Cllr Thomas Welby at a meeting in Oughterard, Co Galway last night; Connemara Galway Hotel; Independent TD Noel Grealish; tweet about the meeting last night

Last night.

A public meeting took place in Oughterard, Co Galway, amid rumours that Connemara Gateway Hotel – which has been closed for more than 10 years – is to be used as a direct provision centre.

The 60-room hotel is being refurbished while a tender process is under way to find locations for new direct provision centres in the west of Ireland.

According to Teresa Mannion’s early morning report on RTE today local councillor Thomas Welby called the meeting while, according to an The Irish Times report by Bernie Ní Fhlatharta,  Cllr Welby told those present that neither he nor any of the other politicians present – including Minister of State Sean Kyne and Independent TDs Catherine Connolly or Noel Grealish – had any knowledge of any plans for the hotel.

Neither RTÉ nor The Irish Times reported this morning on comments that were allegedly made by Independent TD Noel Grealish at the meeting.

However, RTÉ has since reported that Mr Grealish told the meeting that the majority of Africans coming to Ireland are “economic migrants” in the country “to sponge off the system”.

According to a second lunchtime report by Ms Mannion, Mr Grealish also reportedly said they would not be Syrians from what he called “good Christian families”.

This morning, on RTE’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, Ms Ni Flatharta did report on the comments that she recorded as having been made by Mr Grealish and Galway TD Catherine Connolly confirmed Ms Ni Flatharta’s account of what was said.

Ms Connolly, who believes between 750 and 1,000 people were in attendance at the meeting, told Mr O’Rourke:

“It was overwhelming. I found it difficult to get up to the top table where we were sitting.  I went to that meeting, as I do to all meetings really. But I inquired what it was about and I was told it was about an unauthorised development.

“I sat there and listened to it. I have to say, at various stages, it was very troubling – some of the comments made. Having said that, I understood the genuine anger of the people.

“And I sat there and listened. And comments were made exactly as the journalist has outlined. Including that ‘they weren’t Christians being persecuted’ which was, I took a note. ‘We’re not talking about the persecuted Christians’ amongst other comments.

“Now, I have to say, that did not reflect the conflict, the people that were there. But certainly the anger was palpable. I had to use all my energy to stand and get my thoughts together in relation to this matter.

“Now I sit on a Public Accounts Committee and I’m very familiar with it from the money point of view. And I gave out, I tried to correct some of the facts that were given out as facts and because wrong figures were being given.

“…I pointed out that I was totally opposed to Direct Provision as a way of dealing with asylum seekers, that it was inhumane and had caused problems. However, that I was worried about some of the matters that were being commented on as facts and some of the things that were being said.

“I was heckled myself at one or two points. And I reminded people that I was there as a TD in a very friendly town and I must say that the vast majority of people, almost all of them, listened.

“I think that, I’m 100% behind the people if it’s about an unauthorised development, I have no time for unauthorised developments. In relation to this direct provision, I can see where people are coming from, in the sense of the Department of Justice has simply never learned any lessons from debacle after debacle and they’re clouded in secrecy and there’s no openness and accountability.”

Mr Grealish has yet to comment on the matter.

Listen back here

Minister booed as Oughterard rejects direct provision centre (Bernie Ní Fhlatharta, The Irish Times)

Concerns former Galway hotel may house asylum seekers (RTE)

Grealish under fire for alleged ‘spongers’ comments (RTE)

Pics: Teresa Mannion and Rollingnews

UPDATE:

In The Irish Times on Friday, September 13, Ms Ní Fhlatharta reported that Mr Grealish specifically told the meeting:

“We’re not talking of good Christian Syrian families who were persecuted and hounded out of their own country by Isis.

“More than likely it will be economic migrants from Africa who are coming here to sponge off us.”

Oughterard row: ‘It’s a little town and we like to keep it the way it is’ (The Irish Times, September 13, 2019)

20 thoughts on “In Galway

  1. Ben Redmond

    If crash courses in Gaeilge are offered to asylum seekers, shur it’s going to increase the Gaelic-speaking population of the area. Ar aghaidh leis an plean.

