*Seamie Fitzpatrick at Magowna Hill where one of the blockades are located. Photograph: John Mangan
BLOCKADES will remain located at three points on the approach to Magowna House but locals have said they are agreeable to a smaller quantity than the announced figure of 69 male asylum seekers taking up residence at Inch.
Since the arrival of 34 men on Monday evening, bollards, tractors, vehicles and bales of hay have been used to block access to Magowna House.
Seamie Fitzpatrick, a farmer from Inch has been one of the many locals completing four-hour shifts at the different points to restricts access.
Recalling the first public meeting on the subject held at The Kilmaley Inn last Friday, Seamie recounted “we went back not knowing what was happening but we got a rude awakening to find there’s 69 men coming which frightened the life out of a lot of people when we realised the situation they were coming into, no footpaths, no lighting and as you see here it is a country area and a very scenic route for walking”.
He continued, “There’s a 5km loop there that people when they come home from work you could have 20 people walking this at night time, their children would be with them on their bicycles and they can call into the elderly people on their way because their doors are always open for a chat and the elderly people along the way enjoy them calling in, it is a real community thing along here”.
Clarification was issued by Seamie that it is not the countries the men are coming from that they have concerns with. “For those people to be sprung on us like that, it’s not where they come from, we’ve no issues whatsoever, if 69 people came from Cork, Kerry or Dublin we would have the same feeling. We gathered €4000 or €5000 one Sunday after mass for the Ukrainians, if the Ukrainians were coming into that hotel we would be going down with biscuits and toys for them, we’re very accommodating people in this parish but we’re also very tightly knit whether it is on the hurling field or fundraising, we all stick together and we’re going to stick with this blockade for as long as it takes. We’re upset that at the press of a button from Roderic O’Gorman’s office, all these people were sprung down to a rural country area, people will be afraid to come out of their homes and they shouldn’t be”.
When asked where the fear from locals is coming from, he stated, “It’s the way the whole world has gone, we’ve seen poor Ashling Murphy in Tullamore last year, it’s human nature, people are going to be in fear when 69 males land here, they have no place to go to, there’s no recreational facilities or a swimming pool here for them, what are they going to do every day, the poor craters have nowhere to go, it is unfair on them”.
Inch residents have committed to maintain their “peaceful protest” with twenty four hour shifts in place for different persons to man the blockades. “If it needs to be done for another ten days then we’ll do it, we just want fair play and a bit of dialogue”.
This dialogue between the Government, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and locals has been lacking, Seamie maintained. “They’ve been told about the sewerage down there, the Fire Officer isn’t happy with what’s happening, if you were building a house in the morning you wouldn’t get planning here but yet 69 people can go into a place where all these things are wrong, the sewerage is flowing into the stream, you wouldn’t get away with it in a private dwelling so why can it be allowed for this”.
Planning applications as flagged by Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) would be rejected for new dwelling houses in Inch. “PJ Kelly has been brilliant for us, Michael Fitzmaurice in Roscommon is another man fighting for rural Ireland with the cutting of turf. People have to speak up for rural Ireland, they can’t just press a button above in Dublin and decide everything is right, we live in a country area, our forefathers and the people who went before us lived here, hopefully our children will be here because rural Ireland has to stay”.
A lower number to 69 could be accommodated if issues are addressed, Seamie said. “A lower number definitely it would be capable of that and having a small bit of dialogue with people and talk it out, of course we will accommodate a smaller number, we’ve no issue with that. They are coming from a war-torn country, we feel very sorry for them but we are also sorry for ourselves because people were crying in The Kilmaley Inn on Friday night, they will never walk this road again, it won’t happen, people are afraid, once that bus came on Monday evening our lives have been turned upside down here, that is calling a spade a spade, we’re afraid to speak our mind, why in this country have we to be afraid to speak our mind in case we say the wrong thing, people are afraid to open their mouth in case they say the wrong thing, it’s time we took a stance here now. We can’t watch a match now because we’ve no broadband here, elderly people that cycled into matches in Limerick fifty years ago have to turn on the radio to tune into a match now. Rural Ireland is finished”.
Fitzpatrick concluded, “We hope the issue is solved, they could be accommodated on a smaller scale but definitely not 69 males into this area, there’s grass growing as you go over the road, two cars can’t pass on the road, it’s a beautiful scenic route where you can see five counties from over the road, this a popular walking area for families but not anymore I’m afraid, it’s been taken away from us”.
“As you know from the hurling field we’re always together in Kilmaley and we’re especially together in Inch on this one, we won’t budge, we’re a fair minded people but we want a small bit of fair play,” he added.