Abbeyfield Hotel Roscommon News Ballaghaderreen Welcome Wall

Positive meeting held with Department Officials on Ballaghaderreen Refugee Centre

Abbeyfield Hotel Roscommon News Ballaghaderreen Welcome Wall

Local politicians held a broadly positive meeting with the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton TD yesterday to discuss the proposed Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre at the former Abbeyfield Hotel, in Ballaghaderreen.

Among those in attendance were TDs Eugene Murphy and Michael Fitzmaurice and Senators Maura Hopkins, Frank Feighan and John O’Mahony.

At the meeting Department of Justice Officials agreed to meet with members from the Ballaghaderreen Town Team and local public representatives in order to begin engaging with the local community. A number of other details became clear during the course of the Meeting:

– 37 children will be among the group of just over 80 people who are set to arrive to the Centre in March. The figure includes 13 children under the age of four, 19 children in the five to 12 age category and 4 children over the age of thirteen.

– Officials from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) will visit the Centre on a weekly basis to check if the services for the residents are running smoothly and to co-ordinate local services as required.

– A National Community Fund to support areas where there are refugee centres and direct provision centres is set to be established. Community groups to submit proposals for grants between €5,000 and €10,000 in order to fund community integration projects.
In related news Ballaghaderreen GAA Club Officials intend to contact GAA Headquarters in Croke Park with the aim of sourcing footballs and gear for the children.

– Senior Officials said that the company with whom they have taken the contract with for the provision of the Refugee Centre is a different company to the one which has purchased 60 houses in Ballaghaderreen.

– Where possible goods, services and staff for the Centre would be sourced locally. Although it is not stipulated in the contract it is the practice in the other Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres.

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy has welcomed the news that future consultation is planned by the Department with Ballaghaderreen Town Team, local public representatives and local agencies.

Speaking on the impact that the Centre will have on services in Ballaghaderreen Eugene Murphy said “Minister Stanton indicated that a mobile medical assessment unit would be in place in Dublin when the 80 Syrian refugees initially arrive in Ireland to assess their needs and this would take the pressure off local services.”adding “They informed us that HSE officials had been in touch with GPs in Ballaghaderreen”.

At the meeting Deputy Murphy stressed was the need to fast track a Child Psychologist for County Roscommon as the position remains vacant. “Many of these children will undoubtedly have suffered untold trauma while some of the adults may have been subject to torture etc so I think it’s vital that post is in place before the refugees arrive in Ballaghaderreen in early March.” This was a view shared by Michael Fitzmaurice TD who, overall, felt that many questions remain unanswered – read his thoughts here.

The Minister indicated that a Pre-School may be set up in the Centre for the young children and that where possible the older children would attend local schools but this depended on the individual child as some of them may have never been in a school setting so in that case it may be necessary to set up a school setting in the actual refugee centre.

Eugene Murphy added “The Minister also indicated that they were open to the possibility of the Leisure Centre being opened in the hotel if an operator was interested and this could benefit the local community while he also stated that if the local community wanted to use meeting rooms etc in the former hotel this could also be accommodated”.

Commenting after the meeting Senator Maura Hopkins said

“I emphasised strongly at the meeting the need to ensure that communication channels open immediately between the Department of Justice and the local agencies and service providers who will be involved in supporting these people along with the local community.

She went on to say “We are a welcoming people in Ballaghaderreen and it is very much a multicultural town. I understand fully that Ballaghaderreen and County Roscommon must play our part and do our fair share in terms of supporting refugees who have been through horrific experiences. Doing our fair share involves ensuring that the number of people we help is linked directly to the capacity of the town to provide a highly supportive environment.”  

Senator Hopkins concluded, “I now need to see evidence on the ground in the local community that communication channels are opened immediately and that proper engagement with local organisations and service providers such as GP’s, schools and the wider community takes place.” 

“I also need to see evidence locally that when these people arrive additional resources and support services based on individual assessments will be made available. This means ensuring specialist and additional resources are provided such as GP’s, teachers, nurses, interpreters, psychologists, and dieticians among others.”  

“I want to be proactive and constructive in terms of ensuring we support these people and that the community in Ballaghaderreen is equipped to cater for their needs.”