed to just setting targets for each local authority and some of them don’t deliver, it would be an open call where local authorities would come in, and we would manage the Traveller accommodation process directly with them.”

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Mr O’Brien said that some local authorities regularly under-perform, and he wanted to ensure that such a trend was reversed. “I will be working with Martin Collins [Pavee Point] and other advocacy groups for Traveller accommodation, to ensure that this will make a real difference.”

'Nothing short of shameful'

Earlier on Morning Ireland, Mr Collins had pointed out that €69 million allocated for Traveller accommodation had been left unspent since the year 2000.

“That is nothing short of shameful. That local authorities are not spending their allocated budget to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers.

“We have been taking the same approach for the last 20 years and the evidence is over whelming, the numbers of Travellers becoming homeless is increasing day by day. We need to think outside the box. We need a new approach.

“This power needs to be taken away from local authorities, they are both unwilling and incapable of providing for the accommodation needs of Travellers,” added Mr Collins.

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The Minister said there were various reasons why the funds allocated had not been spent: “Planning reasons, objections, various different things that happened, I recognise there is a problem; there's no question that there is a problem.

“The underspend is not something that can be stood over, and we want to make sure that changes because we need to deliver good quality accommodation for our Traveller community and I'm going to make sure that happens.

“How we're going to do that is we're going to change the allocation process. Martin is right, look at some of the poor, desperate quality of Traveller accommodation – that needs to be reversed.

“We're anxious to do that. We're changing the process to make it easier for draw downs to happen to move forward projects quicker because it has to happen,” Mr O'Brien added.

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