Protestors in Cootehill on Sunday.

Cootehill property under consideration for Ukrainian refugees

Protest group may front local election candidate next year.

The Department of Integration is considering the suitability of the property formerly known as the White Horse Hotel in Cootehill to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

It confirmed the news to The Anglo-Celt yesterday (Tuesday) following months of speculation around the future use of the property.

This follows 14 weeks of public protest outside the Brady family owned property last Sunday evening by a community group expressing concerns about it potentially being used for direct provision or to accommodate asylum seekers.

Members of ‘Concerned Citizens of Cootehill’, which insists it’s not politically affiliated or funded, claim worries about ithe building's use and other issues in the town have to date fallen on “deaf ears”.

The group and its supporters say they will now consider fielding a candidate in the 2024 local elections.

They said on Sunday that they intend to continue their public protest until they receive "answers" and assurances - although those comments were made before the Department's statement yesterday.

In response to the Celt yesterday, the Department said it has received an application for the White Horse Hotel to be used for Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection (BOTPs) “ie those fleeing the war in Ukraine”.

It added: “The offer itself was recently received so we are not yet in a position to state whether the building is suitable. As negotiations are ongoing, we cannot comment further on the details of the offer at this time.”

Concerns over the future use of the property were first raised at the February meeting of Cavan County Council when, at the time, speculation locally was that up to 100 male Syrian asylum seekers might be housed there.

The reports were immediately dismissed then as “inaccurate” by the Brady family who own the property, and who have applied for a liquor licence in the circuit court.

The Anglo-Celt has also contacted the owners of The White Horse Hotel for an updated comment on the matter.

The CCC group this week told the Celt they are working to identify a candidate for the 2024 local elections to challenge what they call “mainstream” political parties who they say they feel “abandoned” by.

“We’re thinking about it, yes,” members of CCC’s central committee confirmed at the weekend when speaking to the Celt. “Local councillors don’t represent us at all.”

The single issue contender would stand on a platform against what CCC says is illegal immigration.

Members of the CCC Group say they’ve “no problem” if its families, especially women and children, being sheltered in the locality.

Sunday’s gathering in Cootehill came at a time when protesters in Clare, blocking access to a hotel used to house asylum seekers, removed their barricades.

The move was welcomed by Minister of State for Integration, Joe O’Brien, who met concerned Inch residents, who state they will continue a peaceful protest despite removing the blockade.

There was a round of applause for Inch residents’ efforts in Cavan, while the Cootehill protest was also informed that people objecting to a unit within Airways industrial estate in Dublin being used to house more than 300 refugees, had secured a meeting with the Department of Integration.

“All we want is someone to talk to,” a speaker named Gary told the gathering, which was also told that CCC intends write to local Oireachtas members in Cavan-Monaghan demanding a similar level of engagement on issues of concern.

“Not one of them, not one, is representing us down here,” stated Gary.

Even accepting only families seeking refuge or asylum, CCC believes Cootehill is not in a position to accommodate such a large influx where public services and infrastructure are already desperately “overstretched” and elderly residents are reportedly waiting two weeks for a GP appointment, or as one man shares “four weeks” for a blood test.

Francis describes the asylum system in Ireland as “broken”, and rails against Ireland accepting “undocumented immigrants of unknown backgrounds”.

“It’s government policy that’s wrong. Asylum seekers are people of genuine need. They’re not getting what they need,” he adds, referring to housing asylum seekers in an area with no support network. “It’s no good for us, and it’s no good for them either.”

Loretta finds the ability to discuss such concerns openly can often be “shut down” with claims of “’you’re a racist’, or an ‘ism’, an ‘ist’, a ‘phobe’.

“They’re words thrown at people to shut them up; people, who most of the time, are good honest decent and hard-working, who just love their country and want to keep it safe, and their children. Community is the massive key word here.”

For full report from the protest and other speakers, see today's print edition of the Celt.