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Councillor blasts Claremorris refugee plan


CONTROVERSY A special county council meeting is to take place to discuss plans to build modular homes close to Claremorris town centre to house Ukrainian refugees.

Cllr Tom Connolly says Government should focus on Irish homeless not refugees

Anton McNulty

A CLAREMORRIS councillor claims that Irish people are being overlooked on housing, saying he believes  people are ‘fed up’ with Ukrainian and other refugees getting ‘preferential treatment’.
A proposal to develop 28 modular homes for Ukrainian refugees on a 2.7 acre site in the centre of Claremorris is being met with opposition in the south Mayo town, with local councillor Tom Connolly saying it would be a shanty town.
A special meeting of Mayo County Council is being convened this Thursday to discuss the proposal.

‘Traffic chaos’
The site, along the Ballyhaunis road, is owned by the OPW and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Cllr Connolly insisted that local residents are opposed to any proposal to develop modular homes on the site.
“You will end up with a shanty town in the middle of the town with 28 houses on top of each other in the small square. It is not suitable and just not feasible. The site is owned by the OPW but the council have other sites they can lease to the OPW if they want. It is not in keeping with the town plan to put houses in there,” he said.
The 2.7 acre site was bought for over €2 million by the OPW as part of the decentralisation programme that was scrapped in 2010. German supermarket giant Lidl recently developed a supermarket in an adjacent site, and Cllr Connolly said that any further development would result in traffic chaos.
“It is not suitable for where it is, and local residents are kicking up about it. Hopefully the OPW will see sense because with all the objections I am receiving, I cannot see how the OPW can go ahead. I have already flagged that the council have other sites that they could lease off them. We will wait and see what happens in the next couple of days,” he said.

‘Growing disquiet’
Cllr Connolly added that there is ‘growing disquiet’ among many people with the fast pace in which the Government is able to provide housing for refugees while the housing list continues to grow among the local population.
“We are fed up now with Ukrainians and non-nationals getting houses before our own people who are more entitled to them than any one else. Our citizens are being overlooked. How can all these emergency situations be put in place for Ukrainians and we cannot get housing for our own people, who have been on housing lists for years?” he asked.
Cllr Connolly said the first he knew about this proposal was less than two weeks ago when he received a phone call from an official in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth asking him to find out what the feeling would be locally to the proposal.
He raised the matter briefly at last week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, but it could not be discussed in full as the meeting was adjourned early as a mark of respect to the late councillor Michael Carty.
Last Tuesday, nine councillors including Cllr Connolly signed a letter addressed to the Cathaoirleach Cllr Seamus Weir requesting a requisition of the council to discuss the matter further.

‘Strong demand’
Mr Tom Gilligan, the Director of Services with responsibility for housing in Mayo County Council, confirmed that there are plans to house Ukrainian refugees in modular homes at a site in Claremorris.
“Mayo County Council is seeing a strong demand for accommodation for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. The need to provide accommodation and a safe shelter is as important now as it ever was. I’m advised that the accommodation situation at a national level remains critical, with a number of rest centres throughout the country being stood up over the next few days.
“The type of accommodation that is being used includes pledged properties that have been kindly offered to us from members of the public, hotel and B&B type accommodation, conversion of office-type space into residential accommodation, host families and holiday home units. Mayo County Council is extremely grateful for all the accommodation that is being provided to house Ukrainian refugees,” he said in a statement to The Mayo News.

Vulnerable women and children
Ukrainian refugees due to be relocated to Westport last week are to remain where they are living in Killarney, Co Kerry, after the decision was appealed.
One hundred and thirty-five women and children who had been living in a hotel in Killarney for the last six months were informed last Monday that they would be relocated to Westport on Wednesday.
The decision sparked protests from the refugees and locals in Killarney, and after discussions between Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman and Minister for Education Norma Foley, it was reversed.
The Ukraine Civil Society Forum, a coalition of civil society groups including the Irish Refugee Council and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, welcomed the Government’s decision to reverse the planned relocation of refugees from Ukraine from Killarney to Westport.
“For the families who have made Killarney a home for the past six months we offer our support and welcome today’s announcement of a resolution.
“This situation is a symptom of an approach focused on bed management that does not bring into its decision making the impact on vulnerable women and children and a wider policy in relation to refugees that neglects long-term planning.
“Such a proposed move is re-traumatising and would cause untold damage to the children.  We need to ensure that this does not happen again.”