Sinn Féin accuses Government of lacking ‘manners’ and ‘respect’ in handling immigration

McDonald says her party would ‘listen to communities’ when dealing with accommodation of refugees

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said those protesting about accommodating asylum seekers in their locality should direct such frustration and anger at the Government, who have “the capacity to change things for people”.

Ms McDonald also said it was a matter of concern that a “small group of nasty individuals” were trying to direct aggression and negativity towards asylum seekers.

“Irish people are decent, Irish people are welcoming, but I also know that people have struggled long and hard now for years with a Government that has failed rural communities, left town after town without services, without prospects, without opportunities, young people now leaving in record numbers and an inability to source accommodation,” she told RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme.

“That has driven righteous, correct anger, some of that… there is a move by a small number of people to exploit that and direct that at the wrong people.


“I think we need to be just upfront in calling that out. Let me also say, I think it’s a bit rich for Government to almost now cast themselves as commentators or finger pointers at the very communities that in so many cases they abandoned, they have failed, and they have let down.”

The Sinn Féin leader said her party would take a different approach to accommodating those seeking international protection.

“The first thing that we would do is we would ensure that there is an all-of-government plan, we would have the good manners, we would have the respect and the basic intelligence, to go and talk to the communities concerned,” she said.

“We would ensure that we listened to proposals like those that came from the Irish Refugee Council now for months and months around the use of holiday home accommodation. We would listen to communities.”

Ms McDonald said her party would have used “a thoughtful, structured, planned approach” with the help of communities and local leaders. She said people were not given any notice or information in areas such as East Wall and Mullingar, which was “the wrong way to do it” and “unnecessarily stokes up concerns and fears”.

Ms McDonald said it also “very dangerously opens up the gap” for an abusive and, in some cases, “openly violent” minority to take advantage of communities.

Government attempts to source additional accommodation for asylum seekers have been hampered by a series of protests at centres earmarked for shelter. Ministers have been warned that hoteliers are backing away from Government contracts to host refugees due to fears about protests and local opposition.

During the week, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman wrote to all Ministers “urgently” seeking their assistance in sourcing accommodation for those arriving in the country.

The chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, was among those to criticise the Government at the weekend over lack of consultation, complaining about plans for housing 100 asylum seekers in a Kilkenny city hotel.

The TD for Carlow/Kilkenny, speaking from his home in Kilkenny city on Sunday, said he and several other TDs were told at an Oireachtas members’ meeting concerning Ukrainians by junior Minister Malcolm Noonan that 131 male asylum seekers were to arrive in Kilkenny “imminently”.

The men are being accommodated under the International Protection (IP) programme.

Mr McGuinness said he received a phone call on Saturday from Mr O’Gorman “apologising” for not informing deputies and Kilkenny County Council of their decision to accommodate the asylum seekers in the city.

“All Minister O’Gorman did was apologise and explained there should have been better communications with us. But he did not explain the age range of men coming here, what their needs might be and what countries they were coming from,” said Mr McGuinness.

“There is a large number of Ukrainians living in the city and county and everything has been working very smoothly and they have received massive help and welcome. The council’s director of services Fiona Deegan has ensured the intake of Ukranians has gone so well, but this move is different.

“The director of services and the council CEO knew nothing of the men to be sent here. They have no service in place to help these men. This move by the department is outrageous. It’s fuelling anger in the public who would not normally be outspoken.

“This move is going to put huge pressure on schools, medical providers and housing in the area. It is not fair on these men as they will receive no immediate professional help whatsoever, as we knew nothing about it. The Government is creating difficulties for the people coming here and for the people who are living here.”

The men are to be accommodated in the Kilkenny Inn, close to the same quarter where numerous Ukrainians are also living. The move is expected to bring to about 400 the number of refugees and asylum seekers staying in the area.

Mr McGuinnesss said there needed to be a “pause” placed on the plans also due to the lack of services the men would need.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times