Senator denies 'anti-Traveller' comments
A FINE Gael senator has come under fire after he said people with "Kerry surnames" such as O'Sullivan, O'Connor and O'Donoghue should get priority on council housing waiting lists over names like "Ward".
Tom Sheahan denies his comments were anti-Traveller and said they referred to people coming from outside counties who had relocated in Kerry and were securing housing over people who had been on the waiting list for a long time.
He said he had picked on the surname 'Ward' as it was common in Galway and he wanted to illustrate his point that there were "150 Wards" on council waiting lists in Kerry.
Ward is also a common surname among the Travelling community.
Mr Sheahan told Radio Kerry's Jerry O'Sullivan: "I wasn't coming down on anyone.
"I was using 'Ward' to make the point.
"I want the minister to allow Kerry County Council draw their own guidelines to deal with the housing needs because housing needs in any two local authorities are not the same and I want the people from Kerry who are on the housing lists for eight or 10 years to get the house and not be gazumped by people coming from other areas."
Mr Sheahan had called for greater powers to be given to local authorities in a speech he made in the Seanad on Tuesday.
He said it was wrong for people to leave local authority housing in one area and come to another county expecting to be housed by the county council.
He has also called for Revenue officials to be given the power to investigate the financial affairs of council tenants with new car registrations.
A spokeswoman for Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre said the surname 'Ward' was a name that was commonly associated with the Traveller community.
"Unfortunately, the point he's making is that some people should take preference over others on housing lists," Aisling Twomey said.
"Housing should be taken care of for everyone as expediently and fairly as possible with no prejudice or preference for family names or membership of any community."