A member of a welcome committee set up to support asylum seekers due to arrive on Achill Island has said that “anybody with a heart would have to reconsider” opposing the housing of vulnerable women in a local hotel.
James McNamara said he was very disappointed that the Department of Justice had changed its mind about its plan to house asylum seekers at a hotel on the Mayo island.
Some 13 female asylum seekers were due to arrive at the Achill Head Hotel today but the Department of Justice confirmed yesterday it had postponed their arrival.
In a statement it said: “The Department of Justice and Equality had hoped to transfer 13 vulnerable women to the Achill Head Hotel.
"The hotel was to provide emergency short-term accommodation to women who have come to Ireland seeking international protection.
"They were to be in Achill for a maximum stay of three months.
"However, an ongoing protest remains in place outside the hotel, so the Department has regrettably decided that, at the moment, to ask the women to move there would not be in their best interests, as they may be vulnerable while awaiting decisions on their protection applications”.
Mr McNamara told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that while there was a “justifiable sense of anger” at the lack of consultation, he knew “in their hearts Achill people are generous.”
However, he said he feared that Achill people are “being stalked by outside forces with their own agenda.”
He said he did not recognise the faces of any of the protestors on television coverage.
“I believe outside influences are adding fuel to the fire. I don’t really know who’s involved.”
Mr McNamara said he was very upset by the protests as Achill has a long history of welcoming people from all over the world and there is also a very large Achill diaspora.
“There’s hardly a family in Achill without an emigrant in their midst.
“It is rather ironic.”
It was very sad that “these unfortunate women” fleeing from very difficult situations were now aware that they could not come to Achill because of the protests.
They are being further traumatised.
No one is in favour of direct provision, it will be the Magdalene Laundries of this generation, he predicted.
If the situation had been handled better there would have been a tremendous welcome for the women.
It was a very difficult question how the Department of Justice should have handled the issue, added Mr McNamara.
“It is something the experts should be handling.”
He was also concerned that no representative of the welcome committee was involved in a meeting between the department and community representatives held on Wednesday night.
Protests took place outside the hotel where that meeting took place.
“It’s a rather sad situation.”