City councillors deny racism in row over asylum seekers

COUNCILLORS have said that Killarney has more than its fair share of asylum seekers following reports that another property has been purchased in the town to accommodate up to 60 further asylum seekers.

But local independent councillors, Michael Courtney and Donal Grady, who are objecting to any more asylum seekers being accommodated in Killarney, have rejected suggestions they are racist.

There are about 150 asylum seekers in the town, at present. “I’ve no problem with Killarney taking its fair share, but we’ll have to get comparative figures from the Government,” Mr Courtney insisted.

He claimed ‘fat cat’ speculators were buying up premises into which asylum seekers would be ‘packed like sardines’ and called for details of rental payments by the taxpayer to the owners.

It was claimed at this week’s meeting of Killarney Town Council that a small hotel, Linden House, had been bought to accommodate 60 asylum seekers. Eighty-eight asylum seekers are accommodated in Atlas House, while 59 are housed in Park Lodge.

Mr Courtney and Mr Grady proposed that the council write to the Department of Justice objecting to any more asylum seekers being brought to Killarney.

However, Labour councillor Sean O’Grady said he did not like the tone of the language used in the motion. He said that he had not heard of, or seen, any adverse effects from asylum seekers in the town.

He said the bone fides of such people were accepted and they were fleeing from countries where they had not been treated well.

“There were 200 of them here in the last five years and, with Linden House, the figure can be brought up to what it was five years ago. These people will not reduce the quality of life in Killarney,” he said.

“Asylum seekers have enhanced the quality of life in Killarney, bringing colour and culture to the area.”

He asked Mr Courtney and Mr Grady to delete some of the sensitive wording from their motion. The council agreed to write to the Department of Justice for information about the number of asylum seekers in other towns and for details about how much was being paid to the owners of premises in which they were being accommodated.

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