Protestors gather at a junction to a laneway off the main Cavan to Cootehill Road.

Protestors settle in for all night vigil

Department confirm plan to house International Protection Applicants in Castletara at "an advanced stage"

Residents at Castletara are embarking on an all night vigil to prevent the authorities from housing refugees in their area. At 5pm this afternoon approximately 60 people had filled then entrance to the rural laneway off the main Cavan to Cootehill road in response to rumours circulating that International Protection Applicants would imminently be brought by bus to a recently renovated premises in the area.

By 6pm the crowd were putting their hands up for various time slots to ensure a significant all night presence at the junction at Fartan Lower. A gazebo has been erected as a modest camp where neighbours can chat about the latest developments over mugs of tea. Next to it a gate can open up to effectively block off the laneway, but they are permitting local traffic to pass unimpeded.

Adrian Delaney, who has lived in the area since 2005, said that the residents will continue to mount their protest until someone from the relevant authorities consult with them.

He echoed the frustration expressed by others in the crowd at the absence of either information of consultation provided by the authorities.

Residents' spokesperson Adrian Delaney and Deputy Niamh Smyth (FF) at Castletara this evening.

Deputy Niamh Smyth was the only politician present during the time that the Celt attended the scene. She explained that she hadn't received any prior notification of the plan to house refugees in the area. After contacting the minister, his special advisors and other, Deputy Smyth finally got to speak with the relevant official who confirmed that the contract had been signed for 12 months.

Deputy Smyth reported that the official said the Department would undertake community engagement next week. When the Deputy suggested there would be no development until after the community engagement, she paraphrased the official's response as: "'No, this is happening if it has not happened already, the bus is on its way and there's nothing further to discuss here. I'll send two officials to speak with you next week.'"

Deputy Smyth says that a lack of information from the authorities simply "whips up fear".

"I feel we have been blind-sided here and it's a cruel way to treat a community in any part of the country, but particularly here where it is a very rural part.

"What has absolutely hurt people most here is the lack of information and somehow the Department thinking that they can sign a contract informing one individual - and that being the person going to provide the accommodation without consulting [the community]."

She also said that the rural location is unsuitable for those the Department intends to house.

"I think it's totally inappropriate, and totally unsuitable. We're here in the heart of the countryside - there's no public transport to be seen, and no bus stop even if there was public transport. There's no medical services, no educational services and the one thing we have learned is you have to have the wrap around services to facilitate an influx of people to an area."

A spokesperson for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) told the Celt: "IPAS is responding to an offer of accommodation made in respect of a former equestrian centre which has been converted into apartments in Fartan Lower, Cootehill, Co. Cavan. IPAS have been engaging with the provider of this property and discussions are at an advanced stage. It is anticipated that this property can be brought into use in the very near future to provide accommodation to IP applicants.

"The Department will engage with local representatives and will provide accurate information about the proposed use of the property."