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Is Killarney a tourist town or a refugee centre, asks Councillor

A local authority meeting in Killarney has heard that the town needs to face the reality of whether it will continue as a major tourist centre or become a direct provision and refugee centre.

The huge numbers of migrants and asylum seekers in Killarney has now exceeded 3,200, with the famed Co Kerry town previously having a population of just 10,360. Up to 40% of the tourist beds are now being used by the state to provide accommodation to newcomers, the Killarney Municipal Meeting was told

“Is Killarney next March going to be a major tourist destination or a direct provision centre? Big accommodation providers in Killarney are going to have to be asked that question,” the Independent councillor Brendan Cronin said.

Local businesses fear that tour operators will cease to see the town as an attractive destination when so many beds are now not available – and they are angry that the government did not consult locals before sending busloads of migrants and refugees.

Cllr Cronin wondered what “the prediction” was for the refugees in the Spring and whether hotels and guesthouses would seek to “to put them out”.

“Serious questions have to be asked of two sectors – the Government and our own business sector,” Cllr Cronin said.

The meeting also heard that local politicians were hearing anger from the public.

Labour councillor Marie Moloney said that councillors were hearing ‘earfuls’ from locals, and that the goodwill of the people had dissipated since earlier in the year.

She was also critical of the businesspeople who she said were facilitating the mass arrivals when there was no services for them – saying that neither GPs nor schools had room.

While almost 60,000 Ukrainian refugees have now arrived in Ireland, the number of migrants, often from countries which are not war-torn, has also soared after Minister Roderic O’Gorman made it known that anyone claiming asylum in Ireland would be given ‘own door’ accommodation plus supports.

At least 318 of those who have been placed in Killarney are not from the Ukraine – and the majority of those coming to Ireland seeking protection are from countries such as Nigeria and Georgia.

Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Niall Kelleher, said that services were now overwhelmed and “at a tipping point” because of the huge numbers.

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