Traveller family left without access to sanitation facilities for 6 months wins equality case
25 April 2017
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that a Traveller family was discriminated against by Dublin City Council in accessing maintenance services.
Sallyann Berry, a member of the Traveller community resident at Labre Park, Ballyfermot, took an equality case following significant delay by Dublin City Council (DCC) to the repair of her family’s sanitation facilities. A fire in late January 2015 destroyed the sanitation unit adjacent to their mobile accommodation. On reporting the damage to DCC, Mrs Berry was refused maintenance services due to an alleged previous ‘incident’ of anti-social behaviour by other persons on site.
It was 6 months before Mrs Berry, who was pregnant, and her young family were provided with adequate sanitation facilities.
Mrs Berry took her complaint to the WRC, claiming that DCC failed, refused or neglected to provide a maintenance service, thereby directly discriminating against her under the Traveller status ground of Section 3 and contrary to Section 5 of the Equal Status Acts in relation to access to a service.
The WRC found that the delay in providing proper access to a sanitation unit was discriminatory against the complainant and would not have occurred in similar circumstances for a person from the settled community.
The Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project (BTAP), which advocated for the family in this matter, welcomed the ruling. “This is a very important decision for the Traveller community. All too often an entire community, whether it be Labre Park or another Traveller-specific accommodation area, is discriminated against by local authorities and other agencies as blanket policies are implemented without regard to individual need,” said Lorraine McMahon, BTAP Coordinator.
BTAP was supported in this case by the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres). PILA empowers groups to tackle social problems by using the law to address the needs of marginalised individuals and communities. It facilitated pro bono representation by Kevin Brophy Solicitors.
Rachel Power, PILA Manager, said the case highlighted the need for more accessible legal services for the Traveller community. “The queries we have been receiving from Traveller organisations has been increasing year on year. While pro bono support secured a positive outcome in this case, there are many valuable cases that go unrepresented. Discrimination is a key and continuing factor that cannot be ignored and the Traveller community must be empowered in accessing their legal rights.”
“We would like to acknowledge the work of Brophy Solicitors, PILA and FLAC in supporting the family through this case. We hope the case will provide the basis for a more equitable service from local authorities and others to the Traveller community and encourage others to challenge all forms of discrimination,” concluded Ms McMahon.
- Ballyfermot Traveller Action Project (BTAP) provides information and support to members of the Traveller Community.
- The legal reference for the case under the Equal Status Acts is et-155867-es-15 and the Decision No. is Dec-S2017-012 it is online at https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2017/March/DEC-S2017-012.html
- A sanitation unit is a steel structure which provides families with running water, a toilet, shower facility, utility space and an electricity supply.
- Brophy Solicitors is a leading Irish rights-based Dublin Law Firm specialising in legal advice and assistance for individuals and small businesses. See more at www.brophysolicitors.ie.
- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. We offer basic legal information through our telephone information line at 1890 350250/01-874 5690. Free legal advice is available through a network of volunteer evening advice centres – see www.flac.ie/help. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues including personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid. Read more at www.flac.ie.
- PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance), a project of FLAC, is a public interest law network that seeks to engage the legal community and civil society in using the law to advance social change. It operates a pro bono referral scheme for social justice organisations in Ireland – read more at www.pila.ie.