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Half-truths only heighten fears over refugees

The rumour mill was in overdrive in Loughrea in January, with reports that O’Dea’s Hotel, vacant on Bride Street for several years, was being refurbished to house refugees.

Galway Councillor Shane Curley sought clarity on behalf of constituents. It was officially denied, three times – by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY); by International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS); and then by a senior County Council official at a public plenary meeting at County Hall on Monday, January 23.

Armed with written and oral assurances, Cllr Curley clarified the situation to locals – there would be no placement of refugees into O’Dea’s, he insisted on social media. But three days later, Cllr Curley had to eat his words.

“On the Thursday morning, I got a phone call from Minister Anne Rabbitte to say that what I’d been told on Monday was complete gobbledegook,” said Cllr Curley.

There was truth to some of the gossip. And the arrival of Ukrainians at the disused hotel with dozens of bedrooms is imminent. It’s understood Allpro, a Galway facilities management company, operating temporary reception centres in Gort and Athenry, has been contracted to manage the Loughrea site.

Cllr Curley, a teacher in the Pres Athenry, is pro-immigration, and recoils at any suggestion he’s racist.

Nor is Loughrea, he insisted, for that matter – the response to the Ukrainian refugees already living in the town’s Mercy Convent has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

But there are concerns. And the vacuum created by the lack of communication and disinformation from officials in Dublin, has been filled with conjecture from a tiny minority who do not want more refugees in Loughrea. It also created distrust.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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