Waterford Council Decision not to proceed with halting site quashed today in case taken by the FLAC Traveller Legal Service.
23 November 2021
In the case, Ellen Delaney and Mary O’Reilly v Waterford City and County Council, which was heard remotely today by Judge Meenan, Waterford City Council agreed to an order quashing its decision made on 15 March 2021 not to build a halting site at Carrickphierish Road, Waterford. The Council has also agreed to pay FLAC’s clients’ legal costs.
‘FLAC’s clients are both young mothers who for years have been required to live in overcrowded, dangerous and insecure conditions, on the promise that the Council would provide them with a halting site consistent with their culture as Travellers.
The Council’s refusal to implement its Traveller Accommodation Programme went back on its promise without any apparent consideration of the effect of doing so on our clients and their children.’ -Christopher McCann, Solicitor FLAC Traveller Legal Service
FLAC was instructed by Ellen and Mary shortly after the Council’s decision not to proceed with the 7-bay halting site which it had committed to building in its Traveller Accommodation Programme for 2019 – 2024.
The need for alternative accommodation for FLAC’s clients and others was recognised by the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee as early as 2015 when it noted and remarked upon the severely overcrowded conditions that they were living in at the existing Carrickphierish group housing scheme.
FLAC’s clients’ case argued that the Council’s decision not to proceed with the halting site at Carrickphierish flew in the face of its legal obligations pursuant to the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, which oblige local authorities to take any reasonable steps to implement their Traveller Accommodation Programmes and require them to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination. In addition to its failure to have regard to its legislative obligations, the Council relied upon demonstrably inaccurate reasoning to justify its decision.
Christopher McCann, FLAC Solicitor, noted that:
“The failure of local authorities to implement components of their Traveller Accommodation Programmes, thereby depriving Travellers of the accommodation to which they are entitled as a matter of law, is unfortunately a prevalent issue.
FLAC fully supports the recommendations of the government appointed Independent Expert Review Group to suspend elected Councillors’ power to vote on Traveller accommodation and to introduce a new way for such accommodation to be delivered.”
FLAC welcomes the Council’s concession in this case but notes that our clients remain living in dangerous and overcrowded conditions. This situation must be rectified as a matter of urgency and short and long term solutions developed in keeping with the Council’s statutory obligations.
“This case highlights the importance of expanding access to justice. Without the representation offered through FLAC’s Traveller Legal Service, our clients could not have taken their case and extracted a deserved concession from the Council. It is imperative that the State’s current review of civil legal aid results in root and branch reform and is expanded to offer representation to individuals like our clients in cases like this.“
-Eilis Barry, FLAC CE
Notes to Editor
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 (01 9061010). 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.
About FLAC Traveller Legal Service
In July 2020, FLAC launched its dedicated Traveller Legal Service. Supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland (CFI) and in cooperation with a Steering Group made up of representation from the national Traveller organisations, the aims of the Service are to empower Travellers and Traveller groups to engage with the law as a means of combating discrimination and advancing the rights of Travellers in Irish Society. The TLS comprises a full-time solicitor, Christopher McCann for three years. Referrals to the Service come through national and local Traveller organisations.
You can read our latest blogpost which is a review of the work of the FLAC Traveller Legal Service (including key statistics) so far in our latest FLAC Casebook blogpost here