*Minister for Education, Norma Foley. Photograph: Joe Buckley
INTEGRATION MINISTER, Roderic O’Gorman (GP) has been praised for his “personal and political leadership” by Minister for Education, Norma Foley (FF) in working to accommodate refugees and asylum seekers.
Much criticism has surrounded the communication and lack of information circulated to communities by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in advance of asylum seekers and refugees arriving.
This has been particularly evident in Inch where a bus-load of 34 men arrived to take up residence at Magowna House on Monday evening, five days after the local community first became aware that the Department intends to have 69 male asylum seekers living at the premises which have been closed since 2019.
Speaking in Shannon, Minister Foley defended Minister O’Gorman for not accepting a request from Inch residents to meet them in the locality to discuss their concerns regarding sewerage and the lack of a fire certificate. “It would be virtually impossible for him to travel to every community because in every community we are welcoming in people who come from abroad and coming in to difficult and challenging circumstances, if you look to our schools in particular you will see the fantastic manner in which these students are becoming part of the experience of the schools, our schools have been enriched by the presence of students from so many different countries. There is a body of work in communities, by and large we can see great opportunities being fulfilled there”.
Junior Minister, Joe O’Brien (GP) met with locals in Ennis on Thursday evening and confirmed a fire certificate would be issued in the next fortnight.
Pressure is mounting on the Government on how they handle the ongoing issues in Inch. The stance taken by Minister O’Gorman can be replicated across the country, Minister Foley outlined. “I think we need to reflect and look at everything in the round. I think, in the round you can see how very well people have been received by communities and how well they have been welcomed into communities, I would always concede that there can be issues in specific areas, I think it is welcome that the issues have been flagged, Minister O’Gorman has made it clear that he is happy to engage on those issues and to engage with the residents and I think thati s right. We see right across the country the work that is being done by community groups in terms of the spirit of welcome inclusion”.
Clare Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) had said their colleagues in Government, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of ‘throwing Minister O’Gorman and the Greens under the bus’ on this particular issue.
Accommodating refugees and asylum seekers is a matter for the entire Government, Minister Foley stressed. “This is a whole of Government approach. I want to acknowledge that in the first instance this whole of Government approach is being led by Minister O’Gorman, from my personal engagement with him and I’m sure I would reflect my colleagues as well, I think he is doing an excellent job, I think the commitment, personal and political leadership he has shown has been second to none, he is well supported by Government and the Government is determined to recognise this is a shared responsibility within Government and within society. On a personal and political basis, I think Minister O’Gorman is doing an excellent job”.
That a meeting took place with the Junior Minister showed “a willingness on all sides to look at it and find a pathway forward,” the Kerry TD believed.
She felt the overall stance on asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland was welcoming. “If you look across Ireland and at all the counties, nine out of ten times you’re seeing communities who have broadly welcomed and who have adopted many of the new people who have come into the communities, I see it myself travelling the length and breadth of the country, I see the extraordinary openness and willingness of communities to be open and welcoming of people from incredibly and traumatic difficult circumstances, in the main that is the widest reflection of who we are, it is important and behoves us all to work through those issues but I think when we look at anything, we look at it in the round and in its broadest context, I think in its broader context wider Ireland have been very positive in welcoming, endorsing and acknowledging those who come from very difficult circumstances and in this instance where there are individual circumstances and issues to be ironed out I think that is right and appropriate”.