City Council risks losing Traveller funding if decision is shirked

The existing Carrabrowne Halting Site.

National funding earmarked for a new Traveller halting site could be lost to Galway, if city councillors do not agree on a location for the facility.

In 2015, Government announced €2 million for a new scheme for culturally-appropriate accommodation for Travellers.

Galway and Offaly were chosen as pilot projects, and not-for-profit housing body, Cena was chosen to deliver the accommodation schemes.

When it was announced two years ago, Cena was tasked with providing a four-bay halting site in Galway and four units of a group housing scheme in Offaly.

Each scheme was funded to the tune of €1 million.

It emerged at the special Council meeting to discuss the Traveller Accommodation Plan, that Cena is ready to go to construction for the project in Tullamore.

But Jack Keyes of Cena said Offaly was nine months ahead of Galway, which was behind schedule.

“What we need is a site and a family grouping and we’ll take it from there. We want to move forward . . . We can deliver a suitable solution for Galway city,” he said.

Mr Keyes said halting sites can “work like a dream” if properly designed, and if “the right mix of families are on site from the beginning”.

He stressed he wasn’t “issuing an ultimatum” to Galway City Councillors and insisted he “wanted to work with you” to deliver an accommodation programme for Travellers.

Later in the meeting it was confirmed to Sinn Féin’s Mark Lohan that the €1 million earmarked for the Galway project would be lost if a site isn’t forthcoming.

Eleven local authorities applied for funding under the scheme and Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said if Galway doesn’t use the money, Cena will just go to the next Council on the list.

Cllr Lohan said if the City Council’s “inaction causes us to lose €1 million in funding that would be catastrophic”.

In 2015, when the then Housing Minister Paudie Coffey announced the project, it was welcomed by City Hall.

“Galway City Council is glad to be one of the two pilot sites along with Offaly. We have a long track record working with the Traveller community, Traveller families and Traveller representative organisations and are looking forward to rolling out this project with them,” a spokesperson said at the time.