Twin marches in Galway as row over direct provision centre causes divide
Several thousand people have participated in two separate demonstrations against direct provision in Galway city and county, as the community protest over locating a centre in the Connemara village of Oughterard continues.
Publican Rory Clancy, spokesman for the Oughterard event, appealed to the Department of Justice to discuss an alternative model for accommodating asylum seekers.
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He also condemned what he described as "tactics used and abusive stuff online", stating that this is "not what Oughterard is about".
"I can 100pc hand on my heart say the people of Oughterard are not racist," Mr Clancy said after the march yesterday morning attended by over 2,000 people.
Later in Galway city, an estimated 200 people participated in a separate event hosted by the Galway Anti-Racism Network (GARN).
The Oughterard march was the second silent event in a fortnight since a 24-hour community protest began outside the Connemara Gateway Hotel in opposition to locating a direct provision centre at the premises.
Concerns have been expressed about the impact of the centre on a village of 1,300 with only one GP and no proper bus service.
Wearing yellow high-vis vests and bearing placards, the Oughterard walk began on Station Road, after an appeal by local parish priest Fr Michael Connolly not to start on church grounds.
Independent councillor Thomas Welby was the sole politician participating. Cllr Welby chaired the meeting in the village on September 11, where anti-migrant remarks were expressed by Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish.
Mr Clancy said after the march that accusations about the town being racist, or associated with far-right groups, had taken "a personal toll on families".
"We welcome people into the community under different circumstances," he said.
"We are all entitled to a home, and that's what we would love to give the people.
"Going forward, nationally, the offers that are there to come down and support rural communities will be taken up," Mr Clancy said, pledging that the protest would continue.
At the Galway city event, Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard (Ind) said there was "no room for racism" in the city.
Mr Cubbard said he believed direct provision was a system "similar to mother and baby homes" and mistakes were being "repeated".
Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she did not believe the people of Oughterard were racist, but their "genuine concerns" about direct provision and lack of services in rural towns had been "hijacked".
GARN co-chair Joe Loughnane and People before Profit local election candidate said that while people in Oughterard had "legitimate concerns", and facilities were lacking, this was "not a reason to give a platform to far-right and racist views".
Mr Loughnane said the "missing voice" in the Galway city event was asylum seekers who felt they would be victimised if they spoke.
The protest was also addressed by Labour, Green Party, Social Democrat and Independent councillors.