FLAC addresses Joint Oireachtas Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community
22 July 2021
FLAC, Free Legal Advice Centres today, 22-07-2021, addressed the JOC on the subject of Access to housing and accommodation, including Traveller-specific accommodation.
Since early 2020, FLAC has operated a dedicated a Traveller Legal Service (“the TLS”), supported by The Community Foundation of Ireland and in cooperation with a Steering Group of representatives from all of the national Traveller organisations. Since its launch, the TLS has received over 90 referrals or enquiries from Travellers and Traveller advocates requesting legal assistance.
Speaking at the Committee FLAC Solicitor Christopher McCann said;
“It is well documented that the State is undergoing a multi-dimensional housing crisis. An aspect of the crisis is the disproportionately high level of homelessness among Travellers. A longstanding and related aspect is the failure of the State to deliver on its commitments as envisaged by the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998, resulting in a chronic undersupply of Traveller specific accommodation. “
A key issue which FLAC has consistently raised is the deficiencies in the current legal aid system. Mr McCann noted
“.. the State’s scheme of civil legal aid does not explicitly extend to the provision of advice and/or representation in cases concerning housing and evictions. Nor could the scheme respond in a sufficiently timely manner to evictions, which in some circumstances see Travellers provided with no notice or a period of 24 hours in which to vacate a site on pain of potential prosecution and/or having their caravan impounded.
A proposed review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme is due to commence by the Department of Justice in the Autumn. FLAC is calling for these issues to be taken into consideration as part of that review.
Also speaking at the hearing Sinéad Lucey, FLAC Managing Solicitor emphasised the importance of dedicated and expert legal services to address the specific legal issues around housing and homelessness which members of the Traveller community frequently encounter.
FLAC called for the urgent implementation of the recommendations of the Traveller Accommodation Expert Review. In particular, FLAC concurred with the Expert Review’s recommendations for the introduction of legislation suspending the power of Councillors to approve proposals for Traveller accommodation and for further legislative reform to provide for a direct route for the provision of Traveller accommodation through An Bord Pleanála.
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available from volunteer lawyers through a countrywide network of advice clinics (these clinics are currently conducted over the phone) – more at www.flac.ie/help/. FLAC provides legal representation in a small number of cases in the public interest. FLAC provides legal advice directly to members of both the Roma Community and The Irish Traveller Community via specialist legal clinics. FLAC engages in policy work in areas of law that most impact on disadvantaged groups and including consumer credit, personal debt, and fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid. It operates the public interest law project PILA.
FLAC Traveller Legal Service
Since early 2020, FLAC has operated a dedicated a Traveller Legal Service (“the TLS”), supported by The Community Foundation of Ireland and in cooperation with a Steering Group of representatives from all of the national Traveller organisations. The purpose of the TLS is to address and highlight the unmet legal need of the Traveller community, through legal representation and the provision of legal training and assistance to Traveller advocates. Since its launch, the TLS has received over 90 referrals or enquiries from Travellers and Traveller advocates requesting legal assistance.
- FLAC’s opening statement to the committee is available at https://www.flac.ie/publications/opening-statement-to-joint-committee-on-key-issues/
- FLAC’s written submission is available at https://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-submission-to-the-joint-committee-on-key-issu/