The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called on a number of local authorities to prepare and implement an Equality and Action Plan on the provision of Traveller accommodation and services.

The commission is using its legal powers to invite seven local authorities to do so.

The request follows an equality review undertaken by 31 local authorities in 2019, which focused on repeated failures nationally, to draw down ring-fenced capital budgets in order to meet human rights obligations on Traveller-specific accommodation.

The local authorities were asked to review the practices, procedures and other relevant factors in relation to these failures, to examine what the barriers were to the drawdown of State funds, and assess how those barriers could be removed.

The review found that underspend was being driven by both structural issues in how funding was allocated and drawn down, but also by a frequently inadequate deficient process for identifying actual and future housing needs.

There was also evidence that the process for assessing the number of Travellers in a given local authority area varied from council to council, and that the process could be deficient in capturing accurate information.

There was also concern that some members of the Traveller community experienced a lack of Traveller-specific accommodation, or were exasperated by overcrowding or poor hygiene conditions in such accommodation, and for this reason felt that they had no choice but to apply for social housing.

IHREC has now invited seven local authorities to "improve their Traveller accommodation service" through the preparation and implementation of an Equality Action Plan.

The local authorities are South Dublin, Limerick City and County, Tipperary, Donegal, Mayo, Cork City and Wicklow.

The commission has advised the local authorities that the Equality Action Plan should identify specific actions that ensure the effective implementation of the findings in the Equality Review, including the commission recommendations.

It has proposed that the seven local authorities detail and map the actions with timelines for completion.

While IHREC has provided general guidance to the relevant local authorities to assist with the process, it has stressed that consultation with members of the Traveller community, the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee, and local and national groups representing members of the Traveller community, as an essential part of the implementation and success of the plans.

Chief Commissioner of the IHREC Sinéad Gibney described it as an important opportunity to improve the provision of Traveller-specific accommodation services.

She said it would "provide valuable learning for the future, including new practices to better meet the needs of our Traveller population".

In March this year, the Council of Europe's anti-racism body published a report on how Ireland was responding to recommendations it made in 2019.

While it welcomed "some progress" in respect of Traveller accommodation, it stated regret that little had been done to address "the structural shortcomings in the identification of the housing needs of Travellers" and to ensure "greater accountability in the use of the Traveller accommodation funds".

It said "most importantly there had been no major improvement in the accommodation conditions of Travellers".