Councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council voted on Monday night against using a site on Mount Anville Road for homes for Travellers.
Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs) going back as far as 2005 listed plans for five Traveller homes on that piece of council land.
On Monday, the majority of councillors voted not to add this site to its new Traveller Accommodation Programme for 2019–2025.
At the meeting, the council’s chief executive, Philomena Poole, said that selling the land would provide capital funding for the council.
Councillors said they were confused about why the Mount Anville site now appears on a list for the council’s sale of assets programme.
Poole said there was a sale of assets proposed in 2006 when the Ballyogan Environmental Services Depot was being developed.
“It had a number of sites listed on it for sale. None of those sites were ever sold. But the capital programme rolled along,” said Poole, about plans from 2006. According to Poole, the council has now decided to begin the sale of these sites for capital funding.
“It’s very disappointing that it was just easily moved without proper consultation from councillors,” says Geraldine Dunne, coordinator of the Southside Travellers Action Group, referring to the decision to follow the older plans.
“Mount Anville has also been earmarked for social housing, so it’s not only affecting Travellers,” Dunne said Tuesday.
Travellers make up 1 percent of the population but 9 percent of the homeless population, according to a report last year from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute.
There were two motions at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council on Monday night to put the Mount Anville site back on the agenda as a place to put homes for Travellers.
One came from People Before Profit, and the other from Labour councillors.
There seems to have been a shift in emphasis in the new Traveller Accommodation Programme for the next five years, away from building new Traveller-specific accommodation, to instead upgrading existing homes, said People Before Profit Councillor Hugh Lewis, at the meeting.
“I think the acceptance of not rolling out Traveller-specific accommodation has permeated to this chamber,” he said.
He said that a site planned for Pottery Road on the TAP had no timeline.
The plan doesn’t provide a timeline of completion for six of the 12 sites in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area that are earmarked for Traveller housing.
“Some sites have been kept in, but they have been kept in for future plans,” said Senior Executive Officer Aidan Blighe.
“We have timelined all projects for the lifetime of this plan,” Blighe said. “But not any sites after the plan expires.”
Councillors had wanted to keep the site in public ownership in general for social and affordable housing, said Labour Party Councillor Deirdre Kingston.
There are 139 Traveller families in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area, but only 58 of them are in permanent accommodation, Kingston said, reading the from TAP report.
She said she believed that there was “political pressure” to keep the site from being used for Traveller housing, a sentiment echoed by other councillors.
People Before Profit Councillor Melisa Halpin said she found it “shocking” that the site was removed from the plan. The report states that it recommended building Traveller housing sites near other, already existing sites.
No councillors spoke in favour of keeping Mount Anville off the list, but Fine Gael Councillor Barry Saul read back minutes from a council meeting from 2006 where councillors had agreed to dispose of sites for capital funding.
“The Right Thing to Do”
Poole, the council’s chief executive, defended the decision to remove the site from the TAP and put it on the list of sites to be sold for capital funding.
“I think this is a very progressive programme. It talks about housing that is upgrading of existing sites, but upgrading them in a very different way, group housing,” she said.
“I think group housing will ultimately create a better quality of life for Travellers,” she said.
She said that removing Mount Anville from the TAP was “the right thing to do” for the county, and that the site wasn’t needed for Traveller housing.
Traveller-specific accommodation refers to halting sites or group housing schemes, where extended members of a large family can live in the same location.
“Travellers want to stay on existing sites with family members if there’s room to do that. They need to be building new sites for the future,” says Dunne, of the Southside Travellers Action Group.
“The sites that are in existence do need upgrading,” Dunne says, about the group-housing schemes. “They do need to expand them which is good, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“But it shouldn’t completely knock out sites that are coming up for generations in the future. There still is a shortfall of homes for Travellers,” Dunne says.
Councillors voted on both motions to restore the site to the TAP jointly, defeating them 21 to 17.