My Department’s role with regard to Travellers relates primarily to accommodation issues. In accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, statutory responsibility for the assessment of the accommodation needs of Travellers and the preparation, adoption and implementation of multi-annual Traveller Accommodation Programmes, designed to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers, rests with individual housing authorities. My Department’s responsibility is to ensure that there is an adequate legislative and financial system in place to assist the authorities in providing such accommodation.
The 1998 Act places a strong emphasis on consultation with all stakeholders and interested parties, an important requirement in ensuring good community relations between the Traveller and settled community on the issue of Traveller accommodation. Local Authorities are required to prepare their multi-annual Traveller Accommodation Programmes in consultation with other statutory bodies, community groups and other relevant parties, Travellers and the public in general. Local authorities are also required to establish a Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee (LTACC), which is representative of Travellers, local authority elected members and the public. The primary role of the LTACC is to advise on Traveller accommodation issues locally. The purpose of these consultative arrangements is to ensure that the interests of all concerned with, or affected by, proposals for Traveller accommodation are considered and to facilitate a planned and comprehensive response by housing authorities to the accommodation needs of Travellers.
The current round of Traveller Accommodation Programmes will conclude at the end of 2013 and local authorities are currently making arrangements for the adoption of a new round of programmes for the period 2014-2018. The wider issue of community relations generally is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.