Thursday 27 June 2019

Eviction stand-off between council and traveller families with up to 30 children

Martin Doherty with his sons Isaac, 5, right and Johnny, 8, beside their caravan on a site in west Dublin
Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Martin Doherty with his sons Isaac, 5, right and Johnny, 8, beside their caravan on a site in west Dublin Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

A stand-off is underway today at a site in west Dublin where an eviction of travellers was due to take place today by South Dublin County Council.

Families at the centre of the drama which unfolded at Balgaddy, Clondalkin told Independent.ie today that they have nowhere else to go.

By lunch-time there had been no forced entry by officials to carry out the eviction of the four families at the site, which has no running water, electricity or toilets.

Bernard Joyce, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, who was observing said: “The families are here around 10 to 12 weeks. They initially moved in around October.

There are a number of caravans and up to 30 children, he said. “The location itself is blocked off, it has gates. It has a concrete surface.”

He said that South Dublin County Council had sought to have the families gone from the site before Christmas.

A standoff is taking place between Council officials and travellers at a site in west Dublin where an eviction was due to take place today Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
A standoff is taking place between Council officials and travellers at a site in west Dublin where an eviction was due to take place today Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

The Irish Traveller Movement were contacted and intervened to postpone the date. “It was put back further. That was based on having more discussions and looking at the needs of the families.”

Some of the families had agreed they would move voluntarily from today, but the families said they thought that they would have another location to move to but that didn’t materialise, he explained.

“We sought an extension to that timeline, and that hasn’t materialised,” he said.

Mr Joyce said that council officials, a private security firm and members of the gardai were outside the location this morning ready to go in – but this didn’t happen.

He said that it is the families understanding that if they move to another piece of public land they will be evicted.

“This is all in the backdrop of a national accommodation crisis.”

He pointed out that without their caravans, the families would be homeless.

He said: “They are not asking the council to provide housing or a site tomorrow, what they are asking is that the council consider the situation they are in on humanitarian grounds.

“If families are in tents and they are homeless, do you go out and evict families that are homeless? You don’t. What you do is you go out on humanitarian grounds to understand why they are there.”

It is understood that the families, prior to living in South County Dublin Council,  had been living in other local authority areas. Mr Joyce would like to see greater co-ordination between local authorities where traveller families leave one and find themselves homeless in another.

Martin Doherty (44) told Independent.ie that he has eight children who are living on site. “They are ranging in age from 16 down to 16 months old.

“My big worry from here is if we have to go out of here today, we will have to pull along the paths because there is no other place for the caravans and the kids will go out on the road and they will be knocked down.”

He said where they are at the moment is a safe place.

He added that there are very “decent people” living in the area and the kids are settled into school.

“If they give me any temporary place to move into, I will gladly move in. Anywhere in any direction, any location around here,” he added.

In a statement, South County Council said:

"The group of families illegally encamped on the old school site in Balgaddy moved there without permission during November 2018 and were served with appropriate Notices under Section 10 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 as amended by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 and the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002.

"Following confirmation that the Council were going to enforce the removal of this illegal encampment under the notices served, the Council agreed to engage in mediation with the Clondalkin Traveller Development Group and the Irish Traveller Movement at their request. 

"Commitments were made that if the Council did not enforce the removal before or during the Christmas period, CTDG & ITM on behalf of the families concerned agreed that the families would vacate the site at an agreed date (11th January 2019).

"The families declined to vacate the site unless an alternative site or housing was provided by South Dublin County Council.

"Under the provisions of the Traveller Accommodation Act 1998, South Dublin County Council is required to adopt and implement a Traveller Accommodation Programme (TAP) to meet the accommodation needs of the county’s indigenous Traveller Community, i.e. those families who have been resident in the county for at least three years prior to the adoption of the Council’s TAP. 

"It should be noted that the families concerned are not from South Dublin County and indeed are registered on the housing need assessments of various other local authorities."

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