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Magowna House Hotel in Inch, Co Clare Niall Carson/PA
Inch

Taoiseach says 'no need' for protests at refugee housing, after blockade by Clare locals

The dispute centres around Magowna House in Inch, where around 34 asylum seekers arrived yesterday evening.

LAST UPDATE | 16 May 2023

THE TAOISEACH HAS said that there is no need for blockades or protests in communities where refugees are being housed.

The government is to engage with local representatives in Inch, Clare, where several asylum seekers have left their accommodation after locals blocked access routes to the site.

Others looked prepared to leave as their luggage was stacked outside the state-provided accommodation.

Leo Varadkar said: “We shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture here. Nearly 100,000 people have been given shelter, given refuge in Ireland in the past year.

“In the vast majority of cases, they’ve been accepted into local communities and engagement has gone well. 

“In some places it hasn’t and, like I say, there isn’t a need for a blockade or protests.”

Varadkar said that it is “never possible to set a deadline” on when Ireland will stop welcoming refugees “because we can’t predict the number of people who will arrive in Ireland from Ukraine or from other parts of the world”.

While there has been a “significant slowdown in the numbers coming in”, Varadkar “can’t say for sure” whether it will stay that way.

Asked if the government will improve communication with local communities about refugees moving in, he said: “I think it’s the case in life that you always try to do better.

“If people are being fair, ireland as a society, not just the government, has done very well.

“There’s no country in Western Europe that has taken in as many people from Ukraine as we have, as a percentage of our population.

“We’re dealing with it as well as we can.”

ASYLUM Gardai speak to a local resident outside the asylum seeker accommodation Niall Carson / PA Niall Carson / PA / PA

A group of 34 asylum seekers had been brought to three holiday homes on the site of the disused Magowna House Hotel in Inch yesterday evening.

Shortly after their arrival, access roads to the hotel were blocked by protesters using tractors, with another gate blocked by a silage bale.

This morning, around a dozen protesters remained on the blockade, with the tractors swapped for other vehicles in the afternoon.

A small group of locals carrying signs saying “refugees welcome” had gathered across from the protest by the afternoon.

Some of the asylum seekers in the hotel expressed fear over the ongoing situation and headed with their belongings towards Ennis, located around an hour and a half away on foot.

They said they would travel from there back to Dublin city, citing both the quality of the accommodation and local opposition to their presence.

One of the drivers of the tractors, who did not want to provide his name, said locals had concerns about fire safety and sewage management on the site.

He said they expected another bus to arrive and that the asylum seekers were being moved “underhandedly”.

“So we stopped the roads, we blocked the roads so a second bus could not get in.”

He said this was because there would be “70 people in this locality with nowhere to go”.

Protesters did not prevent asylum seekers from leaving.

Sharif from Algeria told reporters that he was leaving the hotel and heading back to Dublin, but said he would have liked to stay.

“We’re going to Dublin city centre, we’ll live homeless in Dublin city centre,” he said, adding that this was “better than here” because they felt they were “not accepting us here”.

He said that initially there had been 34 men in the three holiday homes, with bunk beds provided for them.

“I want to live here, yes, (it’s) lovely here but (there’s a) problem with people, maybe.”

He said he’d walk to Ennis from the hotel and travel on to Dublin city centre.

Minister of State for Community Development Joe O’Brien said the hotel did not have a fire safety certificate but there was no issue with fire safety or wastewater management at the holiday homes.

“I just ask people to step down the blockade, I think it is done on the basis of a misunderstanding of what’s happened.”

O’Brien said there is ongoing work at the hotel and people would not be accommodated there until it is safe.

embedded272189862 A silage bale used to block the entrance to asylum seeker accommodation Niall Carson / PA Niall Carson / PA / PA

He said there are 500 asylum seekers without accommodation and the government was “looking at every possible angle and every possible case”.

On concerns about the isolated location of the holiday homes, O’Brien told RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne that a shuttle bus would be provided to Ennis for asylum seekers who wanted to access services there.

Sultan Muhammad, from Afghanistan, said he came to Ireland five months ago and had been staying in Citywest in Dublin.

He described the situation Co Clare in “difficult” but said the accommodation was “okay”.

“We are feeling good here. I like this place.”

He added: “I like it, I will live here.”

Government committed 

The Department of Justice said in a statement that demand for accommodation for adult male international protection applicants currently outstrips supply.

“There is an urgent need to accommodate those people seeking protection who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” it said.

“Properties such as Magowna House and others throughout the country are fundamental to the accommodation of vulnerable people.

“The Department has considered all offers of accommodation made to it. It is availing of office buildings, decommissioned Defence Forces barracks and tents to try to address the shortfall.

“While peaceful protest for communities is a right, international protection applicants also have a right to live peacefully in what is essentially their new home in Ireland while their application is being assessed by the Department of Justice.”

With reporting from PA, Lauren Boland, Jamie McCarron and Diarmuid Pepper

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