Human Rights and Equality Commission Launches National Review into Council Traveller Accommodation Provision

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has today announced that it is to legally request every local authority in the State to undertake an equality review on their provision of Traveller accommodation.

The statutory equality reviews, requested of each of the thirty-one county and city councils, focuses on failures nationally to draw down ring-fenced capital budget to meet obligations on Traveller specific accommodation. The national equality review will also oblige councils to examine specifically whether any such failings  may be due to discriminatory practices or policies under the Housing Act and the Equal Status Acts.

The Commission has taken this significant step, having consistently, since its establishment,  questioned local authority drawdown and use of the funds. The legal cases the Commission holds continue to paint a bleak picture of persistent discrimination and inertia towards the provision of services for the Traveller community, most commonly in the area of Traveller accommodation.

Over the years from 2009-2018 only 59% of capital funding provided to city and county councils by government for the delivery of Traveller accommodation was drawn down by councils. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has confirmed that for Traveller specific accommodation to date this year 19 local authorities have not drawn down any funding. The budget available for Traveller-specific accommodation in 2019 is €13 million with €1.84m drawn down to date.

The Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 requires each local authority to assess the accommodation needs of Travellers within their areas and adopt an accommodation programme and the strategy for securing the implementation of that programme.

The Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 prohibit discrimination in the provision of services across ten specific grounds including a specific Traveller community ground.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 gives the Commission the powers to contact the Councils to seek these equality reviews be carried out within ten weeks. The legal request made upon the Councils is that they report on findings arising from the thirty-one reviews.

  • Conduct an audit on the level of equality or opportunity and/or discrimination that exists in relation to members of the Traveller community who wish to avail of Traveller specific accommodation.
  • That they review their practices and procedures and other relevant factors in relation to the drawdown of capital funding and the provision of Traveller specific accommodation services.

The legal request made to all thirty-one local authorities, calls on each council to undertake an equality review on the performance of their services and to report on a number of key questions, which includes:

  • Their practices and procedures related to the provision of Traveller accommodation?
  • The amount of funds each council has requested to draw down from Government over the last 4 years and the use of that money?
  • Whether Traveller accommodation projects are being completed, and if not why not?
  • The amount drawn down from Government for standard housing over the same period?
  • What the impact is of any failure to draw down funds on their meeting of statutory duties to provide specific accommodation for Travellers?
  • For 2019 what funds have been or will be applied for in respect of provision of Traveller specific accommodation?

If the Commission is not satisfied with the outcome of an equality review or if the invitation to conduct an equality review is declined by a local authority, the Commissions statutory powers  allow it to take further compliance and/or enforcement actions.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Through our legal casework, the Commission has witnessed cases of severe deprivation caused by persistent discrimination and inertia towards the provision of Traveller accommodation. This impacts directly on the health and wellbeing of children and families in the State.

“The Commission is using our statutory powers to examine practices and procedures in city and county councils in relation to Traveller accommodation, to have them audit whether issues of equality of opportunity or discrimination arise, and to report directly back to the Commission.”

ENDS/ 

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

Equality Reviews

The Commission has invoked its statutory powers to carry out equality reviews under section 32(1) of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. Under these powers, the Commission can invite public or private organisations to carry out a review of equality of opportunity generally, or a particular aspect of discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts and or the Equal Status Acts.  The specific bodies requested to carry our equality reviews and the focus of the reviews, is made at the discretion of the Commission stemming from its focused work and its strategic priorities.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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