Minister says 'grossly misleading' comments about asylum seekers to blame for Oughterard situation

Minister says 'grossly misleading' comments about asylum seekers to blame for Oughterard situation

Additional reporting by Juno McEnroe

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has blamed "grossly misleading" information about asylum seeker numbers for the decision to scrap plans for a direct provision centre in Oughterard after a weeks long racism row stand-off.

Mr Flanagan hit out at the "disappointing" situation and said it will "exacerbate a very serious situation" as Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan insisted protesters must not be allowed to decided for direct provision sites are built.

In a weeks-long stand-off that began earlier this summer, the former Connemara Gateway Hotel was earmarked as a potential site for a new direct provision centre in Oughterard, west Galway.

While no confirmation of the decision was ever made, at a public meeting last month unaligned Independent TD Noel Grealish claimed asylum seekers from Africa are in reality "economic migrants".

Although the comment was widely criticised and labelled as racist, it also led to a number of protesters both from Oughterard and other areas to focus on the stand-off and to hold pickets outside the potential direct provision site.

And, in a statement this evening after the decision by the bidder for the tender to turn the Connemara Gateway Hotel into a direct provision centre pulled out, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan hit out at what he said is "grossly misleading comments" on the situation.

"In recent weeks grossly misleading comments have been made about the nature of direct provision services in this State. The nature of the services - which have improved steadily over many years and are now in line with EU law - have been totally mischaracterized.

"It is disappointing that a bidder has chosen to withdraw from the tender process for the western region. This is of course their prerogative.

"However, this is a development which will ultimately exacerbate a very serious situation in terms of a shortage of accommodation for those who come to Ireland seeking accommodation and requesting State services," Mr Flanagan said.

His comments - which were echoed by junior minister for equality, immigration and integration David Stanton - came as Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan said protesters must not be allowed to dictate asylum seeker locations.

Asked about the Oughterard developments at Leinster House, Mr O'Callaghan said: “We have to be very careful that we don't allow a situation to develop whereby protests on one level and maybe lawlessness at a higher level can result in direct provision centres just not going ahead.

"We do not have that many [asylum seekers]. There are 6,000 people. I would be concerned if a message is going out that these centres can be stopped if there are protests."

Mr Grealish did not respond to phone calls from the Irish Examiner.

However, fellow unaligned Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly - who criticised Mr Grealish's original comments - said the only way to avoid the problems in Oughterard will be to hold "positive meetings" on how best to integrate new people into areas.

More on this topic

Asylum seeker housing situation ‘perilous’; 39 direct provision centres fullAsylum seeker housing situation ‘perilous’; 39 direct provision centres full

Victoria White: Justice minister must build a Road to Damascus for us on immigrationVictoria White: Justice minister must build a Road to Damascus for us on immigration

Almost 800 people who have been granted asylum stuck in direct provisionAlmost 800 people who have been granted asylum stuck in direct provision

35% of TDs believe Direct Provision is inhumane - survey35% of TDs believe Direct Provision is inhumane - survey


More in this Section

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo cancelled due to stormWild Lights at Dublin Zoo cancelled due to storm

In pictures: The first look at Storm Atiyah as it hits IrelandIn pictures: The first look at Storm Atiyah as it hits Ireland

Traffic chaos which blighted 'All Together Now' festival could have been avoided - GardaiTraffic chaos which blighted 'All Together Now' festival could have been avoided - Gardai

10% of GPs have signed up to provide abortion services, HSE confirm10% of GPs have signed up to provide abortion services, HSE confirm


Lifestyle

Overshadowed by its giant neighbours it may be, but the smallest of the main Blasket islands, Beginish, is no less impressive in its own right.The Islands of Ireland: The miracle of Beginish

‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten — Psalm 90How to tell an animal’s age in a heartbeat

We often hear how nature will do well, even come back from the brink of extinction, if given a chance and some human help.Birds of prey on the rise

In our country we still have places that bear no evidence of disturbance by man, that are in their pristine state and rich with all the elements that feed the spirit and deliver us into the world beyond the skin of the time and circumstances we live in.Unique ambience of Dursey Island under threat

More From The Irish Examiner