Young Travellers in Kilkenny are marrying at 16 years of age according to the Kilkenny County Council Social Worker, Margaret Newport.
Members of the housing committee were told that there had been a least two instances of traveller weddings where one party had been under the legal age for marriage which is 17 years of age. “There have been two weddings in the past year where one of the party has been under 17. There is an engagement, and I think there will be a marriage next year, where one of the parties is 16 and the other is 17. It is legal once they get permission from one of the parents. I’m just saying that the age is younger than in the settled community,” said Ms Newport.
Ms Newport added that the Traveller accommodation budget will be stretched in the future as there have been a lot of traveller weddings. “There have been quite a few weddings amongst the travellers which may pose a problem when the next round of housing comes up. A lot of the families in both St Mary’s and St Catherine’s have teenage children that are now of marriageable age,” said Ms Newport.
The annual traveller accommodation budget of €450,000 is used for the maintenance and provision of traveller accommodation in Kilkenny.
A large amount of this year’s budget will be spent on repairing a house in St Mary’s halting site. The house was secured after it had been vacated. Director of services, John McCormack said that somebody had gained access to the house and ripped out the ceilings. Mr McCormack said that this was a reaction to issues surrounding the council’s treatment of the travellers’ horses.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness (Fianna Fail) agreed that the horse issue is the key to solving all of the problems that the council have experienced with the Travellers. “The problem here is the horses. Everything stems from the horses. Solve the horse problem and everything else will follow,” he said.