‘The most marginalised and unacceptable living conditions’: Minister blasts conditions at Cork halting site 

‘The most marginalised and unacceptable living conditions’: Minister blasts conditions at Cork halting site 

Minister for Rural and Community Development Joe O'Brien , on his visit to Spring Lane Halting Site in Blackpool Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A GOVERNMENT minister has said the conditions at a halting site in Cork are among the most unacceptable living conditions anywhere in the country.

Joe O’Brien, the junior minister with responsibility for community development and charities, was speaking following a visit to the halting site at Spring Lane on the northside of the city today.

Mr O’Brien heard from Travellers living at the site who highlighted their concerns, which included accommodation standards, sewage issues and a lack of maintenance at the site.

Residents tired and frustrated 

He said he received a warm welcome from those living at the site, but acknowledged residents were frustrated at the slow progress on improving living conditions.

“If I was in their situation, I would be equally frustrated,” he said. “I would be equally tired of conditions not improving in any significant way for too many years now.”

He said responsibility for planning rests with the local authority and added: “It’s our responsibility in national Government to make sure the local authority is resourced to do it.”

“Some messages from people is that resourcing is a problem, that’s not always the message I hear so that needs to be clarified as well,” he said.

Calls to ensure all funding used

Earlier this month the Children’s Ombudsman told an Oireachtas committee that the conditions children were living in at the halting site were “utterly shocking” and he called on Government to ensure funding ringfenced for Traveller accommodation was used.

His comments followed a report published by his office on the conditions at Spring Lane.

“Paralysis in the system cannot continue and I very much welcome the commitments made by the local authority to implement the recommendations from this investigation and in particular the expressed commitment by the CEO to ensure the necessary actions occur,” ombudsman Niall Muldoon said.

Speaking yesterday, Mr O’Brien said his understanding is that some action has already been taken, with more planned.

“I think a lot of the markers in the ombudsman report point to the third quarter of this year as well in terms of getting things started up,” he said.

“So [there has been] some movement on some things, but my understanding is, in the third quarter of this year, there will be a lot more action on the other recommendations from the ombudsman report.

Minister to monitor progress 

“I’ll be keeping an eye on how things are progressing during the proposed timeline.”

Mr O’Brien said he was anxious to see the living conditions first hand after the publication of the report from the Office for the Children’s Ombudsman.

“I’m here also because I feel it’s incumbent on me as a member of Government to see the reality of this.

“My own particular remit, I see it as tacking social exclusion in the variety of ways it manifests,” he said.

“Certainly what I’ve seen here today are probably some of the most marginalised and unacceptable living conditions in anywhere in the country.

“It was important for me to see that and to say to people as well that they’re not being forgotten about, they’re not being ignored and to add a little bit more attention and hopefully add a little bit of pressure to get things moving as quickly as possible.”

The minister was in Cork to visit a number of projects funded by his department, including Cork City Partnership, Knocknaheeny Community Building and Cork City Volunteer Centre. Tomorrow he will visit projects in Coachford and Newmarket.

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