No place to go
Traveller families told to move on

A Traveller community who had encamped in the carpark at Belfast Zoo were told to shift by the city council this week.
And both the council and the Housing Executive are both saying the issue is nothing to do with them. But this morning the Housing Executive released a draft policy to improve the housing needs of ethnic minorities.
The families, with around 25 young children and babies, were told to make tracks on Tuesday despite there being no facilities for the Travelling community anywhere in North Belfast.
The only fixed places are on the Glen Road and the Monagh Bypass in the whole of the city.
And a group that represents Travellers said the family were forced to move “every week” leaving the children without any education and medical care.
Married couple James and Una McDonagh both 19 said their six-month-old little girl Ellen had been suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea with the appaling living conditions.
Sitting in their caravan, the young couple said all they wanted was proper facilities for washing and sanitation.
“We have to keep moving. We’ve no toilets or water and we get a bad reception from people,” said Una.
“We can’t go to the moon. A man from the council and two policemen came up the other morning with the notices. We just want to be able to go somewhere where there’s proper amenities and proper water,” said her husband.
And he revealed that damage had been caused to a caravan after youths went on a rampage attacking the family’s property.
“We’ll have to go to court and the judge will tell the authorities to get something sorted for us, but as usual nothing will be done,” said James McDonagh.
New mum Una said she wanted her baby to be able to go to school, but the current situation made it impossible.
“I’d like the wee one to start school when she’s old enough. None of the kids are able to go because we keep getting shifted every couple of days. It’s important for their communion and confirmation.”
Last month Belfast City Council only managed to agree that legislation to control unauthorised encampments was “a key piece of legislation”.
A previous report in 2003 said there was a need for “a holistic approach to ensure the provision of adequate transit sits and all other forms of suitable forms of accommodation”.
The council has also seen the appointment of a Travellers liaison officer.
Derek Hanway of the Belfast Traveller’s Support Group said the McDonagh family were the bottom of the heap with no authority willing to “take the bull by the horns” and give them an adequate site.
“This family is well known to Belfast City Council and the Housing Executive, but between the two they don’t seem to be able to rectify the situation. They are moving every week and it’s difficult even for us to keep track of where they are to provide assistance,” he said.
“The statutory obligation is with the Housing Executive, but the city council has the access to land provision. They need to provide a piece of land so the Housing Executive can provide facilities at a suitable location. There are no serious attempts being made and no political will on the council. We have staff here to work with the family. These children upwards of 20 are without any basic education or health care.”
Sinn Féin councillor Breige Meehan condemned the attacks on the families.
“No one should be subjected to attack and their property destroyed, especially vulnerable people like this,” she said.
A Housing Executive spokeswoman said: “We have offered them permanent rehousing but this was refused.
“We have also offered them access to Travellers service sites but these offers have also been refused.
“We are currently investigating the potential of providing Traveller specific accommodation for these families and will continue to work closely with them to address their housing needs”.
No one from the city council would comment.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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