Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch, who has responsibility for equality, confirmed last night that the former county manager at South Dublin County Council, Joe Horan, has agreed to her request to head up an independent review of the issues linked to what’s widely regarded as Ireland’s worst Traveller halting site.
Traveller representative groups have described conditions at the site as a “humanitarian crisis”.
Ms Lynch, who chaired an inter-agency group for 18-months which failed to resolve the issues, said she was delighted that Mr Horan has agreed to take on the project. “He has an impressive track record of dealing with Traveller accommodation issues,” she said. It is understood he has already had preliminary talks with various interested parties linked to the Spring Lane site.
Ms Lynch said the current situation cannot be allowed to continue and made a special appeal to Traveller representative groups to engage in this process. “We have an opportunity here to do something worthwhile and to resolve the awful problems with the halting site.”
Mr Horan retired as county manager at South Dublin County Council in 2012, after 10 years in the job where he had responsibility for the provision of services to some 265,000 people, with a budget in 2012 of €237m and assets worth €4.5bn. He contributed to or served on the boards of a range of public bodies, dealing with the Travelling community, children’s welfare, transport issues, and youth mental health. He also led a range of social inclusion projects and led an inter-agency group which spearheaded the provision of services and supports for hundreds of Traveller families in his area.
The process transformed the lives of almost 200 Traveller families in the area.
He was previously county manager in Meath for six years, and he also served in a range of positions in local government in Wicklow County Council and Bray Urban District Council.
But, Ms Lynch said his track record of working successfully with Travellers will be invaluable. “He doesn’t just talk about accommodation. He talks about employment, education, health outcomes, family structures and disputes resolution. If you concentrate on accommodation alone you’re lost.”
There are currently 33 families living on a site designed for 10 bays.
Fianna Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn, who has proposed the closure of the site, accused “special interest groups” yesterday of putting their own agenda before those of the site residents.