Roscrea protests: ‘We can’t get medical appointments, so we can’t take any more, but we don’t want any far right activists here’

A dozen people stayed overnight outside Racket Hall Hotel to protest decision to use it to accommodate a reported 160 International Protection Applicants

“It went down to minus five last night and they say it’s going to be colder again tonight,” said Noel Wright, as he leaned in with a poker to prod the burning brazier and send a few lumps of glowing orange coal hissing in the cold air. A group huddled around to warm themselves.

Mr Wright is one of a group of about a dozen people who stayed out overnight outside Racket Hall Hotel to protest against the Government’s decision to begin using the 40-room facility on the outskirts of Roscrea, Co Tipperary, to accommodate a reported 160 International Protection Applicants (IPAs).

A day of blue skies and pleasant sunshine had failed to thaw the sparkling frost coating the front roof of the former 18th century coach house on the old Dublin to Limerick road, but as dusk descended, Wright and his fellow protesters remained undeterred in their opposition to the plan.

“We’re here for the long-haul – the Government need to listen to us – we’ve already taken more than our share of refugees here in Roscrea, and now we are losing our only hotel... I mean there was a woman here last week planning her wedding, only be told on Friday the hotel was closing.”


Mr Wright and fellow protesters Gavin Lynch and James Kirwan are anxious to distance themselves from a group of far right activists who arrived at the hotel on Monday after one of their number sent out a rallying call.

“A few of them turned up here all right but we didn’t engage with them – everyone here is from Roscrea, concerned that our services can’t cope with any more IPAs coming here – we can’t get doctor and dental appointments, so we can’t take any more, but we don’t want any far right activists here.”

Someone, they said, had suggested burning down the hotel before 17 IPA residents moved in on Monday at noon, but they wanted nothing to do with any such proposals and insisted no local had been involved in issuing any such threats.

According to Mr Kirwan, one of the locals “ran the far right fellows”, telling them they were not wanted at the protest, and that when one of the far right activists asked whether they would be allowed come back on Tuesday, they were told in no uncertain terms they were not welcome.

Earlier, mother-of-three Fiona Dunford was among a number of protesters who left toys outside Racket Hall for children among the 17 asylum seekers who witnessed scuffles between gardaí from the Public Order Unit and some protesters as they arrived at the hotel on Monday.

“Dropping off the toys is 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.”

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 that Roscrea cannot in their view take any more asylum seekers and is losing its only hotel.

“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 reasons, why this protest is taking place.”

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