Clare Traveller families have struggled to access additional supports during COVID-19 while an increase in deaths by suicides has been reported across the country.
All elected members of Dáil Éireann have been written to by the Irish Traveller Movement during the COVID-19 restrictions prior to the start of Phase 2 in the roadmap for reopening the country.
A “steep increase” in deaths by suicide has been recorded among Irish travellers during the pandemic and over the course of the last five years, the correspondence highlighted. The letter also notes that the risk of community transmission of the virus among Irish Travellers is higher than other groups due to the crowded accommodation and difficulty to self-isolate.
More than 2,000 Traveller families live in “inadequate, unsafe and impermanent conditions”, the ITM stated. 1,045 families live on official local authority halting sites with “257 sharing in overcrowded basic site facilities with extended family”. There are 174 families with only a portable water supply, toilet and washing facilities, waste collection service and a hard stand for caravans. 927 families are sharing housing with grandparents, parents, siblings and other grandchildren.
Across the country, 11 local authorities have sought approval from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for 55 mobile homes while 9 local authorities have requested 80 temporary toilets.
“Despite governmental support, measures suggested and budgets available, and representations by local based Traveller groups to local authorities, supports have not been comprehensively applied,” since a circular from Minister of State for Housing, Damien English (FG) on March 18th, a spokesperson for ITM outlined.
Traveller families in Clare are living “on roadsides in deplorable conditions, many with illnesses and no additional support offered including by way of electricity,” the letter to TDs highlighted.
Up to 1,000 families are sharing housing. “Some Councils have acted to reduce overcrowding on sites, through new serviced mobile homes and fast-tracking housing applications where that was a preference, most have not alleviated very overcrowded large sites and no evidence in social housing,” the spokesperson added.
Concerns have also been raised with the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh (FG) that Traveller pupils have not access to appropriate remote learning devices and that early school leaving may be accelerated as a result of COVID-19.