IHREC responds to European Committee on Social Rights finding against Ireland on Traveller accommodation

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission notes that a significant decision today in a legal case on Traveller accommodation raises matters of serious concern and requires urgent action by the government and local authorities.

The European Committee of Social Rights found that Irish law and practice breaches human rights on the following grounds:

  • that many Traveller sites are in an inadequate condition,
  • that there is insufficient provision of accommodation for Travellers,
  • that Irish law provides inadequate safeguards for Travellers threatened with eviction, and
  • that evictions are carried out in practice without necessary safeguards.

The ruling was made by the European Committee of Social Rights, the Council of Europe’s counterpart for economic and social rights to the European Court of Human Rights, in a case taken by the European Roma Rights Centre. The case was taken under the European Social Charter, which Ireland has ratified, making it legally binding on the State.

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said: “Today’s ruling by the European Social Charter is an important benchmark and demands urgent action by the government. The legal complaint was made in 2013, and approaches to both the provision of Traveller accommodation and to evictions of Travellers that gave rise to the complaint continue to operate, as was tragically reflected in the deaths at the overcrowded halting site in Carrickmines last year.

“The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission notes that the Dáil Special Committee on Housing and Homelessness discussed the needs of Travellers at its very first meeting. The Committee’s work presents a valuable opportunity to ensure that Traveller housing and accommodation is not overlooked in the actions the government takes to respond to the crisis in homelessness and housing. It will be important that the recommendations reflect the rights of Travellers not only to accommodation that is adequate, safe and contributes to social inclusion, but also to accommodation that respects Travellers’ cultural identity and their nomadic way of life.”

Background Information

  1. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly. Visit our website: www.ihrec.ie
  2. The Revised European Social Charter is a binding human rights treaty that Ireland ratified in 2000 (replacing the State’s accession to an earlier European Social Charter that had been ratified in 1964). The Charter sets out legal standards in economic, social and cultural human rights, in areas such as housing and accommodation, education, social welfare and protection, and in employment. It also protects vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities and older people. It is the Council of Europe’s counterpart for economic, social and cultural rights to the European Convention on Human Rights.
  3. In contrast to the European Convention on Human Rights, the supervision of the European Social Charter provides for a ‘collective complaints’ mechanism where representative organisations of employers, of workers, and certain international non-governmental organisation holding participatory status with the Council of Europe may take a legal challenge concerning a general situation rather than a breach for an individual person. The European Roma Rights Centre is one of the NGOs recognised by the Council of Europe for the purposes of collective complaints procedure.
  4. The article of the European Social Charter which Ireland has been found to be in violation of is as follows:”Article 16, Part I:The family as a fundamental unit of society has the right to appropriate social, legal and economic protection to ensure its full development. Article 16, Part II:The right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. With a view to ensuring the necessary conditions for the full development of the family, which is a fundamental unit of society, the Parties undertake to promote the economic, legal and social protection of family life by such means as social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements, provision of family housing, benefits for the newly married and other appropriate means.”
  5. The full text of the Decision on Merits in the case is currently available at
    rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168064edc9
    It will shortly be added to the online database of legal decisions and conclusions under the European Social Charter at http://hudoc.esc.coe.int/eng#.
  6. The European Committee of Social Rights found that there is a violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter in respect of the standards of Traveller halting sites because “there is not enough evidence which leads it to conclude that a not insignificant number of sites are in poor conditions, lack maintenance and are badly located”.
  7. The European Committee of Social Rights found that there is a violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter in respect of the quantity of Traveller accommodation because
  8. “there is still a not insubstantial shortfall of transient sites across the country” (paragraph 61 of the Decision on Merits),
  9. “there has been a fall in the number of families living in halting sites and decline in the provision of such accommodation” (paragraph 62),
  10. “that despite a substantial decline over the last two decades in the number of Travellers living on unauthorised sites, in 2013, 361 families over 3 percent live on unauthorised sites” (paragraph 63), and
  11. “the number of families sharing accommodation has further increased” since 1995 [when the Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community was published] (paragraph 64).
  12. The European Committee of Social Rights found that there is a violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter in respect of the law on evictions becauseThe European Committee of Social Rights found that there is a violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter in respect of the practice of evictions because
    • “Section 9 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) act 1994 (as amended) fails to provide prior consultation, adequate or any prior notice, not any limits as to when evictions may take place and no requirement to provide proposals for alternative accommodation” (paragragh 140 of the Decision on Merits),
    • “there is no legal aid for those threatened with eviction” (paragraph 141),
    • “none of the three subsections under Section 10 under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992 (as amended) permitting eviction provide for prior consultation” (paragraph 145),
    • “a notice period of not less than 24 hours cannot be considered as reasonable, particularly under section 10(b) under which Travellers may be relocated some distance from where they are currently located nor under section 10(c) where there is no obligation to provide alternative accommodation” (paragraph 145) , and
    • “the remedy of judicial review in the absence of legal aid is not sufficiently accessible” (paragraph 146).
  13. The European Committee of Social Rights found that there is a violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter in respect of the practice of evictions because although “the Government maintains that in practice local authorities do consult with Travellers threatened with eviction and do seek to provide alternative accommodation, [the Committee] considers that in the absence of an obligation to do so, it cannot be stated that such practices are followed where Travellers are being evicted from land not belonging to a local authority” (paragrapgh 167 of the Decision on Merits).

 

  • Facebook Share Icon
  • Twitter Share Icon