'We've nowhere to go' - Travellers in stand-off
Traveller families due to be evicted from a site in west Dublin say they won't move unless they have somewhere else to go that is safe for their children.
Council officials earlier yesterday attended the Balgaddy site in Clondalkin where the families have been living for over two months, but the eviction did not subsequently take place following a stand-off.
The site with a number of caravans has no running water, electricity or toilets, and five families with up to 30 children are living there.
Bernard Joyce, director of the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM), who was observing on site, said the council had sought to have the families gone before Christmas.
The ITM was 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 yesterday, but they thought they would have another location to move to and this didn't materialise, he explained.
"We sought an extension to that timeline, but that hasn't materialised," he said. Mr Joyce said it was the families' understanding that if they moved to another piece of public land they would be evicted.
"This is all in the backdrop of a national accommodation crisis," he said.
"What they are asking is that the council consider the situation they are in, on humanitarian grounds."
Martin Doherty (44) told the Irish Independent 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 in 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 added that there were "very decent people" living in the area, and the children are settled into school there.
"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.
Bernadette McDonagh, a mother of five, said her children range in age from 15 down to nine.
"We can't go out on the road and suffer again," she said.
She said that the children were safe at the site, which is self-contained and surrounded by gates, and she added they have nowhere to go.
In a statement, the council said the families encamped on the old school site in Balgaddy moved there without permission during November 2018 and were served with appropriate notices.
Following confirmation that the council was 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 (CTDG) and the ITM at their request.
It said commitments were made that if the council did not enforce the removal before or during the Christmas period, CTDG and ITM, on behalf of the families concerned, agreed that the families would vacate the site at an agreed date, which was yesterday.
The statement said the council attended the Balgaddy area yesterday to oversee the vacation of the site as previously agreed with the families in accordance with the outcome of the mediation process. "However, the families declined to vacate the site unless an alternative site or housing was provided by South Dublin County Council."
It added the council is required to adopt and implement a Traveller Accommodation Programme (TAP) to meet the accommodation needs of the county's indigenous Traveller community - those families who have been resident in the county for at least three years prior to the adoption of the council's TAP. It noted the families concerned are not from south Dublin county.