Tories' Irish example dismissed as 'useless'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Irish legislation that the Tory leader Michael Howard proposes to replicate has been "utterly useless" in dealing with large traveller encampments, an Irish lawyer has said.

The Irish legislation that the Tory leader Michael Howard proposes to replicate has been "utterly useless" in dealing with large traveller encampments, an Irish lawyer has said.

Instead it has been used to pick on vulnerable families travelling on their own. In one instance, a mother and father returned from collecting their children from school to find their home had disappeared, claimed Sinead Lucey, a solicitor and consultant to the Irish Traveller Movement.

The legislation stems from a tense stand-off between a large camp of 100 traveller families and the local authority in Dublin several years ago, which provoked calls for more stringent laws. In 2002, the government introduced legislation which meant that anyone entering land with an "object" which damaged the area or affected amenities was committing a criminal offence.

"It was a knee-jerk reaction to this one specific incident. It gives the Irish police very draconian powers to direct them to move off land. If the travellers don't comply, they are committing a criminal offence and they can have their home confiscated," said Ms Lucey.

"But it is utterly useless when dealing with major encampments because the police can't confiscate 100 caravans. I have not heard of one case where it has been used for large-scale encampments. It is usually used against families on their own in a vulnerable situation."

Life for travellers has been made considerably more difficult by the legislation. Now they are moved away from local authority areas where they are awaiting accommodation, falling off the waiting list and leaving them in limbo between councils which will not accept responsibility.

Five families are challenging the validity of the law, using arguments from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Irish constitution.

Comments