Fri, Mar
20 New Articles

Castlebar can’t take more refugees - councillors


'LACK OF COMMUNICATION' Cllr Donna Sheridan.

Oisín McGovern

SCHOOLS and GP practices in the Castlebar area may be unable to cope with extra Ukrainian refugees coming into the area, local politicians have claimed.
County councillors from the area say that there are insufficient wraparound services in the area to deal with greater numbers.
According to CSO statistics, Castlebar municipal area has the highest number of refugees in Mayo. There were at least 769 refugees from Ukraine living in the area as of September 25, making up 2.4 percent of the total population.
A new accommodation centre was recently installed at the sports arena at the Breaffy Woods Hotel, and over 300 Ukrainian refugees have been living there since March.
Approximately 200 people of various nationalities, including Ukrainian, are being accomodated in facility, which was used as the Covid-19 vaccination centre for the county during the height of the pandemic.
Several refugees, including children, were recently moved to accommodation above a business premises in the N5 Business Park in Castlebar.

No communication
Cllr Donna Sheridan hit out at the lack of communication from the Government to local representatives regarding new refugee accommodation centres.
Citing the number of people on trolleys in Mayo University Hospital, Cllr Sheridan said there were insufficient medical and educational services in the Castlebar area to deal with more refugees.
She said that Castlebar had the eleventh-highest number of refugees of any electoral district in the country as of September 26.
“I know [the infrastructural strain] from speaking to teachers and speaking to doctors. We saw it on RTÉ last week, that the Department are telling us that there’s enough school spaces and there’s enough medical services for these people. We can’t get GPs in this town. We can’t get dentists,” Cllr Sheridan told a meeting of Castlebar Municipal District Council.
“We are putting kids into classrooms who have no English. We haven’t interpreters there. If you put a five-year-old into a JuniorInfant class with no English and there is no Ukrainian interpreter, how is a teacher with 25 or 26 other children meant to deal with the situation?”
Cllr Sheridan added that people were ‘really concerned’ about refugee accommodation centres being opened without prior consultation.
“We’re just opening international protection centres and there’s no communication with ourselves… no communication with communities, no communication with businesses,” she said.

Addressing a question from Cllr Sheridan, Head of Castlebar Municipal District Iarla Moran said had ‘no information’ relating to the newly opened accommodation centre in Breaffy.
Cathaoirleach of Castlebar Municipal District Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said he was ‘not so sure’ if Breaffy was a suitable location to house refugees seeking international protection.
Cllr Kilcoyne added that some local people were currently waiting up to six days to see a doctor in Castlebar, showing how stretched the system was.
“I’m chairman of the board of management of Davitt College,” Cllr Blackie Gavin told the meeting. “I asked the principal how many Ukrainian students have they – I think they have 30 – but they cannot take anymore.”
Cllr Gavin echoed Cllr Sheridan’s concerns that councillors were being ‘kept in the dark’ about various issues, including the number of refugees entering the area.
“Are we wasting our time as public representatives? People are angry out there. They are very, very angry and they don’t know what’s going on. If ye would only tell us what’s going we could relay it back to the people,” he stated.
Cllr Sheridan proposed a motion, seconded by Cllr Gavin, that the municipal district write to Mayo County Council CEO Kevin Kelly to request an update on the number of refugees in the Castlebar area and what supports they are receiving.
Mayo County Council’s Director of Services for Housing Tom Gilligan told The Mayo News that he would continue to engage with local representatives regarding refugee accomodation.
“I have discussed and I’m quite happy to continue further discussions with councillors as we provide a duty of care and a humanitarian response to refugees.”
Vincent Duffy, the Mayo-Sligo representative on the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation’s Executive Council, told this newspaper that he had not heard any concerns about a lack of support teachers for Ukrainian children.

2803 EU GIF