Farm animals are living in better conditions than asylum seekers in Direct Provision in the city, it has been claimed.
Galway City Council has unanimously backed a motion calling for government to disband the “inhumane” Direct Provision centres.
“There are farmers in parts of this country who keep heifers in better facilities than these people are living in,” said Fianna Fáil’s Mike Crowe, who proposed the motion.
The Direct Provision system in Ireland is the scandal of our generation, he said.
“This will be our mini-Magdalen Laundries’ scandal when we look back in 10 or 20 years’ time at how these people are treated,”
Councillor Crowe said there are two Direct Provision centres in Galway – Eglinton Hotel in Salthill and the Great Western off Eyre Square – where asylum seekers are living in “appalling conditions” as they await their asylum applications to be processed.
The Direct Provision system was supposed to be a temporary accommodation but, he said, many are waiting eight or 10 years, during which time they are not allowed to work, and must survive on less than €20 per week. They can’t fend for themselves, because they’re not allowed, and they’re relying on St Vincent de Paul to survive. It is one room per family, and they are cramped.
“It is inhumane . . . it is no life for humans”.
Sinn Féin Councillor Cathal Ó Conchúir agreed that Galway’s Direct Provision establishments were bad but he noted Limerick was worse.
“It’s something like a World War II concentration camp . . . trying to live and rear children in those sort of conditions is unbelievable,” he said of teh Limerick facility.
Cllr Ó Conchúir, a teacher, pointed out that the children of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision are discriminated against – they get free education at primary and secondary level but are charged €20,000 (non-EU fees) if they wish to go to third level.
He said that a wealthy Galway benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has paid for many asylum seekers to go to university but Councillor Ó Conchúir wants this barrier to education removed.
Independent Donal Lyons agreed that the conditions were inhumane but he pointed out that the asylum seekers have a “great regard” for the front-line staff in the Eglington and Great Western.
Sinn Féin’s Mairéad Farrell said that not only are the children living in appalling conditions in these facilities but they are embarrassed about it and are afraid to talk about it when they go to school.
Labour’s Billy Cameron said Direct Provision is “damaging human progress” and generations to come will look back at the treatment of these people as the “Magdalene of our generation”. “It must be a breach of human rights,” he said.
Independent Noel Larkin said he was worried what would happen if Direct Provision did end.
“There are 4,600 households and the hoisting waiting list. If we call on the Government to end this, where will they go – are we asking for them (government) to make a decision to deport them? If we deport them what are they going back to? There are a lot tougher conditions in their own country than what they have living in a hotel in Salthill,” said Councillor Larkin.
Independent Mike Cubbard said that using the word “hotel” makes it sound like they are living in the lap of luxury, but the reality is the complete opposite. Ireland will be sued by asylum seekers in years to come, “and rightly so”, he said.
Concluding the debate, Cllr Crowe pointed out the hypocrisy of lobbying the White House for changes to emigration for the undocumented Irish in America while at the same time ignoring the plight of asylum seekers living in squalor among us in Salthill and Eyre Square.
“I don’t care if you’re black, white or pink or what plane you got off, nobody should be living in those conditions,” he added.
The motion was passed unanimously, and it was agreed to circulate it to other local authorities around the country so that they too would pass similar motions.
Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island
Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.
A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.
Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.
It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.
Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.
Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash
A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.
At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.
The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.
The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.
Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.
Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.
It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.
In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.
In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”
It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.
“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.
“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”
Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.
The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.