Sandyford Industrial Estate, County Dublin, Ireland

03 April 1999

In the autumn of 1998, a group of Travellers set up camp in a green area at the entrance to Sandyford Industrial Estate in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area, eastern Ireland. A group of around twenty caravans, home to some forty adults and up to fifty children, parked at the entrance to the estate. There were no facilities, electricity or sanitation on the site. Local businesses complained to the County Council that the caravans were an obstruction to their work.

In September the County Council tried to use an existing High Court order to have the caravans removed from the site. This failed, so the Council began proceedings at the High Court in Dublin to have thirty named families removed. Shortly before Christmas, the High Court issued an injunction ordering the families to leave the site. Most of the families left, moving on to the Wexford, Waterford and Limerick areas, where some of them had previously been accommodated.

However, five Travellers from two of the families challenged the order. A hearing was held on January 12, 1999. According to The Irish Times, the Travellers' legal counsel argued that existing Council facilities were insufficient for the Travellers. Although the Council had offered the Travellers alternative accommodation, the failure to make provisions for the keeping of horses meant that they had either to abandon their horses or keep to the road. The High Court nevertheless ordered the families to remove themselves from the industrial estate.

These at first complied with the order and left the site, but at the end of January, one of the families who had been involved in the dispute returned to the site. On March 2, the Council went back to the High Court, where they obtained an order obliging the Travellers to leave the site by March 7 or be brought before the High Court judge.

In 1987, during a similar episode, the Council had resolved problems between Travellers and local businesses on the Sandyford Estate by building a halting site for six families nearby. This is still operational. As the new dispute between local businesses and the recently-arrived Travellers took shape, calls for the development of more halting sites were renewed. Although the County Council currently has a total of sixteen halting sites and housing schemes for twenty-six Traveller families, these facilities are full. One spokesman for the County Council told The Irish Times: "The solution is proper halting sites in every area of the country so that [T]ravellers don't have to be hounded from site to site".

Ireland has recently renewed efforts to legislate Traveller accommodation at a national level. In September 1998, the Irish Parliament passed the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, which obliges local councils to draw up plans for halting sites to accommodate the Travelling community. Nevertheless, at the end of 1998, over 1,000 Irish Traveller families were living on the roadside around the country.

(ERRC, The Irish Times)


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