Decades of “institutional racism” characterised by neglect and discrimination by Galway City and County Councils has amounted to “cultural genocide” for the Travelling Community.
That’s according to the Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) which this week released its third Monitoring Report where it claims that the failure of both local authorities to provide adequate and appropriate accommodation for Travellers was wearing people down and forcing them to assimilate “by accepting houses out of desperation”.
Poor accommodation with minimal insulation; a lack of cooking facilities; windows that won’t close; kitchens and toilets sinking into the ground; serious structural defects; and vermin infestation are just some of the problems that are plaguing Traveller families across Galway.
The ‘Traveller Homes Now’ report examines the state of 18 sites Traveller-specific sites and housing schemes across city and county and has identified a plethora of issues.
This bi-annual exercise is carried out by GTM to assess the compliance of the State and local authorities on their obligations under national and international law – and according to this most recent publication, the Traveller family tenants of Galway City and County Councils are “experiencing extremely poor, unsafe and unhealthy accommodation conditions”.
The Traveller Accommodation Programmes of both local authorities are described as “flawed”, while existing accommodation is “in the main, sub-standard and insufficient”.
In the city, the report criticises Galway City Council for failing to draw down the available State funding to provide Traveller accommodation.
“The Local Traveller Action Committee is not fit for purpose. Galway City Council continues to fail to draw down its Traveller accommodation budget.”
Similarly, the report said the Council is “forcing” families into housing that is culturally inappropriate and there were no actions in the Traveller Accommodation Programme to rectify this.
“The Nomadic needs of the Traveller Community are not being met, as currently the so-called transient site is being used to accommodate families on a permanent basis.”
As a result, GTM has called for the responsibility for Traveller accommodation to be taken from local authorities.
“Both local authorities have failed to meet their targets over a 15-year period and now, unfortunately, the new [Traveller Accommodation Programmes] are weak and do not inspire confidence that the targets to meet the needs of the Traveller Community will ever be delivered.
“This cannot continue and we propose that the responsibility for the provision of culturally-appropriate accommodation be taken away from the local authorities.”
The report highlights how those living in Cúl Trá in Salthill feel they are constantly under threat of eviction.
“There is huge overcrowding on the site with some bays accommodating up to 12 or 13 people on a regular basis. The original six families are in a state of limbo with the City Council.”
Severe damp and mould are identified as a major problem in the Fána Glas estate in Ballybane – with ranges in the houses failing to heat beyond the kitchen.
“The houses have no insulation with tenants forced to stuff the windows to keep out draughts.
“The tenants have no idea of the long-term plans for the development. The empty houses that were filled with rubbish have been cleared out by the Council. All of the houses around the development in the wider area were insulated except this site.”
At Beal na Srutha in Ballybane, tenants have resorted to approaching a local representative to tackle ongoing problems at the site.
“There are gaps in the windows with mould visible in the rooms. Wooden doors are rotting and a large amount of slates that have come off the roofs have not been replaced. Tenants are forced to put sheets over the windows to stop the draught coming in. Most ranges barely heat the houses, with one house having no heat source at all.
“The tenants have approached a TD, they’ve asked a doctor to write to the Council and they’ve rang the maintenance department in the Council.”
At Carrowbrowne, the temporary site is reported to have an infestation of rats, exacerbated by ongoing sewerage issues.
At the Carrowbrowne transient site, the green area at the centre has no play facilities and is too small for children to play in – with many forced to play on the road side, according to the report.
Bridget Kelly of GTM said Travellers were being forced to choose between their cultural rights and the basic need for decent accommodation – something that was “unjust, undeniable and unforgivable”.
“Traveller families are being forced to live in these disgraceful and stressful conditions for decades now because our landlords – Galway City and County Councils – continue to blatantly ignore the rights of our community to safe and healthy culturally appropriate accommodation.
“This is not a question of a lack of money, laws or policy. It is a question of institutional racism it its rawest form,” said Ms Kelly.
WHAT THE REPORT FOUND:
Beal na Srutha, Ballybane
Gaps in windows with mould visible in rooms. Wooden doors are rotting, roof slates not replaced. Tenants forced to put sheets over windows to stop draughts. One house has no heat source.
Carrowbrowne Temporary Site
Tenants dealing with infestation of rats at back of bays. Thirteen new welfare units promised but not delivered. Sewers blocked and potholes not fixed.
Carrowbrowne Transient Site
Ongoing infestation from rats, mice and flies. CCTV reinstalled without consultation with families. No play facilities for kids. Plumbing needs to be overhauled. Sewerage needs to be addressed and power lines fixed to end electricity difficulties.
Clós na Choile, Ballybane
Gullies around bays regularly overfill and cause damage to flooring. Heat escapes through gaps in windows. Toilets sinking into ground.
Cúl Trá, Salthill
Huge overcrowding with some bays accommodating 12-13 people. Families being forced into houses rather than culturally-appropriate accommodation.
Fána Glas, Ballybane
Houses have no insulation and tenants forced to stuff windows to keep out draughts. Ranges don’t heat houses beyond the kitchen.
Overcrowding has gotten worse with many bays at full capacity. Tenants told path at back of bays is preventing extension of the units.
