THE problems that have blighted Rathkeale must not be allowed to recur just 40 miles away in the parish of Clarecastle, according to Councillor Paul Murphy.
On Wednesday, Councillor Murphy showed The Clare Champion the huge amount of waste left behind at a site just off the Skehanagh roundabout, where there had been an illegal encampment.
“For the likes of Clarecastle as a village, a lot of people are concerned that it is becoming overrun and that we could have another Rathkeale on our hands in a few years time. It is compounded by the lawlessness that you witness here, it is a big worry for a community to have this on our doorstep. We have estate management problems in our village, along with Ennistymon and other places, it’s not just Clarecastle; but it’s a huge, huge concern for a community,” he commented.
The Fine Gael councillor said he is looking to make sure that concerns are dealt with. “I intend addressing it through the local Traveller Accommodation plan. I’ve made my submission, as has the Clarecastle Community Development Association. It’s something that can’t be ignored.”
Schools with large concentrations of young children from the Traveller community are facing particular challenges, Councillor Murphy claimed, in the submission he made to the Draft 2019-2024 Traveller Accommodation Programme. He asked that consideration be given to local education facilities, when providing Traveller accommodation. “I recently spoke with a principal of a national school in the Ennis Municipal District and he enlightened me to many of the challenges that they face as a result of a 12% school Traveller population. These include speech and language problems, educational problems (70-80%) and a lack of willingness to pay for additional but necessary school services. This, in turn, leads to pressure on school resources and the wider school population suffers as a result.”
He said the Traveller population is set to rise in the coming years. “The national statistic that 23% of Travellers aged 15-24 are married and that 58% of Travellers in Ireland are aged 25 or under paints a picture that, as a country, we are facing a huge challenge and it is critically important how we plan ahead.”
Too often, he said, tenancy arrangements are not enforced, with negative consequences for those who are not causing trouble. “The council has to ensure that terms of tenancy are adhered to. Too often, when reporting anti-social behaviour, the response has been ‘that’s a matter for the gardaí’. The council needs to meet its duty of care to all citizens.”
Councillor Murphy has also sought more consultation with community groups in areas where there are many Travellers. “I am requesting that Clare County Council engages with community groups in a meaningful and ongoing fashion where there are high concentrations of Travellers resident, such as Ennis, Shannon, Ennistymon and Clarecastle. This would be in order to work together, taking local statistics into consideration, such as school enrolments”.
He claimed the mistakes of the past need to be learned from and greater dispersal and integration is required. “Group housing has long been and continues to be a problem. This has been known to create ghettos, led to internal and inter- family feuds, arson attacks, anti-social behaviour and societal problems. A policy of equal dispersal and integration of Traveller families into communities across the county needs to be taken into consideration as a matter of urgency.”
A joint submission was also made by a number of Clarecastle- based community organisations to the draft proposal.
It acknowledged that Travellers experience “severe disadvantage” and that a child born into a Traveller family “even today, will have poor experiences and outcomes”.
However, it also claimed that there are many problems regarding behaviour from some members of the community.
“Whilst the plight of Travellers nationally and locally continues to be a source of concern, so too is the increasing levels of criminality, intimidation and damage to the environment perpetrated by certain members within the Traveller community.”
It stated that, in some cases, the council has failed to take action when accommodation provided is not being respected.
The submission further claimed that “in a certain number of cases, Traveller residents in mixed tenure local authority housing estates are compromising health and safety standards for themselves and their neighbours.”
The community submission called for a pilot estate management scheme initiative for Clarecastle, while the submission concluded that the “Clarecastle community are now calling on Clare County Council to meaningfully engage directly with our local representatives and a representative grouping from our community on this Draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019-2024”.