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NIHRC 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Travellers Accommodation in NI’ report

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has published its investigation into Travellers’ accommodation. The ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Travellers Accommodation in NI’  report has identified 13 systematic concerns and made 45 recommendations.

The investigation identified 13 systemic issues, including:

Inadequacy of Travellers’ Sites

Some Travellers’ sites are inadequate in the provision of standard services and facilities (electricity, water, heating, drainage, sanitation, waste disposal). This is particularly true of Travellers’ sites intended as transient in nature, but that are operating as permanent sites in practice. The lack of effective management of Travellers’ sites exacerbates these problems.

Legal Framework

Domestic laws and policies regarding Travellers’ accommodation in NI largely satisfy human rights requirements. However, the existence of the Unauthorised Encampments (NI) Order 2005 has a disproportionate impact on the Traveller communities and threatens their nomadic culture.

Racial Discrimination

There is evidence that Travellers have been subject to discriminatory behaviours and attitudes from public authorities and the settled community. This emerges through actions, but also through inaction and general inertia regarding Travellers’ issues. Negative public opinions and bias towards Travellers also impacts negatively on Travellers, in particular concerning planning applications.

Provision of Traveller-specific Accommodation

There is insufficient culturally adequate Travellers’ accommodation available. In particular, the NI Housing Executive is failing to provide sufficient adequate Travellers’ sites. Its actions and inaction suggest a preference for developing and maintaining bricks and mortar accommodation, over Travellers’ sites.

Resource Availability

While the NI Housing Executive maintains it is satisfied with the resources available to it for developing and maintaining Traveller-specific accommodation, the existing accommodation is insufficient to the need. In addition, spend per pitch has been reducing on an annual basis.

Resource and Policy Accountability

The Department for Communities allocates funding to the NI Housing Executive, but there is no robust mechanism in place for the Department to monitor how funding is allocated to Travellers’ accommodation and what outcomes are being achieved.


Efforts to ensure the participation of Travellers in decision-making processes regarding accommodation by public authorities are ineffective and inadequate. There is a lack of emphasis on supporting Traveller advocates. There is also a heavy burden placed on Traveller support groups by public authorities, in terms of the roles they are expected to fulfil. These groups are also under-resourced for both their contracted role and remuneration.

In addition to identifying systemic issues the report also makes 45 practical recommendations for change.
The full report can be accessed at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission website.

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Research, Equality

This article was written on 6 March 2018. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.