Mediation underway to resolve controversial Traveller 'horse accommodation' issue in Tipperary

Mediation underway to resolve controversial Traveller 'horse accommodation' issue in Tipperary
The housing development in Thurles.

Conor Kane

Mediation is underway in a bid to resolve the dispute between a number of Traveller families and Tipperary County Council over horse accommodation which has prevented the families from moving into six new houses.

The council's director of services for housing, Sinead Carr, said at a meeting today that mediation services have been engaged and are working with the Traveller families involved at Cabragh Bridge, outside Thurles, and the council's housing section "with a view to resolving outstanding issues".

Co-director of Travellers' rights organisation Martin Collins has already said that it wouldn't be "unreasonable" for the families involved to graze their horses at a separate section of land, within a couple of miles of the houses, if a suitable plot became available.

The issue became a matter of public controversy some weeks ago when it emerged that the €1.7m development of six new detached houses have been lying idle for some time.

The Travellers who have lived on an "unauthorised" site directly opposite the houses for about 40 years say there was an agreement with the council that their horses should be accommodated.

At least two members of the extended McCarthy family said that, as far as they were concerned, the council was due to provide two stables and at least half an acre of land behind each of the six houses.

A statement released last week by Traveller representative group Pavee Point said that the families wanted grazing land to be provided for their horses, not stables.

Co-director of Pavee Point, Martin Collins, has previously called for mediation to resolve the impasse and said that the situation "is not insurmountable" if all of the parties involved sit down for independently-chaired negotiations.

If it is the case that it's physically impossible [to have the horses behind the new houses] I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the families to house the horses a couple of miles away from the site.

"I'd be very surprised if the Travelling families themselves were resistant to that," he said in the wake of the controversy erupting in public.

In a statement, the county council said that, "in the interest of resolving the issues and bringing the matter to a satisfactory conclusion," it would not be commenting further to the media while the mediation process is ongoing.

The dispute became a topic in the presidential election campaign last week when independent candidate Peter Casey described it as "a disgrace" that the houses were lying empty while the country is in the middle of a housing crisis.

He made a visit to Cabragh Bridge last week but did not meet any of the Traveller families involved as he did not want to "invade their privacy". The visit was dismissed as a "political stunt" by Traveller representatives.

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