Politicians offer to spend night at one of country’s worst Traveller halting sites

Two politicians have agreed to spend a night at one of the country’s worst Traveller halting sites to experience the appalling conditions.

Politicians offer to spend night at one of country’s worst Traveller halting sites

Cork City councillors Ken O’Flynn of Fianna Fáil and Thomas Gould of Sinn Féin, made the conditional offer as it emerged that a retired county manager has been asked to intervene in a bid to break the stalemate affecting the overcrowded Spring Lane halting site on the northside of the city.

The site, which was developed 25 years ago for 10 families, is now home to 33 families.

Many are living in an “unauthorised, subsidiary site” which has developed around the original.

Cork City Council’s plans to extend the halting site into nearby Ellis’s Yard were voted down in 2011.

A consultative forum, which was working to address the conditions, was disbanded in 2012. The work of an inter-agency group has also stalled.

As conditions on the site worsen, several Traveller families are taking legal action against the council. The site is also the subject of a formal complaint to the European Committee for Social Rights.

However, fresh efforts are now under way to break the deadlock. A former local authority manager, who was based in the east of the country, has been asked to speak to all sides and explore the issues. It is hoped he will devise a new talks structure that would encourage all parties back to the table.

Mr O’Flynn said he will spend a night at the site if Traveller representative groups re-engage in new talks. “I’m not intimidated by somebody saying ‘come and spend an hour walking in my shoes’,” he said.

Mr Gould said he has no problem spending the night at the site if it would make a difference. “But I think the forum is the way forward and I would like to see it reestablished,” he said.

However, the Traveller Visibility Group dismissed their offer as electioneering.

“It’s only one night out of their lives. It’s everyday life for the people in Spring Lane,” TVG spokesperson Chrissie O’Sullivan said.

She described the disbanded forum as “ineffective” and dismissed as “inadequate” the report it issued.

“You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. It was not a safe place for the issues that needed to be addressed,” she said.

Louise Harrington of the Cork Traveller Women’s Network, said that they are willing to engage with the former county manager, despite “misinformation” being peddled about.

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