A priest has called on his community to “welcome those in need of refuge” after the Co Galway town held daily protests against the possible opening of a direct provision centre.
Oughterard parish priest Michael Connolly wrote a strongly worded letter to parishioners in the town today calling for the community to provide “an example” to the young in welcoming vulnerable migrants, as he also lashed those who had held a protest on church grounds.
Fr Connolly wrote while there were “understandable reasons” the community was anxious due to “lack of consultation, concern about the capability of local resources…” if a direct provision centre is opened there, “the State must fulfill its obligations to the international community and to suffering humanity.”
Fr Connolly wrote: “The use of church grounds for a protest march of the type witnessed on September 14 was unacceptable.
“I acknowledge the strong feeling of some of the people at the lack of consultation and information.
“I also acknowledge our responsibility to respond to a worldwide problem which has far from peaked….”
Fr Connolly explained he would not be commenting on the possible construction of a centre for asylum seekers but stated he would want to see “consultation with local representatives so the community can welcome any potential asylum seekers.”
“As Christians we take our lead from Christ. He welcomed the stranger and was a migrant himself in Egypt as a helpless child….” he added.
“We are a welcoming people by nature, none more so than here in Oughterard. People from many nations are already part of the local community life and they are a source of richness among us.
“That being the case, calm, respectful and reasonable language must be used by all.
“We have an example to give our younger generation and a responsibility to fulfill before God…
“As parishioners, we to the best of our ability, will be on hand to welcome people who may eventually come in need of refuge. We will strive to welcome new people to our parish as if we were welcoming Christ himself.”
Last week the Taoiseach said the Department of Justice should communicate with the community about any plans to open a direct provision centre after 1,500 people in the town marched to the former Connemara Gateway Hotel, where it’s believed a centre may be opened.
He said Wicklow Town and Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare were successful examples of good communication which led to the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers.
When Hussein AlJoarin was put on a bus to the small west Clare town of Miltown Malbay in May, having spent a month at a reception centre for asylum seekers near Dublin Airport, the Iraqi thought he was being transferred to a city the size of Basra, the port city of 2.5 million inhabitants in which he grew up.