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Tuesday 6 June 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Leah Farrell File image of Minister for Equality and Integration, Roderic O'Gorman.
# Roderic O'Gorman
Minister: 'No level of consultation' would change views of some on housing asylum seekers
Minister Roderic O’Gorman also expressed concern about the impact of some ‘untrue, online rumours’.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 1st 2023, 12:30 PM

INTEGRATION MINISTER RODERIC O’Gorman has said he will “look to increase our Department’s ability to provide information when we’re opening new international protection accommodation”.

However, he noted that “no level of consultation would have changed the outcomes” of some recent protests against the housing of asylum seekers

On Sunday, over 200 people gathered in Lismore in Co Waterford to demonstrate against the conversion of a long-empty hotel into a direct provision site.

They argued that the building had been earmarked for commercial use for several years.

The centre is to accommodate 117 asylum seekers beginning with 69 women and families in the coming days.

Other high-profile demonstrations have taken place across the country about the placement of refugees in local communities, notably in East Wall, Drimnagh and Ballymun.

However, a number of counter-demonstrations welcoming asylum seekers to Ireland have also taken place in those areas.

Speaking today to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister O’Gorman confirmed that these plans in Lismore will go ahead, despite the demonstration.

He noted that the hotel “hasn’t been used for the last seven years” and added: “I think it’s important to say we’re not taking a hotel out of use, we’re actually using a building that hadn’t been used for a long period of time.”

When asked why he didn’t consult the local community, O’Gorman said: “We are in a situation where over this weekend and the last week, we weren’t able to accommodate people.

“And it is that pressure that we’re under right now to ensure that we can provide, particularly for families where there are children, that we can provide accommodation for them.

“That’s why the Department has had to move rapidly in terms of the opening of the accommodation.”

O’Gorman also noted the need to “open accommodation at speed in order for us to meet our international obligations”.

He added: “When we’re opening new accommodations, we brief elected reps, we brief the local authority, and that is how information is provided to elected representatives in a particular area.”

O’Gorman then confirmed that he will “look to increase our Department’s ability to provide information when we’re opening new international protection accommodation”.

However, O’Gorman expressed concern about the impact consultation would have on some of the demonstrations and protests seen recently.

While making clear that he was not referencing Lismore, O’Gorman warned: “In some of the examples that we’ve seen in recent weeks, and I’m not talking about Lismore here, but in some of the examples it’s clear that no level of consultation, no level of engagement would have changed the outcomes.”

‘Online rumours’

Yesterday, The Journal reported that gardaí are set to examine links between misinformation spread online recently and an arson attack on a building in Dublin’s north inner city.

Gardaí are believed to be investigating the theory that it was targeted by a group who believed, erroneously, that the building was to be used as a direct provision centre.

Speaking on RTÉ this morning, O’Gorman appeared to reference this and said: “We have seen a building set on fire as a result of an untrue rumour.”

O’Gorman also appeared to state that an “untrue rumour” was the basis of a recent attack on a homeless camp in Ashtown.

In a statement released yesterday, gardaí confirmed they are currently investigating an alleged assault at a homeless camp in the area last weekend.

The incident occurred in the River Road area of Ashtown, Dublin 15 on Saturday.

No arrests have been made and garda investigations are ongoing.

It had been reported by the Irish Times that a group of men with dogs and armed with a baseball bat attacked migrants who had been living in the camp.

The group allegedly shouted “get out now” to the people in the camp.

In an apparent reference to this incident, Minister O’Gorman told RTÉ: “We’ve seen migrants attacked again as a result of an untrue, online rumour.”

Elsewhere, former Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger said on Sunday: “A pathetic attempt at justification for the attack [at Ashtown] was that the men had been involved in a sexual assault.”

The alleged incident occurred in the early hours of last Friday in the Finglas area.

The Irish Examiner’s security correspondent Cormac O’Keefe has also reported this morning that gardaí believe a white Irish male was involved in this alleged sexual assault. 

O’Keefe spoke to a number of “high-level sources” who confirmed that gardaí are following a “definite line of inquiry” and that the involvement of migrants or refugees has been ruled out.

RTÉ’s Prime Time spoke to a Polish man who said he had lived in the camp in Ashtown for the past two months.

The man, a student who has been in Ireland since 2006, said there were six people in the camp, including people from Croatia, Hungary, Portugal, and a student from India.

He said had been living in an apartment in Dublin but was evicted, which led to him moving to the camp.

He added that he choose to stay in the Ashtown camp because “the city centre is a violent area”.

While the Polish man RTÉ spoke to was not attacked himself, he left the camp following the incident.

He has stayed in a hostel since Saturday but added that he will now look for accommodation elsewhere.

The Sunday World also spoke to a Portuguese man called Elvis was has also left the camp since the alleged attack. 

He told the Sunday World that the men who entered the camp “had sticks and some sort of bat” and that they “hit two of my friends on the site”.

He added that nobody wants to return “in case we meet them again”.

Elvis is also living in a hostel since the attack,  but is planning on returning to Portugal “as soon as possible”.

“I’ve had enough of here, especially after this attack,” he told the Sunday World. 

Bed shortages

Meanwhile, O’Gorman also confirmed that a worst case scenario could see bed shortages of up to 19,000 for asylum seekers.

He told RTÉ that he was provided with this figure at a Cabinet subcommittee on Ukraine last night.

This worst case scenario figure comes amid the ongoing closure of the Citywest Transit Hub closed to new arrivals.

O’Gorman added that “there are very real challenges” regarding bed availability, particularly in hotels and guest houses.

O’Gorman also highlighted the need to have “contingencies in place” should a “significant number of hotels revert to tourism”.

However, while O’Gorman noted that the Department is “consistently renewing hotel contracts” he acknowledged the need to “anticipate that there could be a situation where we do lose some, particularly as we go into the summer”.

O’Gorman also called on other government agencies to provide additional accommodation and said that the Department of Defence has been able to assist so far.

“The Department of Defence over the weekend has allowed us to use the Kilbride barracks for international protection applicants.

“That’s meant we were able to accommodate a number of people on Sunday and Monday, who we hadn’t been able to accommodate earlier in the week. So those kinds of actions are really valuable, but there will need to be more of that.”

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