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Achill councillor rebukes racism claims

News

CONTROVERSIAL The Achill Head Hotel, where 20 asylum seekers are now due to be placed this Wednesday. (Pic: Google Maps)

Plans for Direct Provision on Achill Island opposed

Edwin McGreal

Achill councillor Paul McNamara is seeking to meet with officials from the Department of Justice today (Tuesday) to voice local concerns and to seek further clarity about plans for the use of the Achill Head Hotel as an emergency Direct Provision centre.
Cllr McNamara also moved to dismiss claims of racism against opponents of the plans.
After a week which included a heated public meeting last Wednesday and protests at the Achill Head Hotel in the village of Pollagh, Cllr McNamara said 20 asylum seekers are due to arrive at the hotel tomorrow (Wednesday) with a further 18 asylum seekers arriving next week. All those due to be housed in Achill are men, Cllr McNamara added.
Small protests took place outside the hotel on Thursday and Friday with a group of up to 50 locals gathering for a protest on Saturday. None were willing to be interviewed when approached by The Mayo News.
Cllr McNamara confirmed to The Mayo News he is seeking to meet with department officials today and issued a statement following representations he has made on the matter.
“The consensus which the people at the meeting came to, was we as a community have absolutely no issues with welcoming people of all nationalities to our community. At present we have people of all nationalities living and working in our parish. However, it was voiced at the public meeting the proposal at present which is to provide emergency accommodation on the site of the Achill Head Hotel is not suitable. We appreciate at present Direct Provision centres and emergency accommodation is the only solution available. This is an ongoing issue both past and present governments have failed to address over the past 20 years,” stated Cllr McNamara.
He moved then to address what he described as accusations of racism against the people of Achill.
“Over the past few days I have received negative comments from people throughout the country labeling our community as racist. I would like to stress we as a community are in no way racist and pride [ourselves] in welcoming everyone to our island. At the meeting it was agreed we stood united on the fact that we are happy to integrate asylum seekers looking to start a new life into our villages and local schools in a different manner. The proposal to provide emergency accommodation on the site of the Achill Head Hotel was brought upon a small village with little to no consideration for the people of the village or to the people availing of the emergency accommodation,” he said.
He then went on to provide details of what he had been informed by department officials.
“Since the public meeting I have emailed the Minister for Equality, Integration and Immigration, David Stanton, asking for a meeting with officials from the Department. He has failed to respond. I have also emailed The Reception and Integration Agency asking for a meeting, they also have yet to respond. Last Friday morning I spoke with someone from the Agency who confirmed the following: there will be in total 38 males availing of the emergency accommodation [in Achill]. Twenty will arrive on Wednesday, the remaining 18 will arrive the following week. Their ages range between early 20s to 50s. The Agency cannot confirm the nationality of these men at present.
“In regards to how they will be transported over the duration of their stay, I was informed there is a private contract in place with a bus driver. At present the Achill Head Hotel will provide emergency accommodation for three months.
“The Reception and Integration Agency also stated they work closely with the HSE. It is then the job of the HSE to inform local GPs in the area. However this is not the case as I have confirmed with local GPs that they were not made aware of an influx of 38 people to the area,” he stated.
Cllr McNamara said he and representatives of the community are prepared to travel to Dublin to demand a meeting if they do not succeed in being granted a meeting locally.

MPU Mayo