Lisdoonvarna hotel ready to open doors to asylum seekers
Asylum seekers will begin arriving in Lisdoonvarna tomorrow - despite a secret ballot among local people against the move.
Ninety three per cent of local people who took part in a secret ballot last month voted 'no' to plans by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) to house the asylum seekers in the King Thomond Hotel, Co Clare - 197 voted 'no', with 15 voting 'yes'.
The owner of the hotel, Marcus White, had indicated that if local people didn't want the centre to proceed, he would abide by their wishes. But this weekend preparations are continuing at the King Thomond Hotel for 30 new residents, the first of a total of 115. The three-star hotel has 65 en-suite bedrooms.
Mr White's father, Jim White, was responsible for the revival of the town's famous matchmaking festival in the 1980s. The White family own three other hotels in the area, the Hydro, Imperial and Burren Castle.
Marcus White declined to be interviewed by the Sunday Independent last Friday.
Last week a far-right group arrived in the town and began distributing anti-immigrant pamphlets calling for strict vetting and fast-track deportation measures.
B&B owner John O'Neill, who lives a few hundred yards from the King Thomond Hotel, said the failure of the authorities to inform people of the contract was "underhanded" but he was sympathetic to those seeking asylum.
"They have to go somewhere, I've no problem with them. I was surprised Marcus White did not abide by his agreement with locals. He shouldn't have done that," he said.
While townspeople are generally sympathetic to asylum seekers, many feel the numbers are excessive and the town is not equipped to facilitate them.
"There is nothing for them to do here," Mr O'Neill said.
Keith Hitchinson and his wife Chris bought their B&B opposite the hotel four years ago. The couple, from Birmingham are concerned.
"I've never known a more welcoming community than Lisdoonvarna. I've no problem with refugees but what are they going to do here? There's no facilities for them. I feel sorry for them."