Dozens protest outside centre for asylum seekers in Killarney

Demonstrators call for local people to be housed before those at the centre

A group  led by local councillor Donal Grady arrive to protest at a reception centre for asylum seekers in Killarney, Co Kerry. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

A group led by local councillor Donal Grady arrive to protest at a reception centre for asylum seekers in Killarney, Co Kerry. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

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A county councillor was among a group of about 30 people who protested at the weekend outside a reception centre for asylum seekers in Co Kerry.

The protest outside Linden House in Killarney, a former guesthouse which has previously hosted asylum seekers, followed the arrival of the first of the 55 men who are to be housed there.

The group’s placards highlighted the 3,000 homeless children in the State and stated that local people should be housed first.

Cllr Donal Grady (Independent) addressed the gathering at the gates of the property and also handed in a petition explaining the protesters’ concerns.

“Firstly, to make clear we believe that people from war-torn areas like Iraq and Syria should be accepted in our country,” Mr Grady said, adding that there were concerns about the lack of consultation with the community about the move.

“We have no knowledge of the vetting procedures these people have been through and they are being housed across the road from a local school.”

The town had a large number of homeless and they should be looked after first, he added.

iPhones

Protesters also noted that some of the asylum seekers, who arrived on Friday, had iPhones and smoked while others objected to State funds being used to pay for their accommodation.

“It’s not healthy having 55 men with nothing to do all day,” a protester said.

Three of the men who have arrived at Linden House spoke briefly to the media. Others remained inside, but opened the door to accept the letter of protest.

A 25-year-old man from Albania told The Irish Times he had been in Ireland for four years, and had previously lived in Co Galway, while waiting for his residency application to be processed.

“Give me work and I don’t stay here,” the man said.

The accommodation in Killarney was very good, he said, when asked about the standard of the building. He said it was the first time he had come across such a protest.

A 48-year-old man from India said he was from Punjab and was seeking asylum because of the war there. He said he had been in Ireland for two months and had also spent time in Co Donegal.

One protester asked an Albanian resident where his family was while others remarked how the asylum seekers had “brilliant English”.

Local homeless

Mr Grady, who organised the protest and said they would continue, has previously called for the privately owned Linden House to be leased by Kerry County Council and used to house local homeless people. He said Killarney already hosted 120 asylum seekers in two State-owned properties.

“We have people coming in and we don’t know the first thing about them. Killarney has its own problems. I can pick out 40 people in this town who won’t have any warmth tonight,” he said.

The Department of Justice said it was expected that those arriving in Killarney will be from different countries.

“There has been an increase in applications for international protection in Ireland. The latest figures [as of the end of November 2017] suggest that 2,620 persons applied for international protection this year, compared with 1,982 in the same period last year.”

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said he had been inundated with calls from locals concerned about pressure on housing lists and about the proximity of the centre to local primary schools.

“We have questions that need answering. Surely someone in the Department of Justice could have contacted the county council,” Mr Healy-Rae said.

The mayor of Killarney, Fianna Fáil councillor Niall Kelleher, has also criticised the lack of consultation on the matter.

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