'We hate this idea that we're being tarred as racist,' say Oughterard protestors

A group campaigning against proposals for a Direct Provision Centre in Oughterard in Galway say they are not racist.

Hundreds of people have been holding a round-the-clock protest outside a former hotel in the town, amid speculation it has been earmarked to house asylum seekers.

One local man said the group is protesting about the facilities, not the people who will use them.

He said: "In our main street we have eight businesses that are run by people of various non-Irish backgrounds, anything from Polish to Moroccan.

"My own partner in my business, my photography business, is Muslim so we're really sick of the idea that they are putting four to five people in a room up here in what is almost like a concentration camp on the edge of the town with no facilities.

"It's inhumane and we don't want to be associated with it as a town."

The Department of Justice has insisted no contract has yet been signed for a centre at the currently closed Connemara Gateway hotel.

However, locals have continued protesting against the proposals - raising their concerns about the conditions at the site.

The man continued:

We hate this idea that we're being tarred as racist.

"We would never think about these people being of other nationalities or races - we all integrate, and get on well together."

Another local suggested the town can't handle anyone coming in, as the local GP and schools are at full capacity.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said any demonstrations need to take place in an "atmosphere of calm".

He has also argued that some people want to exploit local concerns to "whip up anti-immigrant, anti-asylum seeker sentiment".

Reacting to such observations, one woman in Oughterard argued: "I know what I'm fighting for, I know what I'm standing here every day.

"I have worked with asylum seekers... I have had them in my home for weeks on end to make sure they were OK.

"Maybe at the very beginning there were people from the left and right who may have tried to infiltrate - but they were very quickly shown where to go."

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