The first Mayor in Ireland to come from the Travelling community has stated that anyone who refuses accommodation because of preconditions should be booted off the housing list.
And former Mayor of Tuam, Martin Ward, made it clear that he was referring to both Travellers and members of the settled community.
His reaction follows Presidential candidate Peter Casey’s comments on the Travelling community – and particularly in relation to the situation in Thurles when he claimed that Travellers had refused houses because there was no stables attached.
However, Martin Ward believes that the former ‘Dragon’ was mis-informed about this situation and that the Travellers concerned were quite happy with their existing accommodation.
He has also issued an open invitation to Peter Casey to visit Brú Bríde, the Western Traveller and Intercultural Development Association in Tuam, to see first-hand the work they do in training and development.
The Tuam Traveller representative said that while he believes that Mr Casey was being mischievous and attention-seeking, he did agree that anyone who refused a home should be removed from the housing list immediately.
“I don’t believe that anybody is entitled to put preconditions in place before accepting a house. They should be damn glad to get one.
“But if someone does refuse a house, Traveller or settled, because certain requirements have not been met, then that is not acceptable and they should be taken off the housing list for good,” Mr Ward added.
He said that if Mr Casey wanted an insight into the supports and courses that Travellers participate in, he was welcome to visit the Tuam centre to meet both the supervisors and the participants.
“We cater for both Traveller and settled members of the community where they integrate in a very positive and friendly atmosphere. Many of our participants are now in gainful employment.
“So it was wrong for him to give the impression that all Travellers are in receipt of social welfare but I am very strong when it comes to the allocation of houses and particularly in relation people refusing them and waiting for a better option to come along,” Mr Ward added.
Works are currently progressing on an €8 million redevelopment of Gilmartin Road in Tuam which had been mainly occupied by members of the Travelling community.
But when the 40 new houses are completed, it is the intention of Galway County Council to have more of a mix of residents.