A PROMINENT priest says local authorities need to be more proactive in their dealings with members of the Travelling community.
Southill parish priest, Fr Pat Hogan, made his comments as talks continue to resolve a standoff in Carrickmines over the rehousing of 15 members of the same family, who have been left homeless following the country’s worst fire in recent memory.
The tragedy, which claimed the lives of ten people, has put a focus on halting sites, such as Clonlong in Southill, which are overcrowded and substandard.
Fr Hogan has also criticised several statutory agencies for not acting on a damning report, which was published into conditions at Clonlong four years ago.
He said residents of the halting site came to him during the winter of 2009/2010 when temperatures dropped as low as minus 18.
“They couldn’t stick it, the gas was frozen, the water was frozen, the clothes were frozen because the washing machines are on the outside - ordinary people would not live in such conditions,” he told Newstalk.
While a number of new mobile homes were brought into the halting site last year, Fr Hogan said Limerick City and County Council needs to do more to work with members of the travelling community.
“I think the biggest thing that you need is to get in with the community, the Travelling community and get to know them and maybe the council needs to liaise with people to be in there and to know the people that you can work with and keep finding out the people you can work with and identify sites and places where they can be put and maybe put them in smaller groups and listen to what they want themselves,” he said.
Fr Hogan says he does not see the current impasse in Carrickmines being solved quickly.
“That could have been avoided if the problem was being dealt with on an ongoing basis but now because there is a tragedy, people lock horns,” he said adding that members of the Travelling community do not want to cause trouble wherever they are housed.
“They don’t want to go anywhere where they upset people or cause any friction. From my speaking to them, they don’t want to be on big sites, they want to be in a place where there is peace and harmony,” he said.
“I also hear them saying that they are embarrassed by what some of the Travellers do when it comes to anti-social behaviour or criminal activity as we would be embarrassed by anyone in my community doing it,” he added.
“They want to get away from that, they don’t want to be on these big sites locked in and they want to protect their children from all this.”