'Housing meeting' row

Paul DeeringSligo Champion

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry says he is not in a position to say whether or not he had arranged a meeting between residents in Cartron Estate and officials of the county council in relation to the allocation of a house to a young Traveller family in the estate.

Deputy MacSharry told The Sligo Champion that, as was normal practice for a public representative he dealt with a diverse range of queries from individual and groups of constituents for assistance with issues they may need help with on a daily basis.

"I always do so to the best of my ability. My obligations under GDPR and the practice of good governance prohibit my betraying the confidences of any constituent or group in relation to whether a request is made or what matters they seek assistance with.

"I therefore am never in a position to confirm any approach being made in the first instance or when an approach is made what it pertains to in the second. This is normal practice under the law and the public are entitled to no less," he said.

Referring to acts of vandalism that took place at the house once it became known the Traveller family had been allocated it, Deputy MacSharry said: "I condemn all criminal activity. All criminal acts should be fully investigated and those responsible prosecuted with the full rigours of the law.

"Vandalism on this or any house should  not be tolerated in our society and as with all criminal activity, those responsible must be pursued by police and punished in accordance with the law."

Deputy MacSharry was responding to strong criticism from the Sligo Traveller Support Group in the wake of the decision of the young Traveller couple, currently living in a caravan at Connaughton Road not to accept a house which had been allocated to them at Cartron Estate after it was subjected to the vandalism attacks.

The couple, Johnny and Rosie McGinley and their children, revealed their plight to The Sligo Champion and have said they will not now be moving there.

The Traveller Support Group this week stated that it was aware of meetings Deputy MacSharry held with officials of Sligo County Council and some Cartron Esttate residents on the issue.

"Sligo Traveller Support Group received information from a County Councillor that it was their understanding that an initial meeting of Cartron residents did take place in October with regards to the family moving to the area and a subsequent meeting between Deputy Macsharry, residents and the Council took place. Neither the family in question or Sligo Traveller Support Group were aware of or invited to any such meetings," said Jamie Murphy from the Sligo Traveller Support Group.

He continued: "This is a very serious matter. It's our understanding that a meeting was arranged between a local TD, residents and Council staff with regards to the allocation of a home to a young Traveller family in the area.

"The matter of an allocation or any aspect of an individual's or family housing situation is a strictly confidential matter and should not be open to discussion either formally or informally with any third party that does not have written consent of the applicant.

"We contacted both the TD in question and Sligo County Council to clarify exactly what happened but disappointingly neither were willing to make any specific comment on the matter so we have to work on the basis that the information we received was accurate.

"We ourselves as an organisation can only advocate on behalf of someone with their written consent, the idea that this meeting either formally or informally took place is shocking."