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    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016

    Rural Ireland revolts as town’s only hotel is closed to accommodate asylum seekers

    Rural Ireland revolts as town’s only hotel is closed to accommodate asylum seekers

    Michael Murphy

    Thu, January 18, 2024 at 10:40 AM EST·6 min read


    Protesters huddle around one of the open fires at the entrance to Racket Hall - Niall Carson/PA

    Riot police standing guard outside the Racket Hall hotel in rural Tipperary are tetchy.

    The 40-room guest house in one of Ireland’s oldest market towns remains intact but recent history suggests that it could soon be reduced to a smouldering wreck.

    Local lorry driver Justin Phelan has no intention of setting the building alight but his message to the 160 asylum seekers destined for his hometown is clear: “Roscrea is full”.

    “The services are on the ground here in this town,” Mr Phelan, 34, told The Telegraph.

    “Not just in this town – all across the country they’re on the ground. There’s God knows how many people on trolleys today in Limerick Hospital.

    “We have around five GPs in this town. You call any of them this minute and he’ll say, ‘I don’t have space, I’m full up.’

    There’s 33 children in my daughter’s class. Just imagine adding two more, with language difficulties. What effect is that going to have on the rest of the children already in the class?”

    Mr Phelan is one of many holding a vigil outside the hotel in what has become a snapshot of unrest across rural Ireland at the government’s perceived clumsy handling of a surge in migration.

    Protests have been rising across the country at resettlement programmes as Ireland’s housing system creaks, leading in some extreme cases to public buildings being torched.

    Huddled around one of the open fires at the Roscrea hotel entrance, Mr Phelan said he has “been here every day” since last Thursday when the Irish government gave local politicians 24 hours notice that the hotel was being closed down to the public to house asylum seekers.

    Weddings and parties scheduled to take place in the town’s only hotel have been cancelled after the owners reached an agreement with the government.

    After some demonstrators tried on Monday to block a bus carrying the first 17 arrivals, mainly women and children, from entering the car park, violent scuffles with the gardaí, members of the Irish police force, broke out.

    Immigration to Ireland rose by 32 per cent to more than 140,000 in the year ending April 2023. Of these arrivals, more than 13,000 were asylum seekers. And since the Russian invasion, nearly 100,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland.

    The immigration influx – the largest since 2007 – comes amid a shortfall of 250,000 homes in Ireland and astronomical rent prices.

    The Irish government recently admitted that there is not enough room to house new arrivals, slashing the monetary allowance for Ukrainians by four-fifths and offering new asylum seekers tents to sleep in.

    In Roscrea, many locals have been camping outside the Racket Hall Hotel through the night.

    “This is the only hotel in our town and if you take it away, as bad as our town is now, it’s going to be worse,” said Mr Phelan.

    But the local reaction in Roscrea has not all been negative, with some leaving toys outside the hotel’s doors for its young guests.

    Several families who have attended the demonstrations are at pains to point out that their gripe is with government policy, not with the individuals arriving in their town.

    While Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, acknowledged people living in communities where asylum seekers are being housed have legitimate “fears”, he said “nobody in a democracy has the right to veto … who moves into their area”.

    A poll by the Business Post/Red C in May 2023 found that 75 per cent of Irish voters believed Ireland had taken in “too many” refugees.

    Migration protests have also been staged in the disadvantaged suburb of Ballymun and rural towns in counties Carlow and Mayo.

    The disaffection has escalated to full-blown revolt by some in local government, with Mayo County Council voting unanimously on Tuesday to cease co-operation with the central government over the housing of asylum seekers – the first council in Ireland to do so.

    Mattie McGrath, an independent Teachta Dála for Tipperary, said on Monday he was “shocked to my very core” at the government’s response to the protest in Roscrea, adding that he “didn’t expect to see the riot squad called in”. He accused the government of treating the people of Tipperary – “who aren’t willing to do their bidding and lie down before them” – with “contempt”.

    Responding to the backlash on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar on Tuesday said the 10 areas most “under pressure” because of refugee arrivals would receive additional resources in policing, education and health. He went on to condemn the move by Roscrea locals to obstruct the arrival of the asylum seekers as “anti-democratic” and “against the spirit and the values of our nation”.

    Protesters gathered in their hundreds - Michael Murphy

    Last year, thugs rioted in Dublin setting trams and police cars alight and looting shops in response to an incident outside a school in Dublin after an Algerian, who was an Irish citizen not born in Ireland, allegedly went on a stabbing spree. The violence was organised online in WhatsApp messaging groups with one chat encouraging members to descend on the city centre to “kill all foreigners”.

    There has been a spate of 13 arson attacks on migrant facilities, and venues wrongly thought to be housing migrants, in Ireland over the past year, with no arrests made. A threat of arson against the Racket Hall Hotel in Roscrea was also reported to the gardaí on Monday.

    There are particular concerns in Roscrea and elsewhere about the influx of “unvetted” single males into the country.

    In 2023, almost 70 per cent of “international protection applicants” arriving at Dublin Airport where most asylum seekers are processed did so without valid identity documents, according to the Irish Department of Justice.

    That year, the number of male asylum seekers was more than double that of women. In 2022, 4,200 people arrived without documentation - and most asylum applicants that year were also single men.

    Some residents say services are 'on the ground' while others welcome the arrival of asylum seekers to the area - Niall Carson/PA

    There is also widespread concern about dwindling public services. Last year, the Irish College of General Practitioners warned the country’s GP shortage posed a significant public health risk, and that the crisis was particularly stark in rural Ireland. However, rural towns have also taken a disproportionate number of refugees in the past year, according to a recent analysis of Ukrainian asylum seekers by the Irish Independent.

    This has led to a sense of unfairness with how migrant accommodation has been allocated. The population of some towns, such as Lisdoonvarna, in Co Clare, have more than doubled as a result of incoming refugees, many of whom are from Ukraine.

    Sandra, 47, a local support worker, said her town’s predicament also applies to the rest of rural Ireland: “Any town which is a pushover gets bombarded. We stayed quiet for so long but it’s time to speak up.”
    Last edited by Beezer; 01-20-2024 at 09:46 AM.


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