Free Legal Aid Centre launches dedicated Traveller legal advice service
The service aims to enforce equality and human rights legislation for Travellers across the country.
Free Legal Aid Centre has today launched a dedicated Traveller Legal Advice Service.
Established in co-operation with Traveller groups around the country, such as Pavee Point and Irish Travellers Movement, the service aims to engage with the law to combat discrimination, and advance the rights of Travellers in Ireland.
"Our aim is that we will take cases which will have real impact across the Traveller community," said Eilis Barry, Chief Exceutive of FLAC.
"We know the issues will be very much around housing rights – local authorities failing to implement their own Traveller accommodation programmes, failing to draw down their designated Traveller housing budgets, local authorities failing to designate homeless Travellers as homeless and denying them emergency accommodation," she explained.
"There are issues in education. Traveller children being disproportionately placed on reduced timetables for instance."
Eilis said that the service will be about enforcing equality and human rights legislation.
"There’s also quite repressive legislation such as the criminal trespass legislation, which in effect criminalised the nomadic lifestyle of travellers, and there’s also legislation which allows for forced evictions in certain situations."
The organisation said that it is problematic that funding for Travellers made available to local authorities is not being spent, something the new legal aid clinic hopes to tackle.
"There is legislation which is intended to address the range of accommodation and needs of travellers in terms of transit, halting sites and to require a whole programmatic process of planning, funding and delivery by local authorities and central government, and that just hasn’t occurred."
"It is really problematic that funding which has been made available isn’t being used."
The Free Legal Aid Centre ran a part-time clinic for Travellers and Roma, which closed in 2017 after being funded for one year. The project was inundated with cases, some of which are still being worked on.
Martin Collins, co-director of Pavee Point and a committee member of the new initiative said that the service is essential for such a marginalised community.
"It is about improving access to the legal system for Travellers where, as a marginalised community, access can be quite limited."
Martin said that accessing the legal system and the courts is part of an important strategy to see Travellers' human rights vindicated.
"There is a great demand for it," he said.
"Though this service will really be quite limited – there is only one solicitor – we hope it will prove itself and show that it needs to be sustained beyond the three years and expanded."
You can find more information about the service, and how to contact them here.