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Minister of State David Stanton was among those to attend the meeting (file photo)

Waterford locals defy anti-immigrant protesters by applauding meeting to welcome Syrian refugees

A meeting of the Lismore Welcome Project was interrupted last night.

THE HEAD OF a volunteer group that will help refugees relocate to a Waterford town has said locals do not want their wishes to be derailed by protesters from Dublin.

Last night, a meeting held by the Lismore Welcome Project was interrupted by protesters from outside the town expressing anti-immigrant views.

The town has been selected by the Department of Justice as one of a number of towns to run a pilot community sponsorship programme to welcome and help to integrate refugees into Ireland.

The meeting was held to provide locals with information about the town’s participation in the programme.

It was attended by Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton, as well as an official and two refugees who have already participated in the programme in other towns.

However, speakers were interrupted on a number of occasions by protesters, who shouted concerns about the background of the refugees arriving in Ireland.

One individual repeatedly asked the Department of Justice to confirm or deny whether any members of the Islamic State group were living in Direct Provision centres in Ireland.

Another demanded to know why the government did not seek to provide asylum for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman from Pakistan who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010.

However, Lynne Glasscoe of the Lismore Welcome Project told that the protesters were a minority group who attempted to “overwhelm” the meeting.

“There were some people who were there who may have come from Dublin and Waterford,” she said.

“They were scattered throughout the hall and they were obviously well-organised to actually make their presence felt.

“It was a concerted campaign, but I don’t think that they achieved whatever their aims were. I didn’t really think that we were going to be of sufficient interest for people to come down from Dublin or from Waterford.”

Glasscoe also said that “the majority of people” gave the speakers a standing ovation at the end of the meeting to show their support for the project.

She added that locals were not prepared to be “railroaded by negative persons” attempting to sabotage the meeting, and said everyone would remain welcome at future meetings “as long as they weren’t outrageous”.

Independent Minister and Waterford TD John Halligan said the people of Lismore had made it clear that they were not interested in the views being expressed.

“It is important to note that those who protested at the meeting are not from Lismore, they travelled to the town to cause hassle and attempt to turn what was such a positive community programme into a negative situation,” he said.

“It is shameful that this group of xenophobes thought they had a right to cause such disruption.

“However it is a fantastic reflection on the people of Lismore that, instead of listening to the negativity in the room, they instead gave standing ovations to the members of the Lismore Welcome Project panel.”

In a statement today, Minister Stanton has said that he “welcomes the initiative by the people of Lismore to welcome a Syrian family to their community through Community Sponsorship and was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the community last night”.

“The clear message from the vast majority of those present was one of solidarity with those fleeing conflict,” Stanton has said.

“This solidarity is in evidence in communities right across Ireland and the Department will be working in the coming months to support other communities who wish, in a very personal and very positive way, to offer solidarity to families fleeing conflict through the Community Sponsorship mode”. 

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