“You can’t just land people here and say ‘look after these guys and integrate them into your community,’” one local Lismore resident has told The Irish Times. “Where are the supports? Where’s the framework?”
Last weekend up to 300 people gathered outside the historical Lismore House Hotel in Co Waterford, protesting over plans to use the vacant building as a temporary emergency accommodation centre for asylum seekers.
“In a way, it’s a little bit like the shock you might get in Dublin if The Shelbourne Hotel shut down and reopened a few years later as a direct provision centre,” says Irish Times journalist, Jennifer O’Connell. “I think that’s the level of significance that’s attached to this building in this small town.”
The hotel had been closed since 2016 and there was much excitement about its apparent reopening as a hospitality venue, with weddings, confirmations and communions booked in.
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But the protesters are not all on the same page, even though there is huge crossover when it comes to their concerns. Some local residents are expressing their alarm at the lack of engagement from the Government, while some are holding ‘refugees are welcome’ banners.
“Anyone could find themselves in that situation. You have to help the vulnerable,” one counter-protester said.
A small cohort - not from the area - travelled to Lismore for the demo with an anti-immigration message.
“[The government] has had 20 years to get this right and develop a strategy for how to integrate people into communities,” says O’Connell. “I really do think this is a microcosm of what’s going to happen in towns around the country.”
In this episode, Bernice Harrison explores the views held by all sides of the community in the scenic Co. Waterford town.