UN criticises local authorities on Traveller accommodation

By Sian Abraham Long

The UN (United Nations) has criticised Irish local authorities for their “discrimmination” in providing Traveller specific accommodation.

Ireland was questioned in Geneva last week with regard to how the country has managed its obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD).

Speaking at the conference, Commission Member Salome Mbugua said “This report to the UN sets out the Commission’s independent evaluation of where the State has fallen down on its human rights obligations, and sets out where progress needs to be made in specific actions to combat racial discrimination.

“State leadership is required to ensure that people have their rights guaranteed, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.” she continued.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Travellers make up just 0.7% of Irelands populations. In 2017, Travellers we’re recognised as an official ethnic minority and while the UN has congratulated Ireland on this front, there is much work to be done. In a press release issued by the (OHCHR) Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights they remain “very concerned about the persistently poor health, education and employment outcomes of Travellers and Roma, and the racial profiling [of Travellers] by the Gardaí.”

The The National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 was set up by the Irish government in an effort to improve the lives of Traveller and Roma communities. However, suicide rates continue to rise among Irish Travellers as well as their life expectancy which is still significantly lower than that of the settled population. For Traveller men their life expectancy is 61.7 years. For women, life expectancy is 70.1 years.

The Committee raised its concern regarding the underspend by local authorities on Traveller accommodation. In November of this year The Irish Times reported that just €4m of the allocated €13m granted by the Department of Housing was spent within the first ten months of 2019.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, an independent advisory group to the Irish government are set to provide an initial report to the Government by 2020. The OHCHR has said recommendations made by the committee are to be used to assist in “building the infrastructure to fight racism and racial discrimination” going forward.

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