I thank the Minister of State for coming into the House to listen to what I have to say. We get report after report, but the report prepared by the Traveller community analysing all sites and group housing schemes in County Galway and Galway city is absolutely devastating. It is so clear and the pictures paint a thousand words. Many Travellers in Galway are living in Third World conditions on sites provided publicly that are not maintained, at least one of which does not have planning permission and is totally overcrowded to the point where it contravenes the law. We know what happened in Dublin in similar circumstances. I despair at the inability of Galway City Council to deal with this issue. I support the Traveller community's call for a complete overhaul of the Traveller accommodation planning system. Looking for Part 8 developments and trying to work through the current system have failed to deliver year in, year out. There is, therefore, a need for a specialist agency independent of the local authority or that at the very least we would move away from councillors in voting through planning permission for Traveller-specific accommodation. All such planning applications should be put through An Bord Pleanála, at least in the short term. This has become a country of reports, thinking reports, laws or big statements will solve problems. The local Traveller accommodation consultative committees produce a lot of paper but very few results. Put bluntly, there is not the political will to deal with the issue.
The figures which indicate how Travellers live are absolutely devastating. In 2016 some 7,000 Travellers, or almost one in four, were either sharing houses or bays on unauthorised halting sites in 2016. In Galway a disproportionate number of the homeless are Travellers, through no fault of their own. They are the finest people who come to see me every week and they are homeless because we are not providing accommodation for them. There was a ridiculous situation in the summer of 2017 when Galway City Council threatened to evict Travellers from the Cooltra halting site because it was overcrowded, yet it had nowhere for them to go. It was either move to somewhere illegal or stay where they were; it was a choice that involved moving from the frying pan into the fire. There are many more specific examples. One I have often quoted is the halting site in Carrowbrowne. I fought and worked hard to have it seen as a temporary expedient measure because the Travellers were living on the side of the road. It was only meant to be a temporary halting site. Planning permission was given for a period of three years was given and then one year by An Bord Pleanála which scarified Galway City Council. Notwithstanding this, to my knowledge, the Travellers have not been taken to court by the council in the jurisdiction of which the facility is in total breach of planning laws, nor have plans been made to provide suitable long-term accommodation for the Traveller families who deserve a lot better than being placed beside a redundant dump.