Traveller housing has been earmarked for a former illegal dump site next to one of the most overcrowded halting sites in Ireland.
The new draft Traveller Accommodation Plan for Cork city includes plans to build a Traveller group housing scheme on the Ellis’s Yard site in Ballyvolane.
The site, which is next to the Spring Lane halting site, is zoned solely for Traveller-specific accommodation.
And a city councillor backing the plan has vowed to take on the "campaign of misinformation" she says is being waged by some opposed to it, and to tackle the politicians who are stoking up division over the issue. Solidarity Cllr Fiona Ryan said those calling for Ellis’s yard to be used as a sports amenity are "trying to sell the people of Ballyvolane 'a pup'".
The Traveller Accommodation Plan failing to deliver on this site does not mean a new sports amenity for the area - it means the site continuing to be used by fly-tippers and Spring Lane to continue to be unsuitable for the health and safety of the majority of residents.
"The Government and council have let both communities down through their inaction. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past," she said.
The draft accommodation plan is open for public consultation until the end of the month. It is expected to come before city councillors for a vote before the end of the year.
More than 40 families live on the halting site which was designed for 10 families. It has been branded one of the most overcrowded in the State.
Ellis's Yard, which is owned by the city, has been blighted by illegal dumping on an industrial scale for several years. It was at the centre of a massive clean-up operation earlier this year. Security staff deployed afterwards have been subjected to threats and intimidation. The roads outside the halting site have also been subjected to several incidents of fly-tipping in recent weeks.
Amid differing views about the future of Ellis's Yard, the draft Traveller accommodation plan proposes to house a minority of the families living on the halting site in the new housing scheme and to offer members of the more than 20 families living in the unauthorised section of the halting site accommodation elsewhere in the city.
Ms Ryan said those living unofficially on the halting site are the sons, daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of the original families:
They are living unofficially on site because the council has consistently failed to provide them with suitable alternative accommodation.
“Some politicians are trying to sell the idea that Ellis’s Yard can become some other kind of amenity for the area. This is a pipe dream - pure and simple. The yard would have to be rezoned and funding accessed - a process that would take years. If a group housing scheme is not built in the area then Ellis’s Yard will remain vacant for years again, the waste will build up and we’ll be back to square one only this time conditions will be worse for the families of Spring Lane and the wider Ballyvolane community.”
Solidarity TD Mick Barry said his party has consistently campaigned for the right to decent homes for all: "Spring Lane has become overcrowded as a result of central government and Cork City Council’s inaction on housing and the state’s systematic neglect of the Travelling community.
"Due to discriminatory barriers that exist for the Travelling community in accessing private rental accommodation, the State’s refusal to build public housing has had a disproportionate impact on the Traveller community.”
A plan to extend the halting site into Ellis's Yard was voted down by councillors in 2011.