A Mayo Fine Gael county councillor has told a meeting of the local authority that since President Michael D Higgins has urged the population to “embrace inclusion” he should welcome some refugees into the Áras.
Speaking at this week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, Cllr Tom Connolly said: “I hear Michael D Higgins saying we should embrace inclusion. Fine, I have no problem with that but he has 95 rooms in Áras an Uachtaráin. Did he take in many Ukrainians?” he said.
He told Monday’s meeting that refugees were being “bulldozed” into small communities without any proper consultation.
Stressing that he was not opposed to refugees coming into communities, he said: “There are over 300 in Claremorris and there will be another 112 when the modular homes are up and running. If there is any more there will be uproar, there is no question about it. We have taken our share and so have other parts of the county.”
Cllr Connolly also said he thinks that some Government TDs are “afraid to speak out about the crisis in rural Ireland lest they be dubbed racist”.
Speaking on Tuesday, his party colleague Cllr Jarlath Munnelly joined a slew of councillors who are calling for better communication by the council executive about the arrival of refugees into small communities. He represents the small town of Killala, which has a population of 562.
“Almost 50 international protection refugees arrived to holiday cottages in the town last Friday without any prior knowledge of the community. All the officials have to do is call us and tell us such groups are arriving. We can then help to liaise with schools and GPs. Even a week’s notice would help,” Cllr Munnelly said.
“People are not racist just because they want information about what is happening in their communities.”
Responding to the criticism, Tom Gilligan, the county council’s director of services for housing, told The Irish Times: “The situation is very fluid and can change very quickly. On occasions I have received minimum notification of refugees arriving to the county within 12 hours.”
Mr Gilligan said he was “happy to share information with councillors” once he had it himself.
A spokesperson for the President declined to comment on the remarks made by Cllr Connolly.
Áras an Uachtaráin is officially listed as having 92 rooms, comprising offices, storage rooms, facilities for staff, the Office of Public Works and the Defence Forces, as well as a half dozen rooms for the president’s private quarters, and a number of rooms for formal engagements and exhibits.