Traveller and Homeless Families in Ireland: Dignity and Decent Housing for All!

We built our cities and the houses of our cities. They are ours not to slave in but to master and to own.
Last night’s RTÉ programme, My Homeless Family, explored the lives of three homeless families living in emergency accommodation. They provided an insight into the appalling housing and living conditions faced by a large number of people at the moment.
Latest figures show that there are a total of 3,463 people living in emergency accommodation (mainly hostels, hotels or B&Bs) in Ireland, with over 1,600 children. Living conditions are often dire. According to the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, homeless families have recorded complaints about rat and cockroach infestation, human faeces on the floor, anti-social behaviour and loud pubs on the premises. Recent Facebook posts from some families also highlighted the lack of privacy in some accommodation with CCTV surveillance located in every room.
And as bad and all as it is to be homeless, how much worse is it to be homeless and a Traveller in this country? Last Friday, up to forty guards, including masked members of the Emergency Response Unit, carried out an eviction notice at the Woodland Park halting site on the outskirts of Dundalk, Co Louth. Louth County Council evicted 23 families. Families say they were given just hours to pack their belongings. They were could either remove their caravans themselves or face them being impounded and having to pay €1,000 to get them back. The families were instructed by the Guards that they could be arrested without warrant if they failed to comply with their orders. The Armed Response Unit stood around the site, masked men with riot shields. Of course, the Council had no plan to relocate these families before they gave them notice of eviction.
In Ireland today we have Traveller and homeless families struggling to get their children to school, to put a roof over their heads, and to live their lives with dignity. Does it have to be this way?
In a word, 'No!' To paraphrase the great anarchist, Peter Kropotkin:
“Our cities, bound together by railroads and motorways, are organisms which have lived through centuries. Dig beneath them and you find, one above another, the foundations of streets, of houses, of theatres, of public buildings. Search into their history and you will see how the civilization of the town, its industry, its special characteristics, have slowly grown and ripened through the co-operation of generations of its inhabitants before it could become what it is to-day. And even to-day; the value of each dwelling, factory, and warehouse, which has been created by the accumulated labour of the millions of workers, now dead and buried, is only maintained by the very presence and labour of legions of the men and women who now inhabit that special corner of the globe…Millions of human beings have laboured to create this civilization on which we pride ourselves to-day. Other millions, scattered through the globe, labour to maintain it. Without them nothing would be left in fifty years but ruins…By what right then can anyone whatever appropriate the least morsel of this immense whole and say — This is mine, not yours?”
Is there anything we hold in common with the greedy parasites who would bleed us dry because we need to put a roof over our heads? Or with the ‘vast array of courts, judges, executioners, policemen, and gaolers needed to uphold their privileges’?
We all share more in common with Travellers and homeless people than we do with the class of people who profited in the boom and who are still profiting in the bust – whether big developers or private landlords or government politicians.
We share more in common with the squatters in our cities, and with the housing action groups that are busy forming and talking to one another across Dublin and across Ireland.
We all refuse to bow to the rule of money in our society. Housing is a human need that we can create for all. Or as Kropotkin put it: “All is for all! If the man and the woman bear their fair share of work, they have a right to their fair share of all that is produced by all, and that share is enough to secure them well-being…What we proclaim is THE RIGHT TO WELL-BEING: WELL-BEING FOR ALL!”
WORDS: Tom Murray