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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 21 Jun 1994

Vol. 444 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Indiscriminate Location of Temporary Dwellings.

Robert Molloy


5 Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for the Environment if he intends introducing legislation granting increased powers to urban authorities to control indiscriminate location of temporary dwellings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Robert Molloy


28 Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to introduce legislation granting increased powers to urban authorities to control indiscriminate location of temporary dwellings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 28 together.

A substantial array of powers is already available to local authorities and the Garda Síochána to deal with difficulties associated with the indiscriminate location of temporary dwellings. These powers are contained in the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1948, the Road Traffic Act, 1961, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992, and the Roads Act, 1993.

While it is a matter for local authorities and the Garda to use these powers in appropriate cases, I will be monitoring the situation, in particular, to assess the contribution the more recent legislation is making to resolving the problem.

Surely the Minister is aware of the situation following the Supreme Court decision some years ago that unless a local authority can provide a halting site travellers cannot be moved from wherever they choose to locate? Travellers are not locating on Kildare Street or on the lawn of the Custom House but adjacent to local authority housing schemes. Local authority tenants believe the law in this area is being applied indiscriminately.

Ceisteanna, le do thoil.

The Minister is aware that at times up to 80-90 caravans have been parked adjacent to local authority housing schemes where they cause serious problems for local residents.

The Deputy is making a long statement. This is Question Time.

The Minister knows the point I am getting at. Will he take firm action in this matter?

I understand the point the Deputy is making. I have visited Taylor's Hill——

Castle Park, not Taylor's Hill.

——and what I have seen there is totally unacceptable from the point of view of the local residents and the people living in these temporary dwellings. We have a brace of legislative provisions which must be enforced. The High Court decision in the 1980 McDonald v Dublin County Council case has made the situation much more difficult for local authorities who have to provide alternative accommodation for travellers. The Government increased to £3.5 million the amount of money available to local authorities for the provision of halting sites this year. It is fair to say that, while making a genuine attempt to deal with the problem, many local authorities are unable to counter opposition from the public to the acquisition of these sites.

It is wrong for Deputy Molloy to suggest that local authorities adopt an indiscriminate approach in these matters. From the experience in my constituency I can vouch that this is not the case. In cases where halting sites do not meet the criteria outlined by Deputy Molloy, we have to ensure both in this House and nationally that more halting sites are provided with better facilities so that all the problems associated with indiscriminate and illegal parking can be eliminated. Some local authorities, including Galway Corporation have made a genuine effort to provide halting sites but because some authorities have not made as good an effort the authorities which tried the hardest have been hardest hit as they are unable to extend existing sites to meet all the needs in the county. A better and more uniform approach needs to be adopted on this issue. The Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, pointed out to local authorities that the housing allocation and our ability to increase it will depend on the efforts made by local authorities in this area. We are trying to tackle the problem on all fronts but there is very little public support at local level for the acquisition of these sites.

I am glad the Minister acknowledged the exceptional work in the Galway Corporation area in the provision of much needed facilities for travelling families. He also made the point that because some local authorities are not providing facilities there is an obvious tendency for the travelling community to move to areas where something is being done for them. It is recognised that there has been a huge influx into Galway of travelling families from areas where local authorities are falling down in their duty to provide adequate facilities. The local community in Galway are beginning to feel resentful that they have to accommodate an enormous number of travelling families because the local authority in Galway has been good in providing facilities for its indigenous travelling community. Every week in the Galway area more caravans are parked in open fields in the Castle Park area — at times there can be as many as 80-90 caravans. It is unfair to the local authority tenants who reside in that area to have this problem permanently on their doorsteps — it has been going on for 15-16 years.

I must dissuade the Deputy from making a long speech at this time.

Surely the Minister recognises that a major problem exists and that he should be more active in trying to find a resolution?

In recent years substantial funding has been provided to local authorities to enable them to acquire those sites. We have also established a committee to investigate the second problem, to which Deputy Molloy referred, which has more to do with mobile traders, a separate problem as distinct from the travelling community and those in need of housing——

There is no problem with mobile traders; they can be removed.

Yes, but there are problems associated with that also.

They have houses in Rathkeale and other such places.

We have effected a number of changes, more recently under the provisions of the Housing and Roads Acts, in the financial provision and through the efforts of the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Stagg, in associating the resolution of this problem with the future allocation of funds for housing development, so that the inequality to which Deputy Molloy refers in terms of efforts on the part of local authorities can be rectified. If it transpires there is a necessity to effect further legal changes, I will be happy to do so and ensure that we have the best legal, financial and other provisions in place to solve what I accept is a problem. However, I re-emphasise that there is no shortage of effort and commitment on our part to resolve it.

The time for dealing with questions nominated for priority is exhausted. Perhaps we could deal speedily with Deputy Barrett's Question No. 6.