Galway TDs hold 'frank' meeting with minister over Direct Provision centre in Oughterard

Protestors in Oughterard last week.

Minister of State for Immigration David Stanton was quizzed by Galway West TDs last night on the State’s handling of a contract for an asylum seekers’ centre in Oughterard.

All five Galway West TDs and Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh were invited to a briefing in Leinster House, Dublin, as several hundred people maintain their second week of 24-hour protest outside the Connemara Gateway Hotel outside Oughterard.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said that the 90-minute meeting with Mr Stanton was “frank”, and involved updating the TDs on a tender which was still “in process”, with no contracts signed.

“I wish this meeting had taken place earlier,” Ms Connolly said.

A community campaign opposing the location of a Direct Provision centre in the hotel is calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to get involved.

The group called “Oughterard Says No to Inhumane Direct Provision Centres”, is planning another silent march this coming Saturday.

It has called on Mr Varadkar to “intervene now in this matter, and to demand the resignations of those responsible”.

“We have experienced no attempt by the government to address the concerns of the citizens of Oughterard in relation to the overwhelming evidence of the inhumanity of the direct provision centres,” the statement says.

The statement says the group has experienced “evasiveness, incompetence, contradiction, disdain, and bluster from Mr Stanton and his senior civil servants”.

The group also criticises Government chief whip and Galway West Fine Gael TD Sean Kyne for what it calls “ineffective representation of the community’s concerns”.

Neither Mr Stanton nor Mr Kyne had any response yesterday when asked about the criticisms.

A delegation of five people from the group made a statement to Galway Gardáí last Saturday after what they described as the “intimidating intent” of some comments made to them by developer Sean Lyons Snr who met them in a Dublin hotel last week in the company of Mr Kyne.

Mr Kyne and officials had earlier accompanied the delegation to meet Mr Stanton and his officials in the Department of Justice.

Seán Lyons Snr, who is associated with Fazyard Ltd, which runs Dublin’s largest Direct Provision centre in Clondalkin, has confirmed that he met the residents with Mr Kyne in Dublin, but has denied that he made “intimidating” comments.

The group contacted Mr Kyne after the second meeting, stating they believed Mr Lyons “seemed to know more about the tender process than the department”, and saying they found it “worrying” that Mr Lyons would “behave in such a manner on foot of a meeting facilitated and attended by yourself, a Government minister”.

Mr Kyne confirmed that the meeting between Mr Lyons and the residents was “robust”, and said he had heard Mr Lyons telling the group that he had “ex-Army Rangers working for him”, and that he was not “going to give in to threats”.

Mr Kyne said he took this as threats to Mr Lyons’s own property.

The Department of Justice said Mr Stanton would not be commenting after last night’s briefing, and could not discuss an “ongoing public procurement process” with residents, but had informed them there would be engagement once a contract had been signed.

The department said Mr Stanton had invited the delegation of residents at last week’s meeting to “visit an accommodation centre to view the facilities and the conditions for residents first hand”

Mr Stanton is “strongly of the view that people should not base any criticisms of a system on second-hand knowledge”, the department said.

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