Early engagement sought on Shannon refugee accommodation plan

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara says the Government must lift the “wall of silence” surrounding plans to refit a large industrial building for emergency accommodation for refugees at Shannon Business Park.

The Clare Champion has reported that the centre for housing refugees will be opened in the Shannon Free Zone “despite local elected representatives and residents having been left uninformed about the matter.”

The OPW confirmed to the Clare Champion that it had made Unit 153 in Shannon Business Park available to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and that it is currently being adapted for emergency accommodation.

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Deputy McNamara said that while Clare’s second largest town has always and remains a welcoming community, there is a growing frustration amongst residents about the lack of any forthcoming information from government on the move.

“Shannon has a proud and lengthy tradition of welcoming refugees down through the years,” he said, “On each of those occasions however, proper planning and public consultation was conducted by the authorities which ensured the wholesome support of local people.”

Deputy McNamara continued, “There is a significant strain on existing services in the town, particularly GP services, yet no information has been forthcoming on the reported retrofitting of a large building in the country’s largest industrial estate to accommodate new arrivals. It is perfectly reasonable for the people of Shannon to seek information about the move and to receive assurances that additional resources will be deployed to the town to accommodate any increase in the local population and the consequent increased demand for services.”

The Clare TD added, “The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, TD, needs to engage with local elected and community representatives as a matter of urgency.  We have seen in Lisdoonvarna how there has been little if any increase in local services to the detriment of both residents and refugees. Therefore, early engagement needs to happen before the building is occupied.”

“Both the occupants of the new accommodation centre and the people of Shannon will benefit from such consultation before the proposed accommodation centre is occupied. Otherwise, there is a risk of misinformation filling the void which benefits no one,” concluded Deputy McNamara.

The building in the Shannon Free Zone which has been earmarked for emergency accommodation

Independent TD for Clare Violet-Anne Wynne has written to Minister Roderick O’Gorman T.D. in relation to the matter.

“The information that has been reported thus far by Owen Ryan of the Clare Champion is that the Chairman of the OPW, Mr. Maurice Buckley has confirmed that Unit 153 has been made available by his officials to your Department for the purpose of Emergency Accommodation. Since then, the vacuum that has been created by the lack of information or consultation by your Department with community groups and stakeholders has sent shockwaves through the community of Shannon. Several individuals have been in touch with my office, and they have raised some very legitimate concerns.

This proposed emergency accommodation will not be at the residential side of town, but in a highly industrialised area which will not be equipped with the necessary local services for the residents of the accommodation to have an adequate standard of living. Many of the local residents have conveyed concerns to me regarding whether your Department has consulted with local services like Shannon Health Centre and the local schools in the area to ensure that they will be adequately equipped to deal with this extra capacity.

The Local Authority, Clare County Council have engaged with over 4,000 refugees of war from Ukraine since last February and I am incredibly to represent the communities in Clare who have welcomed these residents into their communities with open arms. However, as a direct result of your Department’s lack of support on the ground a vacuum has been created that has allowed for unsavoury far-right sentiment to hijack the conversation around the country.

Minister, I am calling on you to come down to Shannon personally and allay the concerns of local residents. If your Department does not engage with local residents, community groups and local representatives then that vacuum will be occupied by the same shameless, opportunistic, far-right elements that are now seeking to distort the lens on this important national conversation,” Deputy Wynne’s letter says.

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