300 people packed into a community centre in Borrisokane this evening for a public meeting on the pending arrival of 16 asylum seeking families to the town.
The news broke on Wednesday morning that the Riverside apartment complex in the town has been renovated to house the asylum seekers who are expected to arrive on a staggered basis from Monday.
Five Councillors of the Nenagh Municipal District – Cllrs Joe Hannigan, Ger Darcy, Seamie Morris, Michael O’Meara and Hughie McGrath sat at the top table and chaired concerns from the gathered crowd.
They criticised the Department of Justice for the lack of information and the secrecy of the project – they themselves were not informed until Monday evening, a number of days after the contract had been signed.
Numerous locals spoke about the concerns they had – such as how will the educational, medical and associated needs for the extra 84 people be catered for in an already service deprived town.
Another speaker from the crowd said they were concerned about anti-social trends from other towns with direct provision centres being repeated in Borrisokane – which the top table described as hearsay.
Far right leader and founder of the National Party, Justin Barrett, who grew up in Borrisokane, made a fiery speech about the secrecy with which the Department of Justice handled the establishment of the centre, telling the assembled crowd that they had been “lied to” and urging them to fight against the settling of asylum seekrs in the town.
His views were echoed by a man who had traveled to the meeting from East Galway and told the locals that they should “do an Oughterard” on it, in reference to the controversy over a planned centre in Galway a number of weeks ago.
A local resident responded by saying he’s concerned about the narrative being spread “by some people in this room,” insisting that the concerns were over the fact that nobody knows who is coming to town or where they’re from, adding that “once we know who they are, they’re more than welcome”.
Addressing the lack of information about the proposed new residents, the top table of Councillors said that the Department of Justice cited “data protection concerns” as the reason they couldn’t be told about them.
The meeting concluded with Cllrs agreeing to form a local representative group to engage with the Department and incoming asylum seekers.
Hear a full report from tonight’s meeting with audio from concerned speakers and local representatives on tomorrow’s Tipp Today with Fran Curry from 9am.