Nearly 400 sign up to Ballinamore protests over asylum housing plans

Action over ‘lack of facilities’ and ‘not wanting to throw these people into concrete jungle’

An aerial view of the building, which includes an apartment complex, in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim that has been proposed to accommodate 130 asylum seekers. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

An aerial view of the building, which includes an apartment complex, in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim that has been proposed to accommodate 130 asylum seekers. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

 

Nearly 400 local people have signed up to man round-the-clock protest shifts in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim against plans to house up to 130 asylum seekers in the town.

Facing warnings that the protests will continue “indefinitely”, Minister for Integration David Stanton will meet local community leaders and politicians in Leinster House on Thursday.

“We have no problem helping anyone, no matter what creed, or colour they are. Ballinamore is a friendly town,” said Jackie McTague, who moved to Ballinamore from England in 1984.

“This protest is about lack of facilities and about not wanting to throw these people into that concrete jungle,” said the businesswoman, who was one of many on Tuesday to take part in the protests.

Supporting the protests, teacher Mary Campbell Murphy said: “Our creches are full, our primary school is full and there is some room in our post-primary school, but that’s probably not where these children would be going.”

New model

By lunchtime on Tuesday, 380 people had volunteered for three-hour shifts, which are being co-ordinated by a few locals who are working from a van near the apartment block intended to house the asylum seekers.

We don’t want to be an Oughterard Mark II. We think Ballinamore could be a model for other places

Local estate agent Gordon Hughes, a former Fine Gael councillor, and Bryan Cribbin, owner of a pharmacy in the town, are members of the committee formed to fight the Department of Justice plan.

Both men insisted they are not trying to stop asylum seekers coming. Instead, they want the department to agree to a new “model” that could be pioneered in the Leitrim town where refugees are dispersed throughout the community.

“We don’t want to be an Oughterard Mark II,” said Mr Cribbin. “We think Ballinamore could be a model for other places.” Ballinamore has 10 empty houses that could be used, said Mr Hughes.

‘Welcoming and friendly town’

The local Catholic priest, Fr Sean Mawn, has offered support, saying that Ballinamore is “a welcoming and friendly town” that is willing to accept a proportional number of refugees.

However, the direct provision model is not working.

Asylum seekers need care and support, but Ballinamore does not have the services to provide the necessary care and support for 130 people.

Pointing out that one local school has tried and failed since September to get an extra special needs assistant for a local child, he asked how the needs of young asylum seekers could be met.