Seven families of asylum seekers are being moved into apartments in Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, following controversial protests surrounding the matter.
On Thursday, November 28th, Minister of State, David Staunton met with representatives from the Ballinamore community.
Minister Staunton described the meeting as “very constructive and open” and welcomed the “positive progress” made at the meeting.
In total, 27 people are set to take up residence in the 25-bed apartment complex in the Rock Quarter.
Early in November locals received the news that the vacant apartments would be used to accommodate up to 130 asylum seekers, prompting heated debate and around the clock protests outside the apartment complex.
The number of asylum seekers going to Ballinamore was cut down by the Department of Justice from the original 130 to 27.
One of the leaders of the protest group, Gordon Hughes said: “at no stage did the town say no to asylum seekers, it was about being proportionate”.
The protest eventually came to a halt once the owners of the apartment complex secured an injunction against the protestors, preventing them from interfering with works to complete the structure.
On October 27th, the car of Sinn Fein TD, Martin Kenny, was set on fire outside his home, in retaliation for speaking out against the protest.
At the time of the protests, a spokesperson said that the group are not anti-immigration, but were protesting over the fact that the current direct provision system is not fit for the needs of asylum seekers.
According to the Department of Justice and Equality, there are “no plans, whatsoever, to open any other accommodation centres in Ballinamore, other than the existing 25 Rock Quarter apartments, which will cater exclusively for families”.
The apartments set aside for the seven families to move into are a significant improvement on the direct provision accommodation that has been condemned by human rights activists over the decades.
According to Irish Times journalist, Kitty Holland: “The apartments are bright, warm and well finished. Each is fully furnished and kitted out with kitchen appliances, bedding, crockery and cutlery. Families will have independence, privacy and a semblance of normality.”
“Each has a small garden area as well as balconies with views over the town. A management office on-site will help residents with issues like enrolling in school and accessing GP services, as well as providing security.”
Author: Aine O’Boyle
Image credit: Brian Farrell