Travellers on a halting site which was the focus of a scathing report on living conditions accepted just two of 20 offers of housing made over the last 12 months.
Cork’s city councillors were told that the city council processed 20 offers of housing to residents of the halting site at Spring Lane in Ballyvolane between May 2020 and May 2021.
While three of the offers were withdrawn, 15 offers were refused outright. Just two of the offers were accepted.
The details were provided in response to a series of written questions from Independent Cllr Ken O’Flynn, in the wake of the scathing report from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) about conditions on the halting site.
Following three years of investigative work, the Ombudsman found that Cork City Council failed to consider the best interests of children living on the site by allowing them to live in filthy, overcrowded, rat-infested, and unsafe living conditions.
It found the council failed to maintain the site, including the upkeep of the toilet and showering facilities, known as ‘welfare units’, ensuring consistent waste management and pest control, and providing a clear and safe passage to school, as well as areas for children to play.
On foot of that report, Mr O’Flynn, who has been a vocal critic of some members of the Traveller community who live on the site, tabled a series of questions to city officials.
He said he was astounded at the high rate of housing refusals by residents of the site over the last year.
“If things were that difficult on the site I don’t understand why anyone would want to stay there,” he said.
He was told that the city has spent over €547,000 over the last 12 years on repeated clean-ups of illegal dumping on the adjoining Ellis’s Yard site, that the city has spent €350,000 upgrading mobile homes on the site over the last three years, much of which was spent repairing or replacing homes damaged during Storm Ophelia, and that it incurred legal costs in the order of €100,000 dealing with some residents who refused to move to facilitate cliff stabilisation works on the site.
He was told that the council has removed an estimated 156 tonnes of waste dumped illegally on the road outside the halting site over the last two years, at a cost to the city of around €31,000, and that the council has spent €42,402.94 in skip services for the removal of waste from the halting site between May 2020 and May 2021.
Speaking afterwards, Mr O’Flynn said: “We’ve been treated unfairly by the Children’s Ombudsman and I think these figures prove the point.
“It is astonishing the amount that the city has spent on this site only for an agency to come along and say we’re not doing enough.
“There are people coming into my office every day who’ll say they’ll take a home anywhere in the city.
“We have to get tough and honest with people and certain groups who are not playing straight, who are landing the blame on the city council. We are putting money into this site.
“If the accommodation on this halting site is as bad as it’s meant to be, according to the Children’s Ombudsman, people would accept the offers of housing.”