County councillor says far-right elements are using the situation to ‘ferment trouble’
THE ongoing controversy over a proposal to build modular homes for Ukrainian refugees at a council owned site in Mallow again came under the spotlight during last Friday’s meeting of authority’s Kanturk/Mallow district committee.
Committee chair Cllr James Kennedy (Lab) sparked the discussion saying councillors and local residents were “distressed, upset and angry” over actions taken by a developer at the Carhookeal site.
County councillors were angered at not being informed of the plan before the site-works commenced. In turn residents, were incensed that no public consultation process had taken place before the diggers moved in.
“Firstly, the contractors went onto the site without prior approval from any public body. While they got a slap on the wrist for that, it obviously did work because they then put up a sign saying work to build the modular homes would start next Tuesday,” said Cllr Kennedy.
Although the contractor was ordered by officials to remove the sign, Cllr Kennedy said that it was “not good enough” that a private developer would take unilateral action without consulting local public representatives or the local community.
“They are being paid out of public funds. If you were building your own house you would be telling the developer what to do, it should be the same in the public sector. The developer has treated elected representatives and local residents very poorly,” said Cllr Kennedy.
“I am told the developer is being called to a meeting with the Office of Public Works (OPW) today (Friday) to be given a dressing down, which is only right and proper,” he added.
Cllr Tony O’Shea (FG) gave an update on the issue, saying that site investigation works at Carhookeal had been completed.
“The issue is now in the hands of quantity surveyors from the Department of Housing. I was told on Thursday evening they will know sometime next week if the site is suitable for modular homes and will then inform public representatives of their findings,” said Cllr O’Shea.
He said there were some ‘red flags’ relating to the gradient of the site that may deem it unsuitable for modular homes.
“I understand the contractor has been told to step back until they are told whether the site is suitable,” said Cllr O’Shea.
Cllr Kennedy confirmed that a consultation process will take place with residents once the suitability or otherwise of the site has been determined.
“Just by way of clarification, there will be no modular houses built on that site until a public consultation process has taken place,” he said.
Cllr Gearoid Murphy (FF) reiterated the point that councillors and local residents should have been notified of the plan for prior to the start of investigation works.
“The failure to do so showed a lack of respect for elected representatives and residents,” he said.
Cllr Murphy said it would also be remiss of him not to call for people to “tone down some of the rhetoric about this project and Ukrainian refugees”.
“I’m not saying people don’t have valid concerns, of course they will when they see construction happening and know nothing about it,” said Cllr Murphy.
However, he said that some of the rhetoric posted online about this project and Ukrainian refugees in general was “ugly and xenophobic”.
“When you see someone calling people rapists and paedophiles without any proof, that’s ugly, xenophobic and racist, there is no other way of saying it,” said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Kennedy agreed, describing some of the comments posted online as being “vile and wrong”, saying elements of the far right were using the situation to “ferment trouble.”
“The local residents are upstanding and moderate people. All they wanted was to be treated with respect. They deserve that much,” said Cllr Kennedy.
“However, the extreme right are posting up stuff that is vile and wrong. They are just trying to ferment trouble and it needs to be stamped out. It’s a disgrace,” he added.
Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) summed up the sentiments of councillors when he said the issue had not been poorly handled from the very beginning by the Office of Public Works.
“It’s clear the whole consultation process was not handled properly. The lack of information raised people’s fears and has not helped the situation,” said Cllr Hayes.