ENNISTYMON locals have hit out at Bill Slattery’s comments on Syrian refugees, saying they’re ‘appalled’ at the local councillor’s views.
Speaking with The Clare People last week Mr Slattery claimed that North Clare residents will be ‘resentful’ to the Syrians arriving in Ennistymon at the end of this month, arguing that the nine families could fuel anti-social behaviour in the area.
The Cathaoirleach of West Clare Municipal District added that he was concerned local people on the housing list would be overtaken by Syrians. However as of yesterday, nine Ennistymon people contacted The Clare People directly to distance themselves from Mr Slattery’s comments.
Former Green Party candidate Roisín Garvey — who recently visited migrants in the Calais camps — challenged Mr Slattery