Tuesday 26 March 2019

'We are absolutely not racist' - protests hit Rooskey following two arson attacks at hotel

A confrontation at an anti-racism rally in Rooskey (Niall Carson/PA)
A confrontation at an anti-racism rally in Rooskey (Niall Carson/PA)
Lucky Khambule, of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Irelands, speaks at an an anti-racism rally titled 'Love Rooskey: No to Racism: Asylum Seekers Welcome', in Rooskey, Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 17, 2019. See PA story PROTEST Rooskey Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson /PA Wire
Luke Flanagan MEP speaks at the rally in Rooskey (Niall Carson/PA)
A banner on display in the town (Niall Carson/PA)
Protest: John Lannon speaks at the anti-racism rally in Rooskey yesterday. Photo: PA

Rebecca Black and Luke Byrne

Residents of Rooskey, on the Leitrim/Roscommon border, clashed with anti-racism activists yesterday at a protest following two arson attacks on a hotel earmarked to take asylum-seekers.

Strong words were exchanged between the anti-racism activists - largely from outside the town - and the locals, who believed that the march was giving the area a bad name.

"We are not racist, absolutely not. We have welcomed everyone, we have been doing it all my life," said one local woman, adding: "I am really upset about this."

The woman pointed out that there was very little in the town and suggested that it was simply not suitable for an influx of asylum-seekers.

"Since the factory burned down, there is nothing in Rooskey, there is no bus service, no services for asylum-seekers to be put here in Rooskey," she said.

The 'No To Racism: Asylum Seekers Welcome' rally took place after two arson attacks on the Shannon Key West Hotel in the town in the space of a month.

Asylum-seekers were set to be accommodated at the former hotel, but the property is also at the centre of a sale dispute that is currently before the High Court. Singer Christy Moore was among those who sent messages of support to the anti-racism rally.

Speakers at the event included the MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. Anti-racism campaigner John Lannon said that while direct provision was not fit for purpose, the asylum seekers needed sanctuary.

"There shouldn't be division in the village about this," he added.

Irish Independent

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