Traveller ghetto concerns - Tony
Plans to house three Traveller families in Barntown, alongside seven or eight other Traveller families, sparked a lively debate at the meeting.
Padraig O'Gorman of the Housing department of Wexford County Council told councillors at last week's meeting of Wexford Borough District the site near Pike View was chosen from a list of three possible sites.
He said: 'We have a specific need for three individual Wexford Traveller families who have been at various sites in the district including in Ferrycarrig and Forth Mountain. We currently have them in temporary accommodation in Brendan Corish Gardens.' He said the Ballyhine, Barntown site was chosen, adding that Pike View was originally 'Traveller specific accommodation'. Three tree bed houses are planned for the site, subject to public consultation.
Mr O'Gorman said the local authority owns a site near a council estate on a greenfield site, adding that members will be able to consider the site for approval.
Barntown resident Cllr Tony Dempsey said: 'I have concerns. I am all for housing Travellers and I recognise their ethnicity, but I am not for ghettoisation. I think there are already a number of Traveller families in that estate. That estate's residents have ethnicity too and I don't think we should be talking about the absorption of one ethnicity by another and that may happen if we have a heavy concentration of Travellers in one area.'
Mr O'Gorman said a number of the houses at Pike View have been bought out by tenants.
He said a public consultation process will be advertised in the local newspapers and on South East Radio and people will be able to make written submissions.
Cllr Dempsey said: 'We are talking about ten or 11 Traveller families in a very small area. I am part of a group called Bring Barntown Together. We had hoped that the building would be used as a Men's Shed.'
Mr O'Gorman said Wexford County Council is looking at a Traveller specific project funded by the Department of Justice, which would link in with plans to develop a Traveller centre in the Drumgoold area of Enniscorthy.
'I think it's a very positive development for County Wexford,' Mr O'Gorman said.
Mayor Jim Moore said: 'I think it's very important as part of the whole integration process.'
Cllr Ger Carthy asked if the Travellers would definitely go into the houses, saying in the past some families have opted not to move into homes they were approved for, pointing out that the houses will be built at considerable expense to the taxpayer.
'A lot of this stuff is up in the air and not down in the ground where it is supposed to be. A lot of consultation is required before this gets the green light.'
Mr O'Gorman said he has met with the families and they have confirmed that they are happy with the houses and the location.
Cllr Deirdre Wadding said the councillors should not be overstating the potential differences, saying Travellers are Irish and share many commonalities with every Irish person.
Cllr Wadding said: 'We're talking about three families coming into a tight-knit community so it would hopefully be mutually beneficial. If people are moving down from Dublin or Galway do we need to sit down and say "who will be my neighbour" or "you won't be my neighbour". We need to honour people's rights on both sides so it doesn't tip over into subtle or covert racism.'
Cllr Frank Staples proposed that the matter go to public consultation and he was seconded by Cllr George Lawlor.