Travellers living in one of the country’s worst halting sites have invited politicians to spend a night there to experience first-hand the appalling conditions they have to endure.
The residents of the overcrowded Spring Lane halting site on the northside of Cork City extended the invitation after a standoff at the site this week.
“We’d love to see some of these politicians spend just one night in one of our caravans down here,” one man said.
“We have no comfort in here, we’re living in cruelty, pure cruelty.”
Frustrations in the Travelling community about their living conditions boiled over on Monday when they blocked machinery from entering the site.
It had been called in to remove hardcore laid for new caravans which have been placed in an unauthorised area around the official halting site.
But the workers withdrew after advice from gardaí.
The Traveller members involved in the dispute defended the blockade last night.
Patrick McCarthy, 22, who lives in the unauthorised area with his wife who gave birth to their second child five days ago, said they had no option but to defend their homes.
“I thought they were going to pull the whole lot of us out,” he said.
“But where are we meant to go? Where could I go? There’s no place to go.
“We asked them (Cork City Council) to build a new site for us, and they wouldn’t do it, so we have to do it ourselves.”
His mother, Ann Marie, who has lived on the site for 28 years and raised eight children there, said her extended family is just fighting for proper facilities. “They were coming in to dig around where my son, Patrick, lives,” she said.
“They had no other choice to go out there, because the site is overcrowded.
“There are only 10 bays in the site and nearly 100 children living here.
“The council has nowhere to put them. We’re only fighting for our rights. We won’t allow them in to dig away our kids’ home.”
Solicitor Kevin Brophy, who is representing several Spring Lane site families who are taking legal proceedings against the council, said it is “the worst large halting site in the country”.
“We have been trying to negotiate with Cork City Council about improving facilities or finding alternatives. But it’s been going nowhere,” he said.
Cllr Ken O’Flynn (FF) defended the council’s actions and said the local authority has to assert control over the site. “My fear and the fear of local residents is that the site is going to become a ‘super site’,” he said.
“We’re going to have no control on the site if a large amount of people move back on to the site.”
He urged Traveller representative group TVG to advise halting site residents to re-engage in talks with city officials.
“I appreciate that there are difficulties there. It is a bad site,” he said.
“They should come to the negotiating table — our doors are open — but they must come with realistic expectations, and stop making unacceptable demands.”
Council officials, who accept the site is unsuitable, presented plans in September 2011 to extend the site by rezoning the nearby Ellis’s Yard, to develop a 20-bay “super-halting site”.
But councillors voted against the rezoning in December 2011. Progress on improving conditions has stalled since.
In 2009, the city had to remove tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish from a vast tip near the site.
There have also been complaints from several local residents groups in recent months about illegal fires on the site.
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