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Archbishop calls on people of Achill to ‘welcome the stranger’


The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary

Edwin McGreal

The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, has called on the people of Achill and beyond to welcome those in need to Ireland.
In a statement at the weekend, Dr Neary also called on the Government to consult more fully with communities about any plans to house asylum seekers.
It comes amid controversy over plans to house 38 asylum seekers in an emergency Direct Provision centre at the Achill Head Hotel in Pollagh with local protestors citing a lack of consultation and the unsuitability of the area as their chief concerns.
“It is well known, nationally and internationally, that Achill people are a welcoming people and, in the past, Achill has accepted people from communities from around the world,” said Dr Neary.
“Ireland is now moving from an era of austerity and recession to a more prosperous period in our economic cycle. As Christians we are morally obliged to welcome the stranger and, in the context of our improved circumstances, we have a responsibility to share with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We should also be particularly alert to those who are experiencing serious upheaval and a crisis of hope in their lives,” he added.
“Most Irish families know only too well that feeling of fear and trepidation that accompanies emigration. Let our faith, and our own lived-experience, be a model of generosity to others.
“In relation to Achill, it is important that effective advance planning be undertaken by the State including a full and transparent consultation with local people.  Such preparations should go some way to allay fears and misunderstandings while, at the same time, enabling this important human-centred initiative to work sustainably for the whole community,” he concluded.

Department response
In response to queries from The Mayo News about local concerns, the Department of Justice and Equality confirmed they are pressing ahead with plans to house ‘13 single women’ and 25 people made up of ‘a small number of families’ at the Achill Head Hotel. The contract came into operation on October 21, they stated.
They said the department will ‘continue to work with the wider local community to address any concerns regarding facilities or services’, adding that once a contract is signed, they engage with other government departments and agencies ‘to ensure that all necessary services and amenities are put in place for the residents, as required’.
The Department said they have 38 Direct Provision centres and 37 emergency centres nationwide of which one, in Ballyhaunis, is in Mayo. They said they have experienced an increase so far this year of 60 percent in people seeking international protection in Ireland.

They said the contract for the hotel is for a ‘maximum’ of three months, something confirmed by Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, on Today with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 on Friday. He also called on the protestors to step down.
“I would call on everybody to stand aside, step back from this and please help these people, welcome them in. They are not a threat to anybody. In fact they can be a help in the communities.
“If there was any other way out of it, we would have taken it … This is emergency obligation and as a country we have obligations. All our centres are full and we are trying to open other centres,” he said.
Meanwhile, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the predecessor to David Stanton at the Department of Justice, said the department are not capable of managing Direct Provision.
“I feel quite strongly the Department of Justice are completely ill-equipped to deal with this issue. The Department of Justice are a law and order, security department. They don’t understand humanitarian instincts, they don’t understand the way this should be handled and I believe at this stage it needs to be taken out of the Department of Justice in its entirety and given to another department who might be able to deal with this more effectively,” he said on Newstalk on Friday.