Statement from National Traveller MABS on the Report of the National Fire Safety initiative for Travellers
National Traveller MABS welcomes the audit into fire safety in Traveller specific accommodation entitled, ‘Report on Programme to Review and Enhance Fire Safety in Local Authority Provided Traveller Accommodation’. Published on September 22nd 2016, the review was carried out by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM).
The audit examined over half (57%) of the sites throughout the country. Of these, 35% have had remedial steps undertaken.Unofficial and roadside halting sites were the categories most likely to have been missed in the audit. Currently 534 families are living in unofficial, unrecognised and unserved accommodation.
While the audit was carried out as a result of the tragedy in Carrickmines in which 10 Travellers, including 5 children died, and while work has been undertaken nationally to improve fire safety, National Traveller MABS remains concerned that many units of Traveller accommodation remain unsafe.
The audit notes that "protecting people from the dangers of fire is particularly challenging in the confined and cramped conditions that families living in caravans or non-standard accommodation may find themselves”. Many Traveller families live in substandard accommodation with severe overcrowding. Overcrowding is a result of the housing crisis and yet it also adds to the housing crisis. It has caused deterioration of sites to the extent that they are eventually closed which results in increased homelessness for Traveller families.
According to Department of the Environment in the last year alone, there was an increase of 135 Traveller families estimated to be sharing accommodation, accounting for 862 families in the State, or approximately over 4,000 men, women and children.
In May 2016, the European Committee of Social Rights found the Irish government to be in violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter on 5 grounds including on the grounds of insufficient provision of accommodation for Travellers. It concluded that a significant number of sites are in poor condition, lack maintenance and are badly located.
National Traveller MABS welcomes the recommendations of the audit most especially the acknowledgement that Traveller engagement is "essential" to improving the level of fire safety on sites.
However, fire safety can only really be addressed when secure and adequate accommodation is available to all Travellers.
To this end, we call on Minister Simon Coveney to acknowledge this and take steps to comply with Article 16 of the European Social Charter. To read the full audit please click here.