Aras Chill Dara
A call to erect barriers to prevent future encampments at the entrance to the Cemex facility near the Big Ball monument at Dublin Road, Naas, has been criticised.
Pavee Point, which works to improve the rights of Travellers and to bridge economic and social inequalities between the Traveller and settled community, said the call is negative — against the background of the traveller accommodation crisis.
Fine Gael councillor Darren Scully called on Kildare County Council to ensure that blatantly dumped rubbish is removed and steps are taken to prevent “illegal dumping and illegal encampments” at this location.
He told a Naas Municipal District meeting that people have camped there on three occasions and he said this is causing major safety concerns.
He said it is the duty of KCC and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, which is responsible for motorway and public transport infrastructure, to put in barriers.
However Martin Collins, co director of the Pavee Point and Roma Traveller Centre said it is very negative for a call for barriers to be erected as a solution to the Traveller accommodation crisis.
Mr. Collins said: “When statements like these go unpunished it gives a licence for others to make similar calls.”
He said Kildare County Council recognises Traveller culture in its Traveller accommodation plan and says it is committed to promoting equality and inclusion for Travellers.
Yet, he adds, KCC has failed to build any Traveller specific accommodation in approximately ten years and in the last year failed to draw down any of its funding for this accommodation.
He said legislation provides for transitory halting sites where Travellers can stay for short periods.
“If Travellers are staying in an area and staying there a number of weeks before heading to their ultimate destination it would make sense for KCC to build a halting site with facilities to enable Traveller to stop in a safe place. Currently there is no halting site anywhere near the county town of Naas,” said Mr. Collins.
He said that when recognising Traveller ethnicity a year ago, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke about less negativity, less exclusion and less marginalisation for Irish Travellers.
“We think Cllr Scully does his party a disservice by playing into negative stereotypes of Travellers as criminal and dirty and thereby continuing the cycle of discrimination and racism against Travellers.”
Mr. Collins said an independent expert panel is reviewing the functioning of the 1998 Traveler Accommodation Act and “we look forward to its finding hopefully by the end of the year.”
PJ Dooley of the Kildare Traveller Network says he understands that the families camped near Cemex were passing through the county and said it was envisaged that the transient sites, which would provide basic facilities for a fee, would have been used by them.
However the failure of local authorities to build such facilities means that Travellers have nowhere to park. This coupled with the blocking off of sites which Travellers used to use has meant their nomadic culture has been undermined by the State.
Cllr Scully responded that anytime anyone raises genuine concerns with regard anti social behaviour by members of the travelling community they are attacked by Pavee Point. He said Pavee Point are quick to call for more rights for Travellers but he claimed if a member of the settled community created or dumped litter they would be fined or prosecuted by the local authority.