*Between 40-50 people attended the public meeting in Scariff. Photograph: John Mangan

BIDDING TO GET more information prior to the arrival of refugees in Scariff “is not about being racist or right wing,” the organiser of a public meeting in the East Clare town aimed at obtaining facts on the use of the Clare Lakelands Hotel had said.

Opening the public meeting which took place in McNamara’s Pub and Restaurant in Scariff on Thursday last, Ellen Cunningham acknowledged the room full of people for attending.

She explained, “This is not about being racist or right-wing, this is just a small town, I’m local here all my life, I feel like our Government, some of our local TDs and councillors have made no effort to chat or call for a meeting to inform us as a community what is going to happen with the hotel, we just want a fair, honest and open discussion”.

Addressing the meeting, Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) outlined, “Different places that wouldn’t be considered ideal for migrants have to be utilised, the Government has a responsibility under various different arrangements that have been agreed to both at European and UN level over the last twenty, thirty, forty years where somebody who seeks international protection or refugee status, the Government has a responsibility to provide them with shelter and food, they don’t get access to social welfare or any of the normal elements there, that is the Direct Provision that you regularly here about, where they are retained and provided with shelter and food, in recent years recognising the shortage of people in the workforce, there is a provision now where after six months they can apply for work permits and be granted the right to work while their refugee status is being investigated, they look at what happens”.

He added, “I accept that there are people with fears, they are your genuine fears, they may not be my fears, you are entitled to have a public conversation about this, sometimes fears of the unknown you automatically feel that you are branded as racist or right wing but I don’t see any of that from the people, there is scarcely anyone here that I don’t know, I would have known and met you, you might have disagreed with me on a lot of things or agreed with me on things but I know you are not inherently racist at all but that doesn’t take from the fact that you have genuine concerns which we have to try address as best we can from our perspective, we can’t solve all the problems”.

Views of the public must be taken on board, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) insisted. “We’re all well aware of what is happening in the country and the amount of refugees coming into the country, it started with the Ukrainian war, we are where we are and there is always concern. There is going to be a massive change in Scariff, we are led to believe, we have nothing set in stone or in paper, we’re led to believe 77 people will be coming into Scariff, that is a big influx to a town.

“We’re led to believe that it is families and single women but we haven’t that in writing, we can’t say if it’s true or false and I can tell you straight out it’s not for the want of trying.. We’re all well aware that the hotel is gone into new ownership and has been renovated for these refugees to come and stay in it,” Cooney added.

Answers have not been forthcoming from the Government or the Department of Integration when questioned on the matter, Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) said. “A long time ago some people from the community approached me and asked me what was happening, I asked a question and didn’t get an immediate answer,” he said while equating the unsuccessful request to get information as similar to what occurred in Inch”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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