Fresh controversy has arisen over the suggestion that portable toilet facilities be installed at an unauthorised Traveller site in Knocknacarra.
As of Thursday evening, there were 20 adults and 15 children living at the exposed piece of land between Millars Lane soccer pitches and the Rahoon Road. The families moved there following their eviction from outside the Barna Waste facility on the Headford Road on January 22.
In an interview with Galway Bay FM on Thursday morning, the Galway Traveller Movement Project Coordinator, Margaret O’Riada, made it known that it was her intention to request that the City Council install the ‘port-a-loos’ on the roadside site.
Ms O’Riada told the Galway City Tribune that this was a case of providing people with the most basic of facilities.
“We should be trying to make people as comfortable as possible; there are 15 children living here and their basic needs should be looked at,” she said.
This move, according to local councillor, Donal Lyons, would be strongly opposed by local residents. Cllr Lyons argued that the site was completely unsuitable for the families involved.
“This would turn an unauthorised site into a semi-authorised one and this could not be tolerated; the site is not suitable and this would make it semi-permanent,” he said.
According to Ms O’Riada, the Galway Traveller Movement agreed that the site is entirely unsuitable and she called on the City Council to find a safe location for these families to live in.
It was also revealed, by Cllr Lyons, that four of the families based at the site near the Hibernian Building are not on the City Council’s housing list and that one family had twice turned down an offer of social housing from the council.
This information was given to five West Ward councillors in a City Hall meeting last week where it was also claimed that only one family had availed of homeless services provided by the council.
The Galway Traveller Movement’s Community Development Worker, Bridget Kelly has sought clarification on this. As far a she was aware, there is currently only one of the families pending approval for the housing list. She added there have been no recent offers of accommodation to the families at Knocknacarra.
“There is one case of a family from Mayo who have registration pending. Clarity needs to be brought and we have rang and written to Galway City Council [since the claim was made] and we are waiting for clarification,” said Ms Kelly.
Ms O’Riada called on the City Council to work with them on a more collaborative approach to find an alternative safe space for these families, ‘without being a nuisance to local residents’.
“These families didn’t drop out of the sky – the longest a family had been outside Barna Waste at Carrowbrowne for 13 months and the shortest were there for four months,” she said.
Cllr Lyons said that the situation cannot be allowed to continue and asked the City Council to make a decision on a solution as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for Galway City Council said that the issue would be discussed in a meeting next week.
“The situation in relation to both Traveller accommodation in general and the issues that have arisen in the past two weeks will be considered at the council meeting on Monday night,” he said.