Representations they had received from members of the public following rumours circulating on social media has prompted councillors to ask whether it was correct that refugees were going to be relocated to a building in Ardee.
The Ardee Municipal District meeting was told that Louth County Council had no role in these matters, while it was revealed from another source that there were no plans for international protection in the town.
Councillors were anxious that they be made aware of what could he happening to be able to provide information if asked.
However, a council official pointed out that there was no specific arrangement in place for elected public representatives to be informed of anything beforehand.
‘Scaremongering’ on social media was condemned, while Cathaoirleach Cllr Paula Butterly remarked that no one wanted a repeat of the protest scenes in Finglas.
Cllr Dolores Minogue sparked the debate when she said that councillors needed to be told what was happening, though it was her belief it was not true that refugees were coming to the building in question.
‘If we had definitive answers we could communicate them to the people.
‘I am not against refugees in the area but I would like to have the information if I’m asked.’
John Lawrence, Senior Executive Officer, said this was not a function of the council’s Housing section, rather the Department of Children and Youth.
He was not aware of any potential site being offered, nor had it come up at any meeting he had attended.
Director of Organisational Development, Joe McGuinness, said there was no specific arrangement for councillors to be informed of anything beforehand.
Cllr Pearse McGeough said he had spoken to his party colleague Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster and she had heard from the minister that Ardee ‘is not on the current list for international protection’.
Cllr John Sheridan said any information would be great ‘so we can help steer the conversation locally’.
He would like the message to go out that Ardee is a very welcoming town.
He was concerned that people could put up anything online.
Cllr Butterly asked was there a process for members of the municipal district to communicate information to alleviate any concerns or fears which may be legitimate.
‘We should be ahead of this.’
They did not want a repeat of the scenes in Finglas where people ‘came in to agitate then hopped on a bus and headed somewhere else’, Cllr Butterly continued.
Mr McGuinness replied there was no current provision for such an arrangement, adding that the council was not always advised when people were being relocated.
If a site was going to be developed there was a significant amount of administration which had to be done.
Mr Lawrence said the ‘vast majority’ of international protection persons in Louth ‘would not have come through Louth County Council’.
Where there was local authority involvement they had to do their own preparatory work.
Mr McGuinness explained that while there could be a suspension of the requirement for planning permission to convert a building to accommodate refugees, it was not exempt from all regulations such as fire certs and disability access.
‘There is nothing of an overnight nature in this,’ he pointed out.
The director stressed that Louth County Council ‘has no role in this matter’.
Cllr Jim Tenanty felt that social media was ‘the biggest culprit in scaremongering’ and that councillors ‘are getting the blame’.
Cllr Bernie Conlon added there was no control over what appeared online. People could say whatever they wanted.
There should be a disclaimer on videos which were posted, said Cllr Sheridan. Everyone had the same power of speech online.