Hundreds of people attended a public protest meeting in Oughterard, Co Galway, last night and vowed to fight any plans to provide a direct provision centre in their community.

All expressed anger at the lack of consultation and information which they say is fuelling rumours in recent weeks concerning refurbishment works at the Connemara Gateway Hotel in Oughterard, which has been closed for a number of years.

According to today’s Irish Times, Cllr Tom Welby chaired the meeting on behalf of an ad hoc Facebook group which is campaigning to stop any plans to accommodate asylum seekers in Oughterard.

The councillor said neither he or any of the public representatives in attendance at the meeting, including Minister of State Seán Kyne and TDs Catherine Connolly and Noel Grealish, had knowledge of any plans for the future of the building.

However, Minister Kyne told the meeting there was a tender process ongoing in the west to find locations for new asylum seeker centres but that this was under the remit of the Department of Justice and neither he nor his colleagues were privy to information about any applications.

He was booed and heckled when he reminded those assembled that Ireland was obliged under EU and United Nations laws to accept and process anyone who could prove they had fled persecution and injustices in their own country.

Many of the speakers accused the Government of ignoring rural towns such as theirs which had only one doctor for a population of 1,600, full to capacity schools, an intercom instead of a Garda station and a social housing waiting list with no sign of any new schemes being built.

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