More than 1,000 Traveller households, including some 6,700 people, are living in unsafe, unsanitary or overcrowded conditions, according to the latest figures, which show numbers are increasing in about a third of local authority areas.
The most recent Traveller “count” – for 2020 – conducted by city and county councils, shows the number of Traveller households increased to 11,118 from 10,809 the previous year. This is estimated by the Irish Traveller Movement to equate to up to about 59,000 people.
The count finds 468 households on “unauthorised” sites, such as by the side of the road, usually without basic facilities like running water, toilets or secure electricity. In addition, 800 households were “sharing” housing, which see more than one household on a mobile home bay.
While nationally the number of households in such conditions fell, from 1,462 in 2019 to 1,268 in 2020, there were increases in a number of local authority areas.
The number of households sharing increased in Co Cork from 51 to 53, from 26 to 34 in Co Kilkenny and 55 to 64 in Co Wexford. In contrast, they fell significantly in some areas, including Co Carlow (42 to 14), Fingal (26 to 12), Limerick city and county (135 to 114) and in Co Waterford (33 to 13).
Areas where numbers by the side of the road increased included Fingal (from 22 to 29), Co Kildare (24 to 33), Co Offaly (31 to 37), and south Dublin (one to 13). In contrast they fell in Dublin city (109 to 44), Co Wexford (64 to 56) and Co Louth (eight to three).
Counties that had no families by the side of the road in the 2020 count were Cavan, Kerry, Leitrim, Monaghan, Roscommon and Westmeath.
The count shows the largest proportion of Traveller households are in standard local authority housing (4,292), followed by the private rented sector (2,162), local authority halting sites (1,047) and approved housing body accommodation (527). Numbers in other local authority accommodation are 863. These categories have all seen increases.
Categories where numbers have fallen are those where the households are providing accommodation from their own resources (501), are in private houses (459) and those on unauthorised or shared sites.
Concerns continue to be raised domestically and internationally at the slow pace at which the housing crisis facing Travellers is being addressed, most recently by the Council of Europe’s rights-monitoring body, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR).
At a press briefing in May to report progress on compliance with recommendations on the provision of Traveller accommodation, the ECSR’s general rapporteur, Giuseppe Palmisano, said “it would be important to accelerate and implement more fair procedures for making available to Travellers adequate housing”.
“Then… do not continue to proceed to evictions of Traveller families without providing them at the same time with alternative, adequate shelters,” he said.