More than 20 members of a Traveller family have launched a legal challenge in the High Court against the five-year Traveller Accommodation Programme adopted by Cork City Council.
The adults and children who have been living on an unauthorised halting site in the city for the last 15 years without electricity or permanent toilet facilities want the decision adopting the five-year plan struck down over the alleged failure to provide the family with long term Traveller-appropriate accommodation.
The family, who cannot be identified by order of the court, say their unauthorised halting site is “thick with rats” and they remain in unsanitary conditions with limited washing facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In their proceedings against Cork City Council, they are seeking an order quashing the December 2019 decision adopting its draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019-2024. They are also seeking a declaration that the adoption of the programme constituted a failure to vindicate their constitutional and human rights. They have brought proceedings against Cork City Council. The Minister for Housing and the State are notice parties to the action.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan this week granted the family leave to bring the judicial review.
In an affidavit to the court, the grandfather of the family said before appropriate accommodation is allocated to them, the family wants essential services including access to electricity, hot and cold running water and washing and toilet facilities.
Site is 'thick with rats'
He said the lack of electricity has affected the education of the children on site as they cannot complete their homework after dark and the alternative is to do their homework by candlelight, which is a safety hazard.
He said the day-to-day living of the family is impacted as without mains electricity there is no way to heat the caravans apart from relying on solid fuel stoves which are a fire hazard.
The grandfather also said the site “is thick with rats” and he is very concerned about the risk it poses to the family’s health.
He said water was provided from a pump in an adjoining field and three portaloos were provided over 10 years ago. He said a comfort pod to include toilet and washing facilities was promised but the history of its provision has been terribly frustrating and upsetting.
The comfort pod was promised in 2018 and due to be delivered but in March last year at a meeting at the Council offices he said the Council said it was not going to install the pod because of the cost of connecting to the water mains and a septic tank was being considered instead.
He said the comfort pod was finally provided in April this year, but he said they have to use a generator to power it.
In May 2019, he said the family were offered a standard house or houses as a temporary measure but he said he was not given details of the address or how long they would have to stay there until a halting site was approved.
He said his family want Traveller-appropriate accommodation and his family would be willing to avail of modular type homes if they were located on a suitable site. He said the recently adopted Programme, like previous three Traveller accommodation plans does not contain any detailed plans or commitment to end his family’s stay in the unauthorised halting site by providing alternative suitable accomodation.
The case will come back before the court in July.