Anti-racism rally in Rooskey hears calls for end to ‘op­pres­sive’ di­rect pro­vi­sion sys­tem

Demon­stra­tion fol­lows sus­pected ar­son at­tack last Thurs­day evening

The Irish Times - - Home News - MARESE McDON­AGH in Rooskey

More than 100 peo­ple, many car­ry­ing Leitrim and Roscom­mon flags, have at­tended an anti-racism rally close to the ho­tel in Rooskey which was dam­aged in a sus­pected ar­son at­tack last Thurs­day evening.

A num­ber of speak­ers at the event con­demned the “op­pres­sive” di­rect pro­vi­sion sys­tem which they said was in­hu­mane and should be dis­man­tled.

A ru­moured counter-demon­stra­tion billed on so­cial me­dia as a “pro-tourism” rally, failed to ma­te­ri­alise.

The at­ten­dance at Sun­day’s rally in­cluded a num­ber of peo­ple from Bal­laghader­reen who spoke of the pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of wel­com­ing Syr­ian refugees to that town over two years ago.

The event was held on the edge of the Shan­non across the road from the Shan­non Key West Ho­tel on the Roscom­mon Leitrim bor­der which has been the sub­ject of con­tro­versy since it emerged be­fore Christ­mas that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice plans to ac­com­mo­date 80 asy­lum seek­ers there.

‘Ca­sual racism’

The rally was or­gan­ised by “Leitrim and Roscom­mon United Against Racism” who said the gath­er­ing was in­tended to give peo­ple from the two coun­ties the op­por­tu­nity to con­demn the sus­pected ar­son at­tack and to re­ject the “ca­sual racism” be­ing di­rected on­line at asy­lum seek­ers and refugees.

Garda in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the at­tack on the dis­used ho­tel are con­tin­u­ing.

Rooskey na­tive John Lan­non said he was dis­mayed that such an event needed to be held and dis­mayed that peo­ple had tried to set the ho­tel alight, ap­par­ently be­cause they op­posed its use as a di­rect pro­vi­sion cen­tre.

Mr Lan­non said di­rect pro­vi­sion was not fit for pur­pose, was in­hu­mane, un­just and un­rea­son­able but “we should not scape­goat the peo­ple trapped in that sys­tem, peo­ple who had to flee from per­se­cu­tion, from war, from op­pres­sion who come to Ire­land to seek sanc­tu­ary”.

He said it was “very wor­ry­ing” when peo­ple at­tacked ho­tels and build­ings to stop them be­ing used as di­rect pro­vi­sion cen­tres. “We need and we do take a stand against that, to say there is no place here for racism in this com­mu­nity or in any com­mu­nity or in any so­ci­ety”, he added.

An­other speaker Leah Do­herty said the event had been or­gan­ised to con­demn the “dis­gust­ing at­tack” on the ho­tel which was sim­i­lar to the at­tack on a ho­tel also to be used for asy­lum seek­ers in Moville, Co Done­gal, be­fore Christ­mas.

“These are racist at­tacks. These are done by peo­ple who are a small mi­nor­ity but who are caus­ing ex­treme dis­com­fort and di­vide in our com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

Ms Do­herty said there was a sec­tion in Ir­ish so­ci­ety who be­lieved “we have to look after our own first” but peo­ple at the rally be­lieved it was pos­si­ble to look after ev­ery­one.

She ap­pealed to the gov­ern­ment to end di­rect pro­vi­sion, and to treat refugees and asy­lum seek­ers with dig­nity.

A di­rect pro­vi­sion res­i­dent Bale­lani Mfaco from Capetown said peo­ple Iike him had no choice about every­day things like what they eat or who they share a room with.

Con­cern

Ea­monn Crud­den, one of the or­gan­is­ers said he was con­cerned at the “fes­ter­ing on­line racism” which be­came more ap­par­ent after the fire. “I think we are see­ing an alt-right ap­pear­ing in Ire­land”, Mr Crud­den said.

Deb­bie Beirne, one of the founders of the Wel­come to Roscom­mon group in Bal­laghader­reen, said she felt it was im­por­tant to be there be­cause “this fear has taken a grip and it has no place”. She said the Bal­laghader­reen ex­pe­ri­ence showed that the ar­rival of refugees there had done noth­ing but en­hance the town.

‘‘

We need to say there is no place here for racism in this com­mu­nity

Harry McConville (73) from Mul­lagh, Rooskey said he felt it was im­por­tant to sup­port the rally. “We are all the one race, the hu­man race,” he said.

Saj Hus­sain, a Pak­istani-born bar­ber based in Bal­laghader­reen, who has worked closely with the new Syr­ian com­mu­nity there, broke down as he ap­pealed for peo­ple to re­alise how refugees have suf­fered.

“I meet ev­ery day with peo­ple, their loved ones are still get­ting killed,” he said. An Ir­ish res­i­dent for 18 years, Mr Hus­sain said “id­iots” were try­ing to spread hate.

“It is a short life, it is a lit­tle life, please, please do not waste this life hat­ing each other. We should try to help each other love each other and look after each other”.

The dis­used Shan­non Key West ho­tel was one of three planned new di­rect pro­vi­sion cen­tres. The Caiseal Mara Ho­tel, in Moville, was se­verely dam­aged in a fire in Novem­ber, was an­other. Re­pairs are sched­uled, but not yet un­der way.

FAR­RELL PHO­TO­GRAPH: BRIAN

Rooskey na­tive John Lan­non ad­dresses the crowd at an anti-racist rally at the for­mer Key West Ho­tel in Rooskey, Co Roscom­mon, which was dam­aged by fire last week.

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