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Monday 14 October 2019

Developer drops plans for asylum seeker centre after protests

Criticism: Charlie Flanagan hit out at Direct Provison critics. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Criticism: Charlie Flanagan hit out at Direct Provison critics. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Robin Schiller and Lorna Siggins

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has hit out at people "demanding we close down our accommodation services" after the proposed development of a Co Galway hotel into a Direct Provision centre was scrapped.

The Connemara Gateway hotel was earmarked to become a centre for asylum seekers but the plans were met with round-the-clock protests at the Oughterard site in recent weeks.

Yesterday the developer confirmed he was not going ahead.

Sean Lyons, director of Fazyard Ltd, told Galway Bay FM it was "100pc" not happening.

"I made the decision yesterday actually... that there won't be any Direct Provision centre in the building at the Connemara Gateway Hotel.

"The present owner and myself have decided to part company so 100pc I'm telling you now we will not be going ahead at all," he added.

Fazyard Ltd runs Dublin's largest centre in Clondalkin.

Mr Lyons said he had been constantly worried about the safety of contractors, security staff and protesters.

He said he had received no support from the Department of Justice or the Garda since the protests began outside the hotel on September 14.

The department said yesterday it will continue to evaluate other bids for Direct Provision centres despite the Oughterard controversy.

Mr Flanagan said "grossly misleading comments" had been made about the nature of Direct Provision services in recent weeks.

"People have demanded we close down our accommodation centres.

"They have been less forthcoming with proposals as to where housing would be sourced for the 6,014 people availing of services in centres and the 1,379 people being provided with shelter and services in emergency accommodation," he said.

"Many EU member states provide services to asylum seekers through the centre model and 60,000 people have been supported by Direct Provision services over a 20-year period."

The department said it will continue to progress the remaining tenders in Dublin and the Border region.

The group opposed to the development, Oughterard Says No to Inhumane Direct Provision, said it was "very happy" with the outcome following what it described as an "emotional roller-coaster".

Spokesman Patrick Curran said a lot of hard-work went into their opposition which he said was against the inhumanity of the Direct Provision system.

He said failed attempts were made "to hijack" the group, and that their issue was with the current accommodation system rather than asylum seekers.

"We welcome them, we didn't welcome Direct Provision," he told the Irish Independent.

"We will go out of our way now to do something positive to welcome refugees in our own way."

Government chief whip and local TD Seán Kyne said he welcomed a "conclusion" to the controversy, but added there were "no winners".

He called on the Bishop of Galway to spell out how the Catholic Church might provide an alternative to direct provision, and whether Church lands and properties might be made available.

Speaking at Mass in Oughterard last weekend, Bishop Brendan Kelly called for "an end to the current system of Direct Provision which strips people of their independence, their cultural identity, and their dignity".

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the Government should move away from Direct Provision after plans for three centres - at Oughterard, Rooskey in Co Roscommon, and Moville in Co Donegal - all fell through due to local opposition.

Irish Independent

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