After tragic blaze, State must look again at Traveller homes

By Mary Dennehy

A REASSESSMENT of Ireland’s entire Traveller accommodation programme is needed at State level, a member of Tallaght’s travelling community has said.

As people try to come to terms with the tragic loss of life in Carrickmines last Saturday, when ten members of the Travelling community lost their lives in a fire, the future roll-out of Traveller accommodation has come under scrutiny.

Three generations of an extended family lost their lives when the Portacabin they were sleeping in went on fire, a harrowing incident which has devastated Ireland’s Travelling community, and the nation as a whole.

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Patrick Nevin, a member of the Travelling community and co-ordinator of the Tallaght Travellers Community Development Project, told The Echo: “Everybody is just dumbfounded, horrified and in complete and utter shock at the number of people who lost their lives – and the ages.

“There are family links in the Tallaght area and people are finding it hard to speak about it. No words can yet express people’s shock and heartache.

“It’s an absolute shock that this can happen in the 21st century in Ireland and what I can’t get out of my head that within eight minutes – that’s the emergency services quick response time from the first call – 10 people died.

“In that very short space of time, that level of devastation occurred – it’s hard to comprehend and says everything really.”

He added: “People do need space to think about what happened and express their sadness and support, and the outpouring of grief from right across the country has been great to see.

“However, there does need to be a reassessment of the entire Traveller accommodation programme in Ireland at State level.

“It’s hard to see how we can move on from this, but one thing I know is that the State needs to fully recognise and value the culture of Traveller people.

“There is a lack of engagement with Traveller people, who are an integral part of our geographical landscape – and the Government needs to take a leadership role which can help address inequalities and prejudices.”

The Priest of the Travelling people, Father Derek Farrell, who was up until last year based in the parish of St Martin de Porres in Aylesbury, Tallaght, has spent recent days with families and friends at the site of the tragic fire.

He said that the enormous scale of the tragedy has spread shockwaves across the whole country, adding: “The extended family, the Traveller community, which is very close knit, and the wider community is feeling the enormity of this and the pain of it.”

Gardaí at Tallaght have been supporting the ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire by providing a presence at Tallaght Hospital, where the remains of the ten deceased were brought for post mortem.

A book of condolences was opened by County Mayor Sarah Holland in County Hall, Tallaght, this week and will remain open until this Friday, October 16.

 

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