PILA partnership with the Ballyfermot Traveller Action Project – Equality in Action Project

Ballyfermot Traveller Action Project’s (BTAP) working relationship with PILA began 2015 when PILA provided legal supports to Traveller families experiencing discrimination.  This included support to challenge the local authority’s failure to effectively manage Labre, and representation with cases under the Equal Status Act 2002 to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) seeking to bring about policy change and ensure equality for Traveller families. One case was with a Traveller family left without water and sanitation for over six months after a fire at their home. The WRC found that DCC were discriminatory in this delay. Out of this grew a desire amongst residents, supported by BTAP, to build their capacity in utilising human rights frameworks to challenge systemic inequality. This work led BTAP to ask PILA to partner with us on the Action for Equality Project. In November 2016, BTAP secured funding from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) to implement the “Action for Equality” project.

The overall aim of the project was to provide training and analysis on human rights and equality to enable the community of Labre Park use equality and human rights frameworks to effectively challenge inequalities Travellers experience and to inform a rights based approach to the redevelopment of Labre Park. Labre Park was the first Traveller accommodation built in Ireland in 1967 and today is home to 47 families living in overcrowded and unsafe conditions where some families have no water or sanitation. 

The project objectives were;

  1. Provide information, training and analysis on human rights and equality frameworks at National and European levels with a specific focus on how these relate to Irish Travellers
  2. Explore and identify how Travellers can engage with and access the relevant frameworks in pursuit of equality
  3. Support the development of rights based strategies for the delivery of safe and culturally appropriate accommodation for Travellers and influence the redevelopment of Labre Park. 

The education and training on Human rights and Equality focused on: 

  • Human Rights and Equality Frameworks
  • Estate Management: Engaging with DCC and an Garda Siochana
  • Housing Law and Accessing Accommodation                             
  • Community Action and Collective Complaints
  • Tackling Discrimination: Guide to bringing an equality claim before the Workplace Relations Commission
  • Speaking for Ourselves / Self Representation and Advocacy 

The information and knowledge gained has given the community of Labre Park a stronger belief in their rights and enhanced confidence to challenge services, systems and structures when rights have been breached. Some indications of this enhanced capacity relate to, for example: 

  • Residents made formal complaints to the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) in relation to Police abuse/discrimination.
  • Complaints were made to the Work Relations Commission under the Equal Status Act
  • Residents have further engaged with the FLAC, PILA and Justrom. A delegation from the Council of Europe representing the JUSTROM programme visited Labre where they witnessed and discussed with the community some of the core issues impacting on the community. 
  • Horse owners sought legal advice on their rights around maintaining access to lands used over decades for their horses.
  • Residents gained the knowledge and confidence to influence decision making on the redevelopment of Labre from a rights based approach. 

At the heart of the project was the involvement and ownership by the residents of Labre Park of the project. A recognition that what residents experienced was discrimination and that there are redress mechanisms available. Unfortunately, as one resident commented:“I didn’t know that I was been discriminated against, I just thought sure that’s how it’s always been, and never seen it as discrimination”. Although a shift in perception of the issue has emerged with another resident commenting: It’s great to hear people talking on the site about their rights and that when we are discriminated against that we don’t have to take it”.  

There is no doubt that important learning and impacts of the project will continue to be realised over the months and years to come. The consciousness level of the community has increased around equality and human rights and how the frameworks that are there to protect can be utilised.

This project highlighted the need for accessible legal services for the Traveller community. PILA is a vital organisation providing the relevant expertise to communities seeking to challenge discrimination and influence policy to bring about real social change and bodies such as PILA need to be resourced and expanded. 

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