Aontú representative Mary T Sweeney outside the proposed accommodation for the refugees
Aontú representative for Donegal, Mary T. Sweeney has strongly criticised the Government’s approach to Direct Provision.
She was speaking after the Department of Justice confirmed plans to move hundreds of asylum seekers to Letterkenny.
“It would appear this Government is continuing the horrific legacy of the previous administration when it comes to Direct Provision. The same level of secrecy, lack of consultation, transparency and vested financial interests are still part and parcel of the approach to this sensitive issue.
"In recent days the Government has confirmed they are set to shift up to 60 families into an accommodation centre in the Port Road, Letterkenny by the end of January.
"This news has come as a shock to the people of Letterkenny and indeed Donegal County Council. There has been absolutely zero consultation with anybody in the town. This is most unfortunate," claimed Ms Sweeney
"Confirmation of the plans came from the Department of Justice, which, she said is strange given that since the formation of the new Government, the Department of Children and Equality is supposedly in charge of the Direct Provision system, and has pledged to move towards ending it," she said.
The Letterkenny woman, who ran in February’s general election, said there were serious questions to be answered here.
"The company who will be running the centre – Bridgestock – have been making millions out of Direct Provision centres around the country in recent years.
"Why was Letterkenny picked as the place in which to open the centre? We are a rural town suffering from serious lack of investment and financing from successive Dublin-centric governments. So why did they pick Letterkenny as the most appropriate place to move asylum seekers so spontaneously and without any consultation? This secrecy around Direct Provision only leads to tension and speculation.”
She added: “The people of Donegal are rightly annoyed and angry about this latest news. The town is unprepared for an influx of hundreds of refugees. The Port Road lacks playgrounds and green areas, without which life will be very difficult for the sixty new families set to move in.
“The system of Direct Provision is a failed system, it is no longer fit for purpose, and each week we hear horror stories from various centres around the country – it would appear that many residing in these centres are not being afforded their basic human rights.
"As it stands I cannot support these plans. Without serious investment and consultation our town simply will not be able to cope with such a dramatic increase in population overnight."
The Aontú representative said people naturally have a lot of questions they’d like to see answered.
"How can the government possibly expect things to run smoothly and seamlessly without giving the local residents a shred of information about what’s going on?
"Many are also conscious of the lack of social housing and student accommodation in the Letterkenny locality. The proposed centre formerly housed students and this will no doubt impact on the escalating rental market here and cause great concern to parents of those seeking to study at the LYIT which is hoping to gain University status shortly.
"Aontú, as a party, believes that all life has value and must be protected and cherished, this includes the homeless person, the person with disabilities, the low paid worker, the elderly person in a nursing home, the unborn child and the refugee.
"I myself am very much involved with fantastic charities and fundraising initiatives aimed at reducing world hunger and poverty. I absolutely despise racism.
I demand that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman arrange a public meeting in the town of Letterkenny as a matter of urgency,” she said.
The Aontú representative for Donegal also welcomed the party’s growing support.
“A poll in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday has Aontú on 4%, level with Labour and the government coalition party the Greens. After only 18 months in existence the party is already challenging the political establishment and has become a source of inspiration for those looking for a political alternative both locally and nationally," said Ms Sweeeney.
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