ANGELA Coll attended last Saturday afternoon’s meeting in Shannon Town Park and has subsequently become involved in running a Facebook page entitled Shannon Fáilte, which favours using the Shannon Free Zone property as emergency accommodation.
While favouring more refugees being housed in Shannon, she said the approach being taken by the State is flawed.
“I’m a member of Fianna Fáil and I’m not happy with the Government, they are not communicating with the people of Shannon, Cathal Crowe knows nothing, the councillors know nothing. And that’s very bad form.
“But at the same time these are people who desperately require some form of accommodation. They’re kitting out a factory for them, it’s less than ideal, but it’s better than having people sleeping on the streets. That’s how we would be looking at it.
“We should be working with the Council to try and get as much facilities in place and as much support as possible for both the community and the people coming into the community.”
Several people who spoke on Saturday raised concerns about the impact of increasing Shannon’s population at a time when there are serious problems with the provision of health services.
However Ms Coll claims that the extra emergency accommodation wouldn’t make the existing problems significantly worse.
“Bringing in an extra thousand people or whatever into Shannon, not every one of them is going to end up needing to go to the doctor.
“This extra thousand people is not going to put undue pressure on the health service. Our health service is a disgrace, but I don’t think saying that these people coming into Shannon are going to put extra pressure on the health service is a valid point.”
Ms Coll added, “The biggest problem that I see is the schools. We don’t know if it’s going to be children or just adults coming into Shannon. If there’s going to be children there’s going to be a problem with school places. I don’t see there being a problem with doctors, they’ve been able to manage it in Lisdoonvarna and Ballyvaughan, and I would imagine they will be able to manage it in Shannon.
“The issue is they’re not telling us what the plan is. I have a huge issue with that, because when you have an information vacuum there are all kinds of theories flying around and nobody actually knows.”
She said that far right agitators, who have encouraged people to use violence against refugees, were present on Saturday, something she said was “very, very scary.”
Ms Coll said that she believes Shannon will be able to cope with however many are to be housed in the industrial unit in question.
“I would be of the opinion that no matter what they send, the community in Shannon, if it pulls together, will be able to cope with whatever is sent. Whether it’s a thousand men, a thousand women, a thousand children, whether it’s 200 or 1000, if we have the information we can put a plan in place to deal with it.”
She acknowledged that she does not live in Shannon, but says she has ties to the town. “I don’t actually live in Shannon, I live in Ennis. I have worked in Shannon, I currently work in Limerick but I have loads of friends in Shannon and am there on a regular basis.”
Last week’s Sunday Times reported that Ireland had taken in one Ukrainian refugee for every 69 citizens, more than six times the UK equivalent. The Shannon municipal district has taken in about 80% more than the Irish average, while the town of Shannon itself is likely to have taken proportionately more than the municipal district which it is a part of, even before the industrial building is brought into use. How many refugees should the town be expected to accommodate?
“How many is the town of Lisdoonvarna taking, and they’re not saying it’s too much. Lisdoonvarna is very multicultural now. I have spoken to some of the Syrians who went into Lisdoonvarna originally. I doubt very much if the people who were there in Shannon on Saturday have spent time talking to refugees, which I did.” said Ms Coll.
However she acknowledged that the lack of regional balance is a flaw in current policy.
“I think the Government policy needs to be tweaked, there should be a balanced geographical spread. If you look at any county there seems to be a concentration in particular areas and particular counties and other areas don’t have anything at all. That’s a fault of Roderic O’Gorman’s department.”
She said she hopes that further information should be made available to local representatives and the public in the coming days.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.