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The hotel in Ballinrobe.

Protest in Co Mayo town that was to welcome 50 asylum seekers continued overnight

A protest was held outside JJ Gannons Hotel on the main street of Ballinrobe overnight.

A PROTEST CONTINUED FOR a second night in Ballinrobe Co Mayo, as locals in the town said they are seeking assurances from the Government that 50 asylum seekers will not be brought to the locality to be housed tomorrow morning. 

A local councillor in Ballinrobe Co Mayo yesterday said that plans for 50 asylum seekers to move into a building in the locality have been scrapped following an overnight protest.

Fine Gael representative Michael Burke said that he understands that the owner of the JJ Gannons Hotel on the main street of Ballinrobe has withdrawn a lease that was being offered to the Department of Integration, after protesters gathered outside the premises overnight. 

“He doesn’t want any hassle, he’s informed the Department and the local authority of his decision to withdraw the lease” Burke told The Journal

Burke was one of the councillors who was present at the protest outside of the hotel on Friday night. He spoke to the crowd and explained that local councillors have limited input into the national decision-making framework when it comes to where and how asylum seekers are accommodated. 

On Thursday afternoon the Department of Integration sent a briefing to politicians informing them that from 8 January 50 hotel beds would be provided to men seeking international protection.

The briefing said that a contract had been offered to the department for a period of one year. 

The briefing explained that there is currently a whole of Government emergency response to the influx of asylum seekers into Ireland. 

“Given the scale and urgency of the operation to source accommodation for new arrivals… there has been a requirement to act at pace, with developments often happening at very short notice,” it stated. 

The briefing said that the Department is working to improve how it sources accommodation for those fleeing war and seeking protection, and to improve how it communicates with local communities where people are placed. 

Social media

The protest in the town on Friday, which is still ongoing, was organised via a social media page called ‘Ballinrobe Says No’, which was created following a press release which councillor Burke posted on social media.

A number of locals stood outside the hotel overnight and into the early hours of yesterday morning.

A livestreamed video of the protest showed a local business owner addressing the crowd with a microphone saying that people were “upset” at having “two days notice” in relation to the arrival of asylum seekers in the town.

“Unfortunately we are going to have to stand here and stay here, and not allow this to happen,” she said.

“If this happens my daughter will not walk down this street, and I won’t walk down this street. Where are we all going to go if these 50 people, without documentation likely, are hovering here, where we are standing now.”

“They will be here Monday morning unless we all stay here, stand here, and do something about it,” she added. 

The woman added that she herself is not originally from Ballinrobe, but has lived in the area for the last 23 years. 

She told the crowd that the 50 people would be sleeping in beds across 12 rooms in the hotel and that, from a “humanitarian point of view”, she had concerns about them “sleeping on top of each other”. 

Another woman who spoke at the protest said that people were going to be “planted” in the town in “the dead of night”, and said that she had been warning people that Ballinrobe was going to be turned into a “migrant town”. 

“It’s not racist to speak out about what’s happened here, this is a plantation, it’s being done behind our backs and in secret,” she said. 

The phrase ‘the Great Plantation’ is often used by online conspiracy theorists to refer to a plan to replace Irish people with foreign people.


Councillor Damien Ryan from Fianna Fáil, who also spoke at the protest, said that he shared the same “concerns” about the arrival of asylum seekers as everyone else. 

He said that he believes the Irish public at large “embrace a level of acceptance with genuine refugees”, but added people in Ballinrobe have been “infuriated” by “50 males going in to a building with no collaboration, and no communication”. 

He told the crowd that he would be at the protest “all weekend”, adding “there is strength in numbers”. 

Ryan also said that he believes there is a “game going on here”, which is why representatives were informed of the plans “at the close of business”. 

It’s unclear what correspondence he was referring to, as the Department of Integration sent out its briefing at 2.30pm on Thursday evening. 

Councillor Burke also spoke at the protest. He told the crowd: “Don’t shoot the messenger”, adding that he fully understands their “frustration”. 

Speaking to The Journal, Councillor Burke said he informed the protesters who set up a tent outside of the hotel that it will no longer be welcoming asylum seekers on Monday and that they seemed happy with that outcome. 

He said that he himself is “delighted” with the announcement. 

Last night protests continued, as locals said they are seeking further assurances from the Department of integration on the arrangements being shelved.

The Journal has contacted the Department of Integration for comment.