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CITY TRIBUNE

Travellers make claim of ‘cultural genocide’ in new report

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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

Elective surgeries cancelled at UHG as overcrowding continues

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Galway Bay fm newsroom – Some non-urgent elective surgeries are being cancelled at UHG in a bid to tackle severe overcrowding at the city hospital.

It follows the issuing of a warning from the Saolta Hospital Group that the emergency department is extremely busy and there is ongoing pressure on bed availability.

General Manager at UHG, Chris Kane, says over 500 people presented at the hospital on Monday and Tuesday.

She says the overcrowding situation is very serious, particularly in relation to the ED, the Surgical Unit and the Acute Medical Assessment Unit.

Members of the public are urged to only attend the hospital in the case of emergency, and contact their GP or out-of-hours service if their health problem is not urgent.

Saolta is also reminding the public that the Injury Unit at Roscommon University Hospital is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week, to treat adults and children over 5.

Speaking to Keith Finnegan on Galway Talks, Chris Kane said the current level of patients presenting is extremely high and “unusual” for this time of year.

She also noted there’s also been a rise in patients being treated for Covid-19, including in the ICU.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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