Deenihan clarifies truth behind Kerry refugee rumours

Former minister says Ballybunion was found unsuitable to locate asylum seekers

Ballybunion strand. The Department of Justice had looked for expressions of interest to house asylum seekers in the town. Photograph: Breda Diggins

Ballybunion strand. The Department of Justice had looked for expressions of interest to house asylum seekers in the town. Photograph: Breda Diggins

 

In December 2015, persistent speculation that up to 183 asylum seekers and/or Syrian refugees were to be located in Ballybunion in north Kerry caused widespread unease.

No official confirmation was received from the Department of Justice that Ballybunion was being chosen. The Department of Justice did not deny or confirm press queries on the matter, it was reported in the Kerryman and on Radio Kerry.

There was much speculation on social media and at one point gardaí met locals to allay fears. Concern was voiced that the town of 1,365 would be unable to cope.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris spoke on local radio about the fear being created through lack of information. He had heard that between 30 and 183 people were to arrive in the town.

Not going ahead

After some days, then minister for the diaspora Jimmy Deenihan said he had been informed by the Department of Justice that they would not be going ahead with the housing of asylum seekers in Ballybunion.

Yesterday Mr Deenihan revealed that the Department of Justice had looked for expressions of interest to house asylum seekers in August 2015.

There had been no consultation between the department and local gardaí or medical services, he said, which may have been because the location was not going to be chosen.

He got “clarification” that the move to Ballybunion was not going to materialise.

Mr Deenihan said Ballybunion would not have been an appropriate location due to lack of services. He suggested the speculation was particularly intense because it was coming up to an election.

“People in Ballybunion got suspicious when they saw activity around a hotel. The proposal had not advanced.”

Meanwhile, Kerry is one of a number of counties which is accepting programme refugees from Syria. However, at a meeting in late 2016, the council said it was finding it difficult to lease accommodation for the families.

Some 11 families were resettled in Kerry in 2015 and eight in 2016. A further four are to be resettled in early 2017.

A spokesman said Killarney and Tralee had the necessary support services but it was very difficult to source accommodation in Killarney, so the majority of refugees were going to Tralee.