The Department of Justice and Equality came in for sharp criticism from members of Boyle Municipal Authority at their recent meeting, after the Department shelved plans to house over eighty asylum seekers at the former Shannon Key West Hotel in Roosky.
Cllr Rachel Doherty accused the Department of Justice of making “a dog’s dinner of the whole situation”.
“The national media is suggesting it’s not happening because of the recent arson attacks. It seems unusual the Minister admitted back in December that there were issues with the lease.
“Yet after those arson attacks, the Department was intent on proceeding with this. We had a meeting set up with the Department, but were told two officials were unable to attend.”
The aforementioned meeting was in the light of a special meeting of the Boyle Municipal Authority last month. At that meeting, efforts were made to secure a meeting with Department of Justice officials in the context of a joint meeting with members from the neighbouring Carrick-on-Shannon Municipal Authority.
“They, the Department, couldn’t tell us then that the plan was off the table. This issue will now move onto another area. There was a lack of preparedness and a lack of consultation with local people,” Cllr Doherty remarked.
“We (councillors) have been made to look foolish. Everyone in the community is annoyed – this could have been avoided if the Department was honest about this from the outset,” Cllr Doherty stressed.
Her colleague Cllr Joe Murphy said Roosky had been tarnished in the public mind “as a no-go area” and said there was now an onus on the local community to roll out the town development plans for the village. He said he was worried the hotel would be left idle as a result of recent months.
Cllr Liam Callaghan said he suspected the Department was intent on proceeding with its plans as it was “ticking a box as to their obligations to asylum seekers. There is a lack of services in the village, the Department was hoping for the best.” Cllr Callaghan said he had appealed at a previous meeting for the Minister to withdraw from the process while legal issues were being examined. He said his proposal had received no response from the Department.
“The Department had to answer questions but it didn’t want to. The Department turned a blind eye to the concerns being raised,” Cllr Callaghan remarked. “I feel sorry for the asylum seekers – none of them ever asked for this.”
Cllr John Cummins said the Department’s plans “were never researched properly. In the case of a change of use, the first thing you’d do was to go to the planning office; no-one in the Department went to do that. Roosky has been targeted in an unfair way.”
Cllr Valerie Byrne accused the Government of “treating Rooskyvery badly. It is time the Government put something back in Roosky due to the damage it has done. I’ve nothing against people coming to the village, it’s just that the village wasn’t suitable,” she emphasised.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Mulligan said it had been “a very frustrating time” for councillors during the process and complimented the work of Director of Services Shane Tiernan and Meetings Administrator Eileen Callaghan in attempting to secure a meeting with the Department.
“The Department treated the people (of Roosky) and the asylum seekers poorly. They didn’t know what they were doing – we’ve been treated like dirt. The people of Roosky deserve an apology,” Cllr Mulligan remarked.
While conceding the issue of the Direct Provision Centre was a matter of concern for councillors, Director of Services Shane Tiernan said the matter of a Direct Provision Centre “was outside the legislative responsibility of the Council”.
Mr Tiernan added that he was glad to be in a position to contact both Leitrim County Council and the Department of Justice in efforts to convene meetings on the issue.