St Nicholas Park Group Housing, Doughiska
No action to address rodent problem. Structural problems need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. No progress on Traveller specific accommodation to reduce overcrowding or hidden homeless.
St Nicholas Park Halting Site, Doughiska
No progress on Traveller specific accommodation to reduce overcrowding or hidden homeless. No progress on regular structural maintenance (insulation, drainage, damp and mould).
Renters paying €12,000 more per annum in Galway City than ten years ago
People living in private rented accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €12,000 more per annum than they were a decade ago.
New research from property website Daft.ie has found that in the past year, average rents in the city have increased by 16.4% and now stand at €1,713 per month.
Meanwhile, the Dáil was told last week that the situation in the rental market in the city is “horrendous”.
According to the figures published this week, rents in the city have increased by a whopping 145% since the bottom of the market in early 2012, when they stood at an average of around €700 per month.
Nationally, the increase was 14.1% year on year, or 4.3% between June and September (the figure was 3% for Galway City).
Economist Ronan Lyons of Daft.ie said that the last ten quarterly reports from the website have recorded new all-time highs for average rents.
He said that in the past 18 months, there has been an “extraordinary collapse” in the stock available to rent in Ireland.
Speaking at the Oireachtas Select Committee on Finance last week, Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell said Sinn Féin had long been calling for tax credits, but these needed to be in tandem with a freeze on rents.
“My concern is that if the Government does not introduce a rent freeze, this measure will put further pressure on families and individuals who are struggling to pay for their accommodation. Many renters feel there is no end or hope in sight. To be perfectly honest, I have never seen the housing crisis in Galway as bad as it is now.
“Galway is the place I can best reference and there is little rental property available in Galway. There is concern that this will add to the pressure that people are already facing if a rent freeze is not also introduced,” she said.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe responded that in the Budget he had announced a €500 rent credit, specifically for those who do not receive other housing supports from the State.
“I also acknowledge that too many people are paying too much of their income in rent,” he said.
The Minister added that in Berlin, where rent freezes were imposed, the volume of new rental accommodation available had decreased, and he contended the same would happen in Ireland.
Deputy Farrell said: “Myself and the woman who works with me in my local office are at our wits’ end. Today we had a conversation about how to tell people coming to us that the council can do nothing because there are no rental properties and there is nowhere for people to go.
“That is a position that we have not seen ourselves in since I was elected. I am talking about the period since 2014. Things are getting worse.”
According to the Daft.ie report, average monthly rents for a one-bed apartment in Galway City stand at €1,142 (up 15% year on year); €1,333 for a two-bed house (up 13.7%); €1,594 for a three-bed house (up 16.2%); €1,948 for a four-bed (up 17.7%) and €1,959 for a five-bed (up 2.7%).
For the ‘rent a room’ renters, a single bedroom in the city centre is costing an average of €572 per month (up 15.1% year on year) and €617 for a double room (up 13.4%). In the suburbs, single bedrooms and renting for €533 per month (up 20.3%) and €593 for a double (up 22.5%).
Minister deploys high-level ‘rescue’ team to help University Hospital Galway
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has deployed a high-level National Support Team to help crisis-stricken University Hospital Galway
Ann Cosgrove, Chief Operating Officer of the Saolta University Healthcare Group – which operates UHG and Merlin Park – confirmed this week that the ‘rescue’ team was in place to tackle overcrowding and delays at the Emergency Department.
Membership of the support team includes at least seven high-level HSE managers, including a hospital consultant.
The team has already met with local staff in charge of patient flow, discharges, bed management and unscheduled care. They will write up an action plan to improve the patient experience, she said.
The hospital has implemented a targeted intervention plan over the past few months to reduce the number of patients on trolleys while awaiting admission to a bed, focusing on timely diagnostics and decision making and the timely discharge of patients.
To achieve this, the hospital had been approved to recruit seven patient flow coordinators, one “data analyst for the acute floor” and one medical social worker.
Management are also in talks to increase bed capacity with the Galway Clinic and the Bon Secours private hospitals.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, and support our journalism, see the November 25 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also extensive coverage this week of plans for a new cancer Centre of Excellence and the latest meeting of the Regional Health Forum West. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Shoplifting in Galway almost doubles as cost of living crisis takes hold
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The rate of shoplifting in the Galway City has skyrocketed as the cost of living crisis takes hold.
At a public meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) on Tuesday, it was revealed that the rate of theft from shops in the city had increased by 87% year-on-year.
Chief Data Analyst for the Galway Garda Division, Olivia Maher, said this was in line with a national trend.
“There is some thought that this is as a result of the cost of living crisis and the pressures that people are under as a result – we are seeing these trends at a national level,” said Ms Maher.
She said that overall, property theft had begun to return to pre-Covid levels, with 1,264 incidents in the first 10 months of 2022 – a 50% increase on the same period last year.
“Property crime is beginning to reach pre-Covid figures and while it’s up on last year, it’s down 5% on the 2019 figure.
“Burglary is still trending below pre-Covid figures at 107 compared to 192 in 2019,” said Ms Maher.
An increased awareness of fraud was resulting in a reduction in a number of categories, including accommodation fraud, something that typically affects the city’s third level students.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the November 25 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.