Rooskey decision not to house asylum seekers sends wrong message, says FF TD

Latest: Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Equality, Immigration and Integration Fiona O’Loughlin has said that the Government’s direct provision system is flawed and that a better system that offers dignity to asylum seekers is required, writes Vivienne Clarke.

While Ireland is obliged to help asylum seekers this needs to be done in a different way with greater consultation of local communities and ensuring there are sufficient places in local schools and in local general practices, she added.

Ms O’Loughlin told RTÉ radio’s News at One she was very concerned at the decision by the Department of Justice to provide an accommodation centre for asylum seekers at a disused hotel in Rooskey, Co Leitrim, will not now go ahead.

Fiona O’Loughlin

An issue over the lease of the property, which was damaged in two arson attacks in the last three months, was the reason given the reason not to proceed.

In a statement, the department said it regretted the decision but it was taken after legal advice from the Chief State Solicitors Office, "which found difficulties with the lease agreement between the owners of the hotel, and the operator renting it, which made proceeding with the proposed centre unviable".

The department said it is committed to sourcing suitable accommodation for asylum seekers and a "regional procurement process" is under way.

Ms O’Loughlin said:

This sends the wrong message to the perpetrators (of the two fires on the premises) that they have gotten their way on this.

Direct provision was brought in as a temporary measure and it is now time for it to end, she said.

Ms O’Loughlin said that her office in Newbridge was beside a direct provision centre and it was “heartbreaking the lack of dignity that they go through day by day.”

Irish people have shown their willingness to support asylum seekers, she said. But there has to be proper consultation “to ensure that we get it right.”

Meanwhile, Leitrim and Roscommon United Against Racism has said that "nobody apart from the Government thought it was a good idea to house 80 asylum seekers in Rooskey".

In a statement released in response to today's decision the group said: "However, it is regretful that the government appear to have backed down in the face of racist arson attacks and a vocal hard-right minority in this area.

"This will be portrayed by the far-right minority in our communities as a victory for them.

"The legal issues surrounding the use of the Hotel as a DP centre should have been tested fully in court.

This decision may very well have a negative impact on the ability of the state to house asylum seekers elsewhere.

"It is time to stand up to the nasty undercurrent of racism in our society and to stand up to those public figures who are fuelling it.

"The Prison like Direct Provision system is a flawed system. It pits communities against asylum seekers.

"It is time for to to end. Asylum seekers should be housed in communities and allowed to work."

Additional reporting by Digital Desk.

Decision not to house asylum seekers in Rooskey hotel not related to fires, says Dept

Update 1pm: Plans have been dropped to move 80 asylum seekers into a disused hotel in Rooskey, Co Leitrim.

The Department of Justice has said that it has nothing to do with the two arson attacks at the hotel in the last four months.

They say it is because of difficulties over the lease agreement between the company renting the hotel, who wanted to turn it into a tourist spot, and the owners.

"The decision not to proceed was taken solely in relation to the difficulties with the lease," the department said.

"There are investors there who want to drive this forward and hopefully after all this debacle things can go forward and Rooskey moves onwards and upwards," said local Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Michael Fitzmaurice

Efforts are now underway to find alternative accommodation for the asylum seekers.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, says private contractors have been relied on for too long.

"This highlights the need to shift to a longer-term strategic approach to asylum accommodation," said Mr Henderson.

The department says a regional procurement process is underway to find a place for the asylum seekers to go.

Plans to house asylum seekers in Rooskey hotel abandoned

Earlier: The government has abandoned plans to accommodate asylum seekers at a hotel in Rooskey, Co Leitrim.

The Shannon Key West Hotel had been earmarked as an accommodation centre for 80 people.

However, the Department of Justice has confirmed that following legal advice that the plans have now been dropped.

It is because of difficulties over the lease agreement between the company renting the hotel - who wanted to turn it into a tourist spot - and the owners.

The hotel was damaged in two arson attacks in the last four months.

In a statement, the department said the decision was taken after legal advice from the Chief State Solicitors Office, "which found difficulties with the lease agreement between the owners of the hotel, and the operator renting it, which made proceeding with the proposed centre unviable".

The department said it is committed to sourcing suitable accommodation for asylum seekers and a "regional procurement process" is under way.

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