    1. TonySpumoni

      @Ben Redmond Oughterard is not a Gaeltacht area, however I don’t doubt that the incoming asylum seekers would make a better attempt at learning Irish than our own

  2. Ron

    Elect stupid people, expect stupid prizes. Where did this daw jawed fool of a politician come from? From the impotent Irish electorate. Stop electing the cancers on the body politic and then giving out when they do and say moronic things. The Irish electorate needs to take ownership and accountability for the daw jawed political pigs that they send to the money trough

  3. some old queen

    Under both EU and UN rules, Ireland is obliged to accept people fleeing from persecution but there are three sides to this-

    The DOJ who treat both the asylum seekers and the locals with contempt, the far right attempting to agitate and manipulate, and the local community itself who object because proper support services are not available.

    I sometimes wonder if some with the DOJ are not deliberately trying to stir up anti immigrant sentiment because they know rightly what reaction there would be to dumping those poor people into somewhere with one GP and a full school. Either that or those responsible are just plain incompetent.

    As for this clown Grealish- the electorate can have their say next May.

    1. MaryLou's ArmaLite

      I have met Grealish, he might play dumb but he is no fool and I guarantee he didn’t get up there and say those things if the didn’t think it was a vote getter

      1. some old queen

        If that is the case then so be it- at least it is out in the open and challenges the south Dublin media mindset that everything is grand.

  4. eoin

    Well, judging by the number of Georgians arriving here and the recent convictions in the UK where the people traffickers were being paid €15,000 a head to take the Georgians from Ireland to the UK, I’d say it’s more the UK that they’re sponging.

    But we’re facilitating the sponging. It’s not all spongers, Syria has a war and Ireland has a poor record for playing its part for genuine refugees, but I wonder how many of the applications are genuine. These are the applications for 2017 and 2018.

    2017 Syria 545
    Georgia 302
    Albania 282
    Zimbabwe 262
    Pakistan 200
    Others 1335
    Total 2926
    2018 Albania 459
    Georgia 450
    Syria 333
    Zimbabwe 282
    Nigeria 251
    Others 1898
    Total 3673

    1. some old queen

      Who said anything about sponging? These are people claiming asylum- fleeing from persecution- and if they are not genuine then it is up to the authorities to weed them out.

      But the welfare state is better in UK- take social housing for example- about 3% in ROI vs 16% in NI. Likewise stats on those not working vs employed- note I did not say ‘unemployed’ because in NI that figure has its own personal masseur/masseuse/rent boy.

      1. Cian

        I don’t know where you got 3% in ROI.

        Census 2016 says that there are 143,000 households rented from Local Authority + 17,000 rented from Voluntary Body. That is 8.4% and 1% of households.

        – Owner occupied with loan or mortgage 535,675 31.6%
        – Owner occupied without loan or mortgage 611,877 36.0%
        – Rented from private landlord 309,728 18.2%
        – Rented from a Local Authority 143,178 8.4%
        – Rented from a Voluntary Body 16,765 1.0%
        – Occupied free of rent 27,440 1.6%
        – Not stated 53,002 3.1%

        1. some old queen

          From a firm in Co Down who are now supplying trades people into the ROI social sector so they should know.

  5. some old queen

    We are in a very interesting time in history- where what being Irish is challenged- is it skin pigment by pretty boy on the internet with a sacred heart picture in the background or is it the retired Irish school teachers giving their own time to ensure all children are treated equally?

    It is time Diarmuid Martin grew a pair- likewise Mary McAleese.

  6. Truth in the News

    Ever tried to get planning permission to build a house in Oughterard or for that matter
    in many areas of Rural Ireland, yet in small town with practically no support sevices
    the Dept of Justice want to dump group of people who have no roots or connection with
    area, it is also noticeable that none are put up or introduced into the leafy avenues of
    Dublin or out to Dakey or Howth , incidentally there is piles of space in Micheal D’s gaff

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