Members of the Traveller community have been subjected to horrific living conditions and vast inequities in accessing basic human rights across Irish society, a Fine Gael TD has said.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) published “No End in Site; An investigation into the living conditions of children living on a local authority site” yesterday.
Fine Gael Spokesperson for Equality Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said: “I welcome the completion and publication of the OCO’s report; a necessary piece of work that paints a stark picture of what life is like for many Traveller families and children in Ireland today.
“While the report focuses on one local authority site in particular, it also serves to highlight how Travellers have been let down across our society, with children amongst those who bear the heaviest burden and face the greatest challenges.
“Reading through the OCO’s findings, it’s almost incomprehensible to recognise the scale of the injustice that exists not only in our country, but very often within our own local communities.
“Traveller children face a much higher risk of skin conditions and respiratory problems than their peers. Hearing young kids recount first-hand being asked why they’re ‘dirty’, because they don’t have proper access to toilet and shower facilities is unacceptable.
“The OCO could not have been clearer that the local authority under investigation failed to consider the best interests of the children living in the site in question.
“These children have been left to live in overcrowded, unsafe, damp, filthy conditions for years.
“While this makes for stark reading for some people, it doesn’t come as a surprise to many members of the Traveller community.
“Urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that all Travellers across the country, and not only in the local authority site in question, have access to a quality of living that ensures their basic human rights – at the very minimum.
“It’s important to remember that Travellers don’t only face challenges when it comes to accommodation. Problems exist for many members of the community across the board.
“From my ongoing engagement and work with Pavee Point, I know that along with accommodation, better access to education is one of the most important issues for the Traveller community.
“We have seen some recent positives with better access to higher education for members of the Traveller community through the delivery of a greatly expanded apprenticeship programme by my colleague Minister Simon Harris, which I know Traveller representative groups have sought for many years.
“However, work remains to be done. We need to see the urgent completion of the National Traveller Education Strategy, which I have raised previously with Minister Norma Foley and which has been in hopelessly slow gestation for many years in the Department of Education. I would urge this Minister to really expedite and prioritise the development and delivery of the Strategy,” concluded Deputy Carroll MacNeill.