Ballinamore protest stood down with immediate effect

Announcement comes just a day after the High Court issued an injunction

An aerial view of the building in Ballinamore Co Leitrim that has been proposed to accommodate asylum seekers. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

An aerial view of the building in Ballinamore Co Leitrim that has been proposed to accommodate asylum seekers. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

 

The protest in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, against the proposed accomodation of asylum-seekers in an apartment complex, is to be stood down with immediate effect, a spokesman has said.

The announcement comes just a day after the High Court issued an injunction against protesters preventing workers from completing work on the development.

The injunction was issue followed an ex parte, or one side only hearing in which the developers, Remcoll 2 Ltd, claimed workers on the site were subjected to intimidation including threats of violence against those who passed the protest to enter the complex.

However auctioneer Gordon Hughes, who is one of those injuncted from protesting outside the Rock Quarter centre, said he did not know anything about the court proceedings over and above what he had learned from the media.

“Speaking for myself, I have at all times stayed within the law and have at all times engaged in peaceful protest. I have no intention of disobeying any court order.”

The decision to call off the protest was taken, he said, following contacts on Friday evening with officials working for Minister of State at the Dept of Justice and Equality, David Stanton.

It was following the receipt of a commitment from the officials that the decision was taken to end the protest, he said.

Mr Hughes said an email sent by the officials reads: “As discussed, if the Ballinamore group is willing to stand down the demonstration, the department will commit to not doing anything in Ballinamore until we can meet with you again to discuss things further.” .

He and the other spokespeople for the group told members on Saturday that as a result they had agreed to stand down “our silent and peaceful demonstration” with immediate effect.

“Without your support and the support of everyone who has helped in any way with this demonstration, we would not have reached this juncture. We remain steadfast in our position and will continue to negotiate on behalf of the community.”

In a statement the Deparment of Justice said it had been “In continuous dialogue with representatives of the Ballinamore community for the last couple of weeks and intends to have further engagement soon.

“We are aware of the injunction granted in the High Court but it would not be appropriate to comment on any private matter before the courts,” it said.

During the hearing before Mr Justice Max Barrett, the court was told there had been an attempt to burn down a Tesco store attached to the 25-apartment building.

It was also said that a two-metre high wire fence has been erected around the building to prevent workers getting in, and that workers had been subject to threats and intimidation.

Among those injuncted from protesting were local Fine Gael councillor Ita Reynolds, pharmacist Brian Cribbin, local businessman Adrian Smith, and Mr Hughes.

Along with Fred Walsh, who was allegedly involved in protests against Quinn Industrial Holdings, and Desmond Wisley, who allegedly provides protesters with food and operates drones around the building, they were described in court documents as some of the leaders of the protest.

The injunction notice is to be posted at the building and will apply to all other protesters.

Paul Collins, chief executive of Remcoll, said in an affidavit that builders attempting to gain access had been intimidated and most had refused to carry out finishing works.

Security staff were told “people will be hurt” if they attempted to cross the picket line. The “turning point” came on November 7th when it was decided it would be unsafe for telecommunications worker to enter, Mr Collins said.

The injunction prevents the filming or recording Remcoll’s staff or agents and from posting the footage on the internet or social media.

Asked about the contrast between what was claimed in court and the reference to a “silent and peaceful demonstration” in Saturday’s statement, Mr Hughes said it was hard to pass comment on claims made in documents that he had not seen, or during a court hearing where he was not present.

The case is due back in court next week and he would be prepared to comment further when the proceedings were over. For his part he had at all times stayed within the law, he said.

The proposed development would see 130 asylum seekers moving into a community of just 900. His group had made proposals about proportionality and consultation that he was hopeful might be used by the department in relation to all proposed settlements of asylum seekers in the future.

“We had a center here before and there was no problem. It is about proportionality.

“We want to play our part. These poor people are in a very unfortunate situation, having been driven from their homes.”

Remcoll is a development company based in Swords, Co Dublin, that has been involved with a number of medium-sized property ventures around the State over recent years. It owns the hotel in Ballaghderreen, Co Roscommon, that was used to house refugees from Syria in 2017.