Credit: Dylan Moore / CC BY-SA 2.0

Meeting of Stradbally locals hears concerns about asylum plans

Roughly 100 local residents of the town of Stradbally in Co. Laois held a meeting last night about the prospect of housing hundreds of Ukrainian asylum seekers in tented accommodation in Stradbally Hall.

Starting from yesterday, Ukrainian asylum seekers will be kept in the same tents used for last weekend’s Electric Picnic music festival in the town – though the festival itself reportedly has no involvement in the scheme.

A group of 25 Ukrainian women and children were the first to arrive to stay at the site yesterday.

Last Friday, a briefing document was circulated by Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s Department of Integration, outlining how from Tuesday the 5th of September onwards, 750 beds will be provided for Ukrainian refugees at the site for a period of six weeks.

Notably, the town of Stradbally has a population of around 1,400, meaning that 750 asylum seekers would represent a 53% increase in population overnight.

“Our communities and neighbourhoods have responded with a generosity of spirit, in keeping with both our international reputation and our obligations, that recognises the human plight and trauma that people are experiencing, and their right to seek protection and help from the international community,” the government document read.

“…Given the scale and urgency of the operation to source accommodation for unplanned new arrivals…there has been a requirement to act at pace, with developments often happening at very short notice.”

The Department added: “It is within this context that the Stradbally Estate site has been identified as replacement continency, as student accommodation returns to accommodate third-level students.”

However, reacting to this development, local meeting organiser Louise Buggy reportedly outlined concerns around the short notice and lack of information pertaining to the plan.

“It was announced on the Friday of the (Electric) Picnic when nobody had a chance to respond and everything was rushed,” said Buggy, as reported by RTÉ.

She reportedly added that the “community welcomes all refugees that are seeking sanctuary,” but that “the camp holds a capacity the equivalent of half the population of the parish, so that’s a substantial amount of people.”

“It’s a small village,” she said.

“There is one local guard, our fire station is already under-resourced…there are concerns that I think need to be addressed.”

While the contract is only for six weeks, and the government claims that the accommodation is only to be used on a “very short-term” basis, Buggy reportedly expressed concern over what will happen once the six weeks had elapsed.

“After the six weeks were up, if those people weren’t housed then where would they go?” she asked.

“Are they going to be left out on the streets? There are no guarantees of housing – we are in a housing crisis.”

Reportedly, Fianna Fáil Mayor of Laois, Paschal McEvoy, said that “communication is everything in this kind of a situation,” and added that “people are genuinely worried, and rightly so.”

“In six weeks’ time temperatures will be seriously low,” he said, adding that accommodating children as young as 4 in tents after that point would be “inhumane.”

“The government will need to up their game and get somewhere for them,” he reportedly said.

The news comes after the government reportedly contacted organisers of the National Ploughing Championships to ask them to use the exhibit tents to house Ukrainian refugees in the coming weeks.

Gript recently questioned Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien about the quantity of asylum seekers Ireland can afford to take, in a video which can be viewed below.

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