Human Rights Commission visits Coalisland to Discuss Traveller Accommodation

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Human Rights Commission visits Coalisland to Discuss Traveller Accommodation

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) visited Coalisland on Monday 21 May to meet with local Traveller support groups and organisations as part of its ongoing engagement work.

The visit was facilitated by StepNI and the Promoting Wellbeing Team of the Southern Trust, Health and Social Care NI.

Les Allamby, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Chief Commissioner added:

“We were delighted to visit Coalisland to discuss the findings and recommendations of our recent investigation into Travellers accommodation. The report found a range of systematic issues, including inadequacy of sites, racial discrimination and a lack of engagement between public authorities and Travellers in Northern Ireland. We are committed to engaging with Travellers and Traveller support groups as it is important that we listen again to local experiences and then work together with local authorities to bring about the change that is currently needed.”

The Commission’s investigation report into Travellers’ accommodation was published in March this year. Since the publication, the Commission has put in place an implementation plan to pursue the recommendations in the report. As a result, the Commission has continued to engage with relevant public authorities, Travellers, and Traveller support groups to resolve the issues identified in the investigation report.

Further planned engagement visits will take place over the coming weeks.

ENDS

Further information:

For further information please contact Claire Martin on (028) 9024 3987/ 0771 7731873 or by email on claire.martin@nihrc.org

Note to Editors

1. The Commission’s ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’: Travellers’ Accommodation in Northern Ireland’ report was launched in Belfast City Hall on Tuesday 6 March 2018.

2. The investigation identified 13 systematic concerns and made 45 recommendations. The investigation identified 13 systemic issues these included:

Inadequacy of Travellers’ Sites

Some Travellers’ sites are inadequate in the provision of standard services and facilities (electricity, water, heating, drainage, sanitation, waste disposal). This is particularly true of Travellers’ sites intended as transient in nature, but that are operating as permanent sites in practice. The lack of effective management of Travellers’ sites exacerbates these problems.

Legal Framework

Domestic laws and policies regarding Travellers’ accommodation in NI largely satisfy human rights requirements. However, the existence of the Unauthorised Encampments (NI) Order 2005 has a disproportionate impact on the Traveller communities and threatens their nomadic culture.

Racial Discrimination

There is evidence that Travellers have been subject to discriminatory behaviours and attitudes from public authorities and the settled community. This emerges through actions, but also through inaction and general inertia regarding Travellers’ issues. Negative public opinions and bias towards Travellers also impacts negatively on Travellers, in particular concerning planning applications.

Provision of Traveller-specific Accommodation

There is insufficient culturally adequate Travellers’ accommodation available. In particular, the NI Housing Executive is failing to provide sufficient adequate Travellers’ sites. Its actions and inaction suggest a preference for developing and maintaining bricks and mortar accommodation, over Travellers’ sites.

Resource Availability

While the NI Housing Executive maintains it is satisfied with the resources available to it for developing and maintaining Traveller-specific accommodation, the existing accommodation is insufficient to the need. In addition, spend per pitch has been reducing on an annual basis.

Resource and Policy Accountability

The Department for Communities allocates funding to the NI Housing Executive, but there is no robust mechanism in place for the Department to monitor how funding is allocated to Travellers’ accommodation and what outcomes are being achieved.

Participation

Efforts to ensure the participation of Travellers in decision-making processes regarding accommodation by public authorities are ineffective and inadequate. There is a lack of emphasis on supporting Traveller advocates. There is also a heavy burden placed on Traveller support groups by public authorities, in terms of the roles they are expected to fulfil. These groups are also under-resourced for both their contracted role and remuneration for the additional uncontracted assistance sought by public authorities.

3. Access the full report and Executive summary of the report at www.nihrc.org

4. Read the full terms of reference for the investigation on the Commission’s website: www.nihrc.org

5. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.


25 May 2018