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Frances Fitzgerald Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
Emergency Accommodation

Former Fine Gael Justice Minister criticises Govt for leaving asylum seekers on the streets

Speaking to The Journal, Fitzgerald also said she is keeping an open mind about a potential presidential bid next year.

FINE GAEL MEP Frances Fitzgerald has hit out at the Government for leaving over 1,000 asylum seekers on the streets and said if emergency accommodation could be found for one weekend, it should be found longer term. 

Fitzgerald, who is a former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, said she believes the public are “very uncomfortable” with the fact that over 1,000 male asylum seekers have been left without accommodation. 

Most of the men have been left to sleep in tents on the streets.

Due to the cold weather over the weekend, some of the men were offered emergency accommodation but were then forced to return to their tents in Dublin city centre. 

Fitzgerald told The Journal that the state should do everything possible to help these individuals. 

“Nobody wants people on the streets,” she said. 

“Any emergency accommodation that can be found needs to be used instead of having people on the streets. I mean really, if we could do it when the weather was cold, why can’t we do it more of the time?”

Fitzgerald added: “I do appreciate every effort has been made, but nobody wants to see that.”

The Dublin MEP said she is also concerned about the stereotyping of male asylum seekers.

“There is nearly an assumption that every man who comes over is going to attack someone and that is completely wrong as well.

“And the far right feed that. At the end of the day, these are vulnerable individuals,” she said.

Arson attacks

On the rise in arson attacks on properties earmarked for asylum seeker accommodation, Fitzgerald said what has been happening is “beyond appalling”.

Over the last six years, arson attacks on properties linked to asylum seekers have escalated and to date there has only been a small number of arrests.

“It is criminal. And they have to be pursued from a criminal point of view.

‘The public have to see people being brought before the courts. It is not acceptable that we behave like this. It’s not Ireland,” she said. 

A bid for the Áras

In November of last year, Fitzgerald announced that she would not contest the next European Parliament elections in June. 

In a statement last November, she said “children’s rights, business and ethical international trade, and health issues” will continue to be priorities for her but she has not publicly spoken about her plans for the future. 

However, there has been speculation that the former Tánaiste might throw her hat in the running in next year’s Presidential election. 

When asked about it today she said she is keeping an open mind on it. 

“What I’ve said in my political career is that I’ve never ruled things out. I got opportunities, because I was interested and committed. 

“So I keep an open mind on it, while recognising that there are many, many people in Ireland who want to be President.

“So you never know how that particular campaign is going to both develop and progress. But I certainly don’t rule it out,” she said. 

Fitzgerald is currently in Bucharest alongside a number of other Fine Gael MEPs and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for the European People’s Party congress where the party will vote on its candidate for the next President of the European Commission.

As the sole candidate, existing President Ursula von der Leyen is set to get her party’s backing for a second term bid.