Travellers living on halting sites are in need sturdier cabin-like homes, not caravans, to protect from increasingly severe storms, a local authority meeting heard last night.
Independent Cork city councillor Paudie Dineen urged city officials to ditch the idea of replacing storm-damaged caravans with more caravans, which he said could also be damaged in the next severe storm, and to consider more robust housing alternatives in the longer-term.
“I think they should be housed in cabins, or in modular homes. They are sturdier and more durable,” he said.
Mr Dineen was speaking as a report to the council last night revealed that the city has spent over €630,000 replacing damaged or destroyed caravans at two city-managed halting sites arising out of the two most recent storm events.
Several Traveller families were left homeless after their homes at the Spring Lane and Carrigrohane Rd halting sites were destroyed during Hurricane Ophelia last October and Storm Eleanor in January.
The report shows that some €256,000 was spent replacing 14 caravans at the Spring Lane site and five caravans at the Carrigrohane site in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia.
Half the money for these replacements came from the council’s Traveller accommodation revenue budget.
A further €375,000 was spent replacing 11 caravans at the Carrigrohane site and 13 will require replacement at the Spring Lane site.
A total of 17 replacement requests were received from residents of this site.
Half of this money will have to be sourced from the city council’s own resources.
The report revealed that the accommodation costs for Traveller families left homeless after Hurricane Ophelia were almost €6,000 but rocketed to at least €26,553 after Storm Eleanor.
The costs are ongoing until all replacement caravans are delivered.
However, the report said the accommodation payments to four families were ceased after issues arose with receipts.
Council staff were then subjected to alleged “harassment, threats and intimidation” from some members of some families affected by the storms, that extra security staff had to be hired in City Hall, at a cost of some €8,000, and that 11 health and safety incidents have been officially logged with the council’s health and safety section by the staff of the Traveller Accommodation Unit.
The report also said that the city’s caravan replacement programme has been ‘slowed’ because some families have refused offers of replacement caravans.
They have now been told that their accommodation costs will be suspended if all reasonable replacement offers are rejected.
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