LOCAL authorities around the country have laid the blame for their €70m underspend on Traveller accommodation at the door of the Travelling community.
Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan has confirmed that between 2002 and 2012 there was a €70.7m underspend by local authorities on Traveller accommodation.
During that period, councils were allocated €353.6m by the Department of the Environment, but just 80pc of this, or €282.8m was actually spent.
Responding to a Dail query from Fianna Fail TD Eamon O Cuiv, Ms O'Sullivan said that when requested by her department to account for the variations between Traveller accommodation targets and output, housing authorities cited a number of reasons.
These included Traveller families refusing offers of accommodation; families only willing to live in certain areas where housing availability may be an issue; difficulties in obtaining Traveller agreement locally; planning and legal problems; difficulties in obtaining site access; and anti-social behaviour by Traveller families.
However, Martin Collins, of Traveller rights organisation Pavee Point, said "most of the blame for the unspent €70m rests with the councils and the lack of political will and commitment to Traveller-specific accommodation".
Mr Collins said that the issues highlighted by the local authorities were "grossly exaggerated".
The figures show that the annual allocation on Traveller accommodation has plummeted.
Some €35m was spent in 2009 and again in 2010, but this was slashed to €15m in 2011 and just €6m last year. So far this year €7m has been spent on Traveller accommodation.
Mr Collins described the sharp drop in the spend as "despicable".
He said legislation needs to be amended in order to compel local authorities to spend the allocation they have been given for Traveller accommodation.
"The 1998 Act doesn't hold councils to account for failing to implement Traveller accommodation targets and sanctions must be in place for councils who don't meet their targets."
Mr Collins said that over the next number of months, councils will be working on new Traveller accommodation plans to cover the 2014-2018 period.
"With the local elections next June, the timing is unfortunate and I am afraid that some of those seeking election will play the race card."