Roscrea locals leave toys for children outside Racket Hall, saying ‘our protest isn’t about any of the people coming here’

Fiona Dunford said everybody is ‘sympathetic to the families and children who were moved in’

Fiona Dunford and Alison Lee leaving toys at the entrance of Racket Hall. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson

A number of Roscrea locals have left toys outside the Racket Hall Hotel in a move to reassure the 17 International Protection Applicants who were accommodated in the hotel amid angry scenes that the protest was not about them but was instead aimed at the Government’s approach.

The portrayal of protesters scuffling with gardaí outside a Tipperary hotel being used to accommodate International Protection Applicants was not a true reflection of the protesters, said Fiona Dunford, who was among a number of people leaving toys today.

“I have three children myself and I have brought down Lego and soft toys and mechanical toys all in good working order for the children who were moved in here yesterday – everybody is sympathetic to the families and children who were moved in here yesterday,” she said.

“I think it’s about showing compassion to those families and children but our protest isn’t about any of the people coming here – we have the utmost sympathy for them given where they are coming from and what they have been through so it isn’t about them.”


We know all about the fear of ‘unvetted’ single male migrants. We were their chief exporterOpens in new window ]

Ms Dunford said the picture that emerged when video footage showed protesters involved in scuffles with public order gardaí as they sought to form a cordon so a bus with International Protection Applicant access the hotel was not a true picture of what was going on.

“Yesterday’s portrayal of people involved in scuffles with gardaí is not what the people of Roscrea are about – what came across in the media didn’t really portray people in a good light and wasn’t fair – bringing up the toys today is about showing the families that the protest isn’t about them.”

Ms Dunford, who has been attending the protest for the past six days, said the reasons for the protest are as valid now as they were when people began camping outside Racket Hall – to highlight the fact that Roscrea can’t take any more asylum seekers and the fact it is losing its only hotel.

“I think it’s important to make the differentiation between what the protest is about and not have the focus on unfortunately what happened yesterday, those scuffles and stuff – because the majority of the protest has been peaceful and we want it to continue to be peaceful.

“We want the focus to remain on the reasons for the protest in the first place which are twofold – this was a viable business, a perfectly functioning hotel and part of the town and all of us are going to miss it terribly because our tourism industry is going to plummet if we lose our only hotel.

“The second thing is the fact that we already have two provision centres in the town and we are at capacity in terms of our services and we really can’t take 160 more International Protection Applicants – they are two reasons and the only reason why this protest is taking place.”

Ms Dunford had heard Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s announcement that the Government is to provide extra resources for services in the ten towns with the highest concentration of International Protection Applicants but she questioned whether it was too late for Roscrea.

Ms Dunford said when the protest began, it was with the intention of persuading the Government not to bring in any International Protection Applicants into Racket Hall until Dáil Éireann reconvened on Wednesday after Christmas and Tipperary TDs could raise the concerns of locals on the floor.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times