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Changing Ireland

Anyone for a cold shower outdoors? STEPHANIE LEAMY reports* ST. MARGARET’S Traveller Community Association (SMTCA) held an open forum meeting in St. Margaret’s Park Halting site on March 22nd. The aim was to raise awareness about the dire accommodation situation facing Travellers in Ballymun. February 2006 saw 15 families left for 10 days without electricity in freezing conditions. Among the 100-strong attendance were residents, community groups, health workers, and local politicians including Pat Carey, T.D., who has been very supportive of the Traveller community. There are a few problems on the site, such as the landlord is not supplying enough electricity. As a result, ‘normal’ activities such as washing have become a challenge. There are showers, but they are outdoors and everyone on the site uses them. "They are broken - not physically - just the water is not coming out of them and when it does come out, it comes out cold or just in drips and draps," explained Siobhan Curran, Accommodation Worker with SMTCA. She supports the Travellers 100% all the way. Siobhan wants to see an improvement in the accommodation standards and the electricity supply. "I want to make the site easier to live on," she said. Asked why the Travellers do not buy their own site or move into houses if they are unhappy living on the current site, she replied: "There are a few families moving into houses but some of them have their

names down for local authority housing but it’s going very slowly. Some Travellers prefer to stay on the site because it’s their culture." "If they want to buy land for themselves, they would have to get planning permission and that takes awhile. They can’t easily afford to buy land of their own. "A few of the Travellers have left the site and left Dublin but the ones that are still there have to put up with the issues on the site. There is no safe play area for the children because there is a busy road and an industrial warehouse near their living space," she added. St. Margaret’s Halting Site is a 30 bay halting site built in 1997. It is home to 63 families. While 20 families are moving into standard housing in the next few months, the site will still remain overcrowded. At the open forum meeting, a number of suggestions for action were agreed. Dublin City Council were urged to engage with the residents as a matter of urgency. It was suggested that generators be provided until the electricity problem is overcome. Besides the issues facing the community, there have been notable local achievements such as with the men’s group whose members are learning how to drive lorries. The St. Margaret’s CDP also run a healthcare project and the women involved were recently presented with certificates for their work. Approximately ten CDPs in the Programme belong to local Traveller communities. For these CDPs, particularly because of the failure by local authorities to provide proper halting sites and

housing as legally required, the fight for accommodation takes up a lot of project time and resources. • For more information, contact: St. Margaret’s Traveller Community Association, St. Margaret’s Road, Dublin 11. Tel. 01-8622144. Fax: 01-8623639. E-mail: saintmargarets@eircom.net * Stephanie Leamy was on work placement with ‘Changing Ireland’.

‘Father’s embrace’ Pavee Point now runs an annual National Traveller Photo Competition. In the latest round of awards, second prize went to Julien Behal for a photograph titled 'Father's Embrace' (pictured here). The winner of first prize was Jacki Hehir. Pavee Point is one of the four Specialist Support Agencies working with the Community Development Programme.

Profile for CHANGING IRELAND

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