A group opposed to plans to accommodate 130 asylum seekers in an apartment complex in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, say their round-the-clock protest will continue until their concerns are addressed.
Representatives of Ballinamore Community Group claimed the Minister of State at Department of Justice and Equality David Stanton agreed to pause plans to accommodate asylum seekers in the town.
Group spokesperson Gordon Hughes said: “The peaceful silent demonstration, which has been ongoing, will continue 24/7 until our concerns are addressed.”
Mr Hughes said Ballinamore had a population of 900 people and the number of asylum seekers being proposed was not “proportional” to the size of the town.
Group representatives, including Mr Hughes, met Mr Stanton and Department of Justice officials in Dublin on Thursday for about an hour and a half. Afterwards, they stated that the minister gave them "an unequivocal commitment" that nothing further would be progressed while he considered the options open to him.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said Mr Stanton welcomed the opportunity to have “an exchange of views” with elected and community representatives from Ballinamore. He would "reflect on the issues discussed" and looked forward to "further dialogue " taking place.
The department has faced resistance to opening new director provision centres before. There have been arson attacks on hotels in Moville, Co Donegal and Rooskey, Co Roscommon, earlier this year.
Mr Hughes said there was an asylum centre in Ballinamore about 15 years ago and it was used to accommodate about 30 people before it was closed for commercial reasons by the developer. “I was a member of the community at the time and no one objected to it or showed any hostility. We engaged with the people to try and help them as best we could,” he said.
Mr Hughes said they would look at “a proportional number” of people moving into their area.
There must be proportionality because we are being asked to increase the population of our village by 15% overnight. There are over one million people in Dublin and it would be like having 150,000 people arrive in the city.
Mr Hughes said they only had one GP in the village; the biggest employer was a supermarket and their childcare facilities were full. He reckoned that between 15 and 20 people would be seen as the international norm for a community the size of Ballinamore.
“We have said at all times that, of course, we will engage with Government but consult with people first. Don't just have a policy of making announcements – help us to help you.”