Minister Michael Ring has called on people staging a protest against the housing of asylum seekers at the Achill Head Hotel to ‘reassess’ the situation.
Some locals in Achill are maintaing a 24 hour protest which has been ongoing for over a week against plans to house asylum seekers in emergency accommodation in the Achill Head Hotel for three months.
Speaking on Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday (Wednesday) evening, the Minister for Rural and Community Development criticised the Department of Justice and Equality for not consulting with the local community but asked locals to ‘sit down and talk’ to ‘resolve this problem’.
“All I can say to people in Achill, this is a short term measure and these are vulnerable people who are coming into our shores, into our country and I would hope that they could welcome them. We are coming into a time of goodwill, we are coming into Christmas and I would hope that people could sit down, they could reassess this. It is short-term, the hotel owner who owns the hotel in Achill intends to be up and running again next year in relation to the tourist season. I would hope that Mayo County Council will play their part in relation to trying to assist and help. I would encourage people to sit down and talk and let’s see can we resolve this problem,” said Minister Ring.
Minister Ring confirmed he has not talked to those protesting at the Achill Head Hotel. He criticised the Department of Justice and Equality for not informing the local community in advance of these plans. He was also highly critical of not being informed himself by his Government colleagues.
“The department must talk to people. The department have to explain to people and we have to bring people with us in communities to try and support these vulnerable people that need accommodation, that need to come to our country and they are not coming by choice but are coming because they are under pressure in the company they are in.
“The situation is I didn’t know anything about it. If I am going to defend something and I have to go and talk to people, I need to know what is happening. I didn’t know.
“I’ve got a lot of abuse over the last number of days and it is bad enough me getting the abuse, but so have my staff and it wasn’t nice. I would have liked that I would have known, I would have liked that I could have informed my staff to explain to them what was happening. When people were ringing us we didn’t know … We need to talk to communities, we need to tell people what is actually happening and we need the support of these communities to help these vulnerable people coming into the community,” he said.
Minister Ring cited the example of Ballyhaunis when talking about how immigration can be a force for good.
“Take Ballyhaunis, take Ballinrobe, take Westport where we have brought immigrants [in], as I said 60 percent of the population of Ballyhaunis is non national and they have integrated well into the community, they have integrated well into society and a lot of these people will ... be doctors, nurses, politicians in the future and what they are looking for now is a bit of support, a bit of help. And they’re getting it,” he said.