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Oughterard, Co Galway where hundreds gathered over the weekend to protest any possible opening of a Direct Provision centre in the town. Google Street View

Government chief whip says procedure for establishing Direct Provision centres 'unfair' on locals

Seán Kyne TD added that the State has a duty to provide for asylum seekers.

GOVERNMENT CHIEF WHIP Seán Kyne has said the procedure of establishing Direct Provision centres is “unfair” on local communities but that the government has a duty to provide for asylum seekers. 

In an interview on Adhmhaidin on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, the Galway TD said he understood the concerns of the community in Oughterard – where hundreds gathered over the weekend to protest any possible opening of a Direct Provision Centre in the Galway town. 

Locals have complained recently regarding ongoing refurbishment works at the Connemara Gateway Hotel which has been closed for a number of years,  expressing concerns about what it would mean for the town if the building becomes accommodation for asylum seekers.

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 last week.

Kyne said the procedure that the Department of Justice has for establishing direct provision centres is not fair to communities. 

“It has never been fair, but it has been there for twenty years,” he said. 

The process is not right, or fair, but the state has an obligation at the same time… I won’t have any role in this decision, and that’s one of the problems.

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

irish-parliament-sits Independent TD Michael Collins Niall Carson / PA Archive/PA Images Niall Carson / PA Archive/PA Images / PA Archive/PA Images

At a public meeting last week, which was attended by around 700 people, there were a number of locals venting their frustration over a lack of consultation regarding ongoing refurbishment works at the Connemara Gateway Hotel. 

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 calling for Grealish to withdraw his remarks.

Independent TD Michael Collins came under similar criticism for a recent interview he did with Cork’s C103 Radio. The Cork TD said Irish people “who are hungry on the street” should be prioritised over immigrants. Comments he said he has no intention of withdrawing.

Speaking on Today with Seán O’Rourke, Collins said: 

Where Direct Provision is concerned, we shouldn’t be bringing a high influx of people into rural communities, into a hotel. We should be looking at a properly rolled out system, where we need more mature debate going forward. 

Green Party councillors in Co Galway have suggested the setting up of cross-sectoral commissions in all towns where new refugee accommodation is envisaged.

“This should outline every aspect of the plan with community before and not after new homes appear.  There is so much benefit for a community when we embrace diversity and that can happen when the government gets behind it and instead of using shoe-horn meets everyone with respect.

From a practical perspective, this would mean outlining if extra buses, pedestrian crossings and bicycle paths would be needed, as well as how local amenities could accommodate the extra numbers. And if it can’t then outline the investment needed,” Green Party councillor Pauline O’Reilly said. 

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.

With reporting from Cónal Thomas 

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