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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Protest in Oughterard over Direct Provision centre concerns

Hundreds of people took part in the protest in the Galway town.

The procession took place in Oughterard today.
The procession took place in Oughterard today.
Image: Google Maps

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE gathered in Oughterard today to protest any possible opening of a Direct Provision centre in the Galway town. 

A silent procession moved through the town, which has been at the centre of national attention after 700 people attended a meeting about a closed hotel locals say could be turned into accommodation for asylum seekers. 

Protesters held up signs reading “Oughterard says no to inhumane direct provision centres”, RTE reported. 

Locals have complained that Oughterard does not have the infrastructure to support international protection applicants in the area and have accused the Department Justice of secrecy regarding the building

A process to evaluate offers from premises is currently underway to find suitable locations for Direct Provision centres in the region, the department confirmed to TheJournal.ie earlier this week.

Footage shared on social media showed independent TD Noel Grealish, referencing the commitments the government has made on accepting refugees into the country, saying “these are economic migrants” from Africa who were coming to Ireland to “sponge off the system”. 

“It’s the economic refugees that’s coming in from Africa,” he said. “A major city can absorb 300 refugees but not a small town like Oughterard.”

The comments prompted widespread criticism, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar telling RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme that Grealish should withdraw his remarks.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also said he was “disappointed” by the reaction in the area this week. 

Galway TD Catherine Connolly had already described the meeting as “one of the most difficult meetings” she had attended and called on the Department of Justice to clarify plans for Oughterard. 

Local councillors have said that nobody in Oughterard knows if the search for locations for asylum centres is related to the work at the hotel.

The department recently issued a €65 million tender for new Direct Provision centres for Co Kildare, Co Wicklow, Co Meath and Co Louth. 

Since 2018, the Department has struggled to open new centres due to arson attacks at hotels in Moville, Co Donegal and Rooskey on the Roscommon-Leitrim border.

Locals have repeatedly raised concerns that communities are not properly consulted by the department ahead of contracts being signed with private business owners. 

With reporting from Sean Murray, Cónal Thomas and Christina Finn

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