The fact that the first anyone in an official capacity in Co. Roscommon either in the local authority or any of the other agency heard about the establishment of this center was on Thursday evening at 4 o’clock, less than a month before the relocating of refugees to the rural town is nothing short of a joke.
Look, it is generally accepted that Ireland will have to accept a certain number of refugee’s, different people have different views on that and everyone is entitled to their opinion. The reality is that regardless of the rhetoric people are going to hear this is going to go ahead. It’s disingenuous for anyone to say otherwise.
The problem is that there has been no local consultation of any description with regard to the establishment of this centre. The county council were not consulted, from what I gather no local agencies such as the ETB, HSE or TUSLA were consulted. The local schools, GP’s and county childcare committee were also left in the dark with many finding out the news in Friday mornings papers and on Facebook, this is a farce!
The fact that no politicians, in government, supporting the government or opposing the government in this constituency had been consulted about or briefed on this action prior to its announcement is further evidence of the systemic problem of senior civil servants running with an idea regardless of the views of politicians elected to represent the views of people. I would honestly question whether or not the Ministers in the Department of Justice and Equality had prior knowledge of this announcement. From what I have seen in some departments there’s a good chance that they were kept in the dark too. It’s wrong, it’s not how a democracy is meant to operate. It cannot be let continue. I found out while leaving a constituents house on Thurday evening by way of a phone call, I’m not saying politicians should have been the first to know, but the way we and others found out is nothing short of ridiculous.
Ballaghdereen was eagerly awaiting the re-opening of the hotel. That was the talk of the town. It was going to be a great boost locally and a major help to the local tourism industry. Now, the odds of their hotel ever opening again are slim. The department are saying this EROC will be here for 2 years, could we believe anything from them after the way they announced this? If they are saying two years, it could be any length of time.
On top of how they have handled the announcement so poorly, the reality remains that their decision on a location is also questionable. Not just because of the opportunity lost to Ballaghaderreen who have lost any hope of regaining their hotel, but also from the perspective of how ready the locality is to welcome 80 refugees.
“Irish people will welcome genuine war refugees with open arms. We are a caring and understanding nation. However, all the welcoming in the world is no addition unless there are services provided for these people. Will these services be put in place prior to their arrival? Or will it be a rehash of the Roscommon A&E closure and the promise of a state of the art ambulance service which has never been delivered. There is a mental health crisis in County Roscommon already, and if these people need access to mental health devices, will those services be put in place? I’ve been told that one GP in Ballaghaderreen is already snowed under and cannot take any more clients, what are the proposals to deal with this shortage? The entirety of the west of Roscommon is an ambulance black spot- was this even considered by the Department?
Reports from the special meeting of Roscommon County Council which took place on Friday morning/afternoon would seem to indicate that Ddepartment are unprepared for the arrival of refugees in Roscommon. Partner agencies seem as though they are going to struggle to deliver services- that is summised from the the fact that when questioned about the readiness of the HSE- the standard response was – “we can’t say what the HSE are doing.” Cllr. Dineen proposed calling a special meeting of all the relevant agencies so that concerns could be raised, questions could be asked. I would think that is a good idea to start. This is going to happen and this region had better be ready and have the resources made available to provide services.
In addition to national government coming up with the funding for providing services through each relevant agency, it is vital that a regional grant be put in place for local communities to be able redouble their efforts of rejuvenation and reinvigoration. There is need for a quid-pro-quo here to in some way compensate the people of the Ballaghaderren area for the deplorable manner in which the department handled this matter. The locality must be supported with housing initiatives for local people in need of social housing- it is very hard to look a local family in desperate need of social housing in the eye and say – you’ll just have to wait.
Questions too must be asked about the company who has been awarded the contract- I’m making enquiries but understand that they and their sister companies have also been involved in the acquisition and development of hosting units in Balaghaderreen and the department needs to address the questions in this regard clearly and honestly.
The fear I have is that the heavy handed manner in which the department of sprung this on people will have a negative impact on the integration of those refugees who are coming. We are being assured that they are being well vetted and screened but we live in a changing world and people’s concerns are legitimate. The majority of those coming no doubt will be women and children who are innocent victims of war, but they need to screened regardless and screened well. The experience with the vast majority of refugees in this country has been positive and is also important that all those who are brought here are given the opportunity to integrate and have their privacy respected. I would hope most would agree with me when I say there does need to be close monitoring of the refugees that come here. Not least or their own safety but also so that the community at large can be confident of theirs. No-one reasonably expects that there will be many or indeed any problems, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
The Government and the Department of Justice have made a complete shambles of this project so far and those fleeing war deserve better than that. I am calling on the Minister and her Department to take control of this situation, liaise through formal channels with the local communities, the local authority and other statutory agencies responsible for delivering services and ensure that this is done right. They will not find the locals wanting when it comes to co-operation. The fact they left this announcement until a month before they arrival of the refugees would suggest that they think otherwsie. The people of Ballaghaderreen and of Roscommon deserve better, and deserve to be shown more respect from their government.