A PUBLIC MEETING is to be held in Shannon today (Saturday) as locals seek answers on plans to use a large industrial building for emergency accommodation for refugees.
Work commenced prior to Christmas on the fitting out of a building in the Shannon Industrial Estate which is on 7.3 acres of land and has been made available by the Office of Public Works to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth for the purposes of providing emergency accommodation.
Local residents held a meeting last Sunday and will reconvene today (Saturday) at The Bandstand to go about trying to get more information on the Department’s plans to house more refugees in the town.
It is understood that the building in the Industrial Estate has the potential to house between 1000 to 1500 individuals, this figure has not been confirmed by the Department who have been criticised by elected representatives and Shannon residents for the scant information provided on the plans.
Amid ongoing concern, up to 1000 persons have joined a Facebook group for Shannon Residents which has led to the organising of the meeting.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, one Shannon resident detailed, “people are obviously concerned. The cloak and dagger response from the Government has got people concerned. We don’t have the resources or the services as it is. We are in a town that already lacks facilities”.
Government must lift the “wall of silence” surrounding the plans, Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) stated. “Shannon has a proud and lengthy tradition of welcoming refugees down through the years,” he said, “On each of those occasions however, proper planning and public consultation was conducted by the authorities which ensured the wholesome support of local people”.
He added, “There is a significant strain on existing services in the town, particularly GP services, yet no information has been forthcoming on the reported retrofitting of a large building in the country’s largest industrial estate to accommodate new arrivals. It is perfectly reasonable for the people of Shannon to seek information about the move and to receive assurances that additional resources will be deployed to the town to accommodate any increase in the local population and the consequent increased demand for services”.
Scariff native McNamara called for more engagement from the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman (GP). “We have seen in Lisdoonvarna how there has been little if any increase in local services to the detriment of both residents and refugees. Therefore, early engagement needs to happen before the building is occupied. Both the occupants of the new accommodation centre and the people of Shannon will benefit from such consultation before the proposed accommodation centre is occupied. Otherwise, there is a risk of misinformation filling the void which benefits no one”.
Minister O’Gorman was this week contacted by Clare TD, Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) on the matter as she encouraged him to visit Shannon. “The vacuum that has been created by the lack of information or consultation by your Department with community groups and stakeholders has sent shockwaves through the community of Shannon. Several individuals have been in touch with my office, and they have raised some very legitimate concerns,” she said.
“This proposed emergency accommodation will not be at the residential side of town, but in a highly industrialised area which will not be equipped with the necessary local services for the residents of the accommodation to have an adequate standard of living. Many of the local residents have conveyed concerns to me regarding whether your Department has consulted with local services like Shannon Health Centre and the local schools in the area to ensure that they will be adequately equipped to deal with this extra capacity,” Deputy Wynne added.
Lack of information has not aided the situation, the Kilrush woman stressed. “Clare County Council have engaged with over 4,000 refugees of war from Ukraine since last February and I am incredibly to represent the communities in Clare who have welcomed these residents into their communities with open arms. However, as a direct result of your Department’s lack of support on the ground a vacuum has been created that has allowed for unsavoury far-right sentiment to hijack the conversation around the country”.