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Refugees

Ten districts with the highest proportion of refugees to get special support package, says Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar said he was disappointed to see the scenes in Roscrea yesterday.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 16th 2024, 6:00 PM

A SPECIAL SUPPORT package for the ten districts in the country that have the highest proportion of Ukrainians and people seeking international protection is to be provided by government. 

The support package was discussed by ministers at today’s Cabinet meeting with the Taoiseach stating that it was aimed to help those areas that are “under pressure”.  

The Department of An Taoiseach will steer the initiative, with ministers told today to come back with proposals to Cabinet shortly. 

While the fine detail of the plan was not discussed, it is understood that there was buy in from all ministers that more needed to be done to support communities. 

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting this morning, the Taoiseach was asked about the scenes at Racket Hall Hotel in Roscrea yesterday where 17 asylum seekers – understood to be three families with young children – arrived to receive shelter in the hotel.

A demonstration numbering up to 300 took place yesterday evening, with protestors staying at the scene overnight. 

Crowds gathered to hear speeches by local activists, while far-right agitators arrived to speak to locals at the hotel’s entrance, repeating many anti-immigration tropes around population replacement and so-called ‘plantations’. 

Scuffles broke out yesterday between some protestors and gardaí as asylum seekers were arriving at the hotel. 

“I was very disappointed to see the scenes that I saw outside the hotel in Roscrea yesterday. Ireland is a republic, we’re a democracy, we’re a free country. In a Republican democracy and a free country, people have the right to protest, they have the right to hold views that other people may find objectionable,” Varadkar said this morning. 

“However, nobody has the right to engage in violence against other individuals, to damage property or to prevent people getting to their home or get into the work. That’s anti democratic. That’s anti-freedom. And that’s against the spirit and the values of our nation. So really want to say that about what we saw yesterday,” he told reporters. 

Varadkar went on to say that he does understand a lot of people’s concerns in Roscrea, while stating that only a small minority of people were involved in the events yesterday, pointing out that some who attended were not from Roscrea.

‘Under pressure’

“I understand that hundreds of people have been accommodated in Roscrea in the last couple of years, both from Ukraine and people seeking international protection and that has put the town under pressure.

“I can understand the frustrations that everyday people feel and some of the public reps feel there as well,” he added.

“One thing we going to be doing a Cabinet today is asking all ministers to come together to take the 10 districts in the country that have the highest proportion of people from Ukraine and people seeking international protection, and to put together a special package to help those areas that are under pressure,” he said. 

Varadkar said the government has already given additional resources to some locations through the Community Recognition Fund.

The €50 million Community Recognition Fund was rolled out last year and was designed to specifically support communities across the country that are hosting people from Ukraine and other countries.

The funding is allocated across all local authorities based on the number of new arrivals located there.

“I think we need to do more to help out, to increase resources around health, around education, around policing, to respond to genuine concerns that people have when there’s a large increase in the population in their area. I think we need to do that, need to step up those those efforts. So we will,” said the Taoiseach. 

He acknowledged that there is a challenge to increasing gardaí, nurses and teacher numbers, particularly when there is almost full employment in the country.

“Ironically, in many ways, part of the solution to labour shortages in Ireland is migration. And that’s why it’s important that we continue to be open to migration, but it needs to be migration that’s managed well. That means being fair and welcoming to those who enter the country legally, to study, to work, to join family. It also means being very firm with people who fight to enter the country illegally or try to take advantage of our systems. We have to step up our efforts there as well,” he said.

‘Unacceptable’

Asked for his reaction to the events at Roscrea, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence Matt Carthy said: 

“Let me be very clear that the scenes that we saw in Roscrea yesterday are completely unacceptable, cannot be countenanced at all.”

“If people are concerned or have grievances, then the place where those grievances and concerns and angers should be directed at is those responsible,” he said, adding that those responsible are not women and children who are seeking shelter and protection.

“Therefore, we’re very clear that no party member, and we would urge no member of the public, to attend protests outside the locations where people are being housed, essentially outside people’s homes or accommodation,” he added.

“That’s not to discount the aforementioned concerns and grievances that some communities genuinely have. They need to be addressed. As I said here last week, I think government have mismanaged this and have created a lot of those concerns and grievances and they need to be addressed.

“But that is not to take away in any way from the absolute scandal it is to see children being put through the turmoil that children were put through at Roscrea yesterday,” said Carthy.