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CITY TRIBUNE

Travellers make claim of ‘cultural genocide’ in new report

Stephen Corrigan

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The Cúl Trá halting site at Lower Salthill

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.

Tuam Road
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).

CITY TRIBUNE

Missing man may be in Galway City

Enda Cunningham

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Gardaí in Cork believe that a man missing from Midleton since last week may be in Galway City. are renewing their appeal for assistance in locating 53-year-old French man Christophe Goutte, is missing from his home in O’Brien Terrace, Midleton since Wednesday 15th January.

From enquiries to date it is understood that Christophe took a bus from Cork Bus Station that Wednesday and disembarked at 5.35pm in Galway City. He is living in Ireland for a number of years.

Christophe was last seen leaving work in Carrigtowhill, Co. Cork at approximately 11am on Wednesday 15th.

He is described as being 5″ 8′ in height, of stocky build with brown short hair and white skin with a sallow complexion. When last seen he was wearing a black coat, black pants, a black woollen hat and a brown pair of boots, he was carrying a dark coloured overall bag.

Gardaí are particularly appealing to those in the Galway city or surrounding areas to report any recent sightings of Christophe.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Cobh Garda Station on 021 – 4908530, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda Station

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CITY TRIBUNE

City Council planning €2.5m bailout for Galway 2020

Dara Bradley

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Galway City Council looks set to bail out Galway 2020 – with an additional grant of €2.5 million to cover the European Capital of Culture programming costs.

The local authority has already allocated €6 million for the project, which officially launches on Saturday, February 8, with an event in South Park, Claddagh.

But city councillors will be asked to approve a further €1.25 million in both 2021 and 2022, at a special meeting next Monday.

The city’s ratepayers may ultimately have to cover the extra costs. A 3% higher commercial rate, introduced in the build-up to this year, and retained in 2020 with agreement of business representatives, may be maintained into 2021 and 2022 if management City Hall has its way.

As well as having to find €2.5 million extra for Galway 2020, Chief Executive of the City Council, Brendan McGrath, will ask councillors to sanction a grant of €80,000 to Druid Theatre for a production it is planning for March of this year, which was not part of the original Galway 2020 programme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Holders Rangers advance but Mervue Utd crash out

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Geoffrey Power scored twice for Connacht Junior Cup defending champions, Corrib Rangers, in their 4-2 win over MCR of Sligo.  

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

The returning Geoffrey Power was to the forefront for Corrib Rangers as the Connacht Junior Cup holders got the defence of their title off to a winning start in Drom on Sunday afternoon with a victory over Sligo visitors, MCR.

Salthill Devon, West United, Maree/Oranmore, East United and Hibernians also all advanced with different degrees of comfort, but there was a big shock as Mervue United suffered a three-goal hammering away against Manulla; while Knocknacarra, Renmore and Merlin Woods/Medtronic also all exited the competition in competitive games.

CONNACHT JUNIOR CUP

Corrib Rangers 4

MCR 2

The break-up of Brendan O’Connor’s Connacht Junior Cup winning side happened probably somewhat faster than the manager might have expected, but the return of Geoffrey Power at the weekend was a huge bonus as the striker contributed two goals as well as lifting a side that just seven months ago won the most coveted trophy in the province.

In a game switched to Drom because their own grounds at Westside are closed, the home side made the perfect start when Power got on the end of a long ball from Sean Keogh and drilled low shot into the corner.

However, the advantage was rather short-lived as a Keith Nibbs header levelled matters; before another set piece goal gave Rangers a 2-1 interval advantage as Stephen Gilmore got on the end of a Mark Wynne free kick to head home.

The Sligo visitors were displaying plenty of ability and they levelled matters for the second time when Ciaran Harvey applied the finish on this occasion with another header to tie up matters at 2-2 on the hour mark.

In a contest in which numerous opportunities were created at both ends, it was Rangers who regained the advantage when Paul Smith linked up with Keogh before slotting home to make it 3-2.

Rangers goalkeeper Shane Richardson continued to play his part with some smashing saves, and as the game entered the final minute, it was Power who again applied the finish that sealed the win and will also act as a confidence booster for a side struggling somewhat in the Premier League.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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