Fire hazards at Cork halting sites

Fire hazards at Cork halting sites
Mick Barry TD said overcrowding on halting sites like Ballyvolane represent a fire hazard. Picture: Denis Scannell

Overcrowding in halting sites in Cork and across Ireland are a serious fire hazard and need to be addressed, a Cork TD has said.

Deputy Mick Barry (Solidarity) called on the Traveller Accommodation Expert Group to provide radical and bold recommendations to address issues facing the travelling community in Ireland.

Speaking recently at a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, he said:

“I understand best practice, and what is meant to be achieved, is a six-metre gap between mobile homes, caravans and buildings.

“There is overcrowding on Traveller sites in this State and in the city where I am a public representative, and the six-metre gap is not met by a long shot.

“If we look at the halting site in Spring Lane in Ballyvolane on the northside of Cork city, if anything the overcrowding situation there is worse than it was a couple of years ago,” he added.

The fire safety precautions that were meant to be implemented nationally in the wake of the Carrickmines tragedy where 10 people died in a halting site fire, do not come close to applying in daily practice on the site, according to Deputy Barry.

“Is it the only site in the country where this is the case? I very much doubt it.

“I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that it is not the only one,” he added.

“I use this as one example of a situation that needs to be addressed with urgency.” Citing the Carrickmines fire in 2015, Deputy Barry said:

“In the immediate aftermath of the fire local authorities throughout the country generally moved to take some action under pressure of public opinion and with a spotlight on the inaction of the past.

“What was done?” he asked.

“There was some signage and some fire-fighting equipment and smoke detectors were installed on sites and an element of training was given, but as the weeks and months rolled by less and less was done and at a certain stage it came to a virtual standstill.” Deputy Barry added the job was very far from complete when “things came to a virtual standstill.” A spotlight must be shone on the lack of both action and spending by local authorities, followed by proposals on how to address that, explained the Cork TD.

“Nine councils did not invest any funds in housing schemes last year and only seven drew down 100% of the funding.

“In the Cork City Council area, despite the fact that there are at least 50 families living in overcrowded conditions, €97,000 from a fund of €1.1 million was spent.

“In fact, more than €4 million of the funds allocated last year in the country generally were not spent,” he added.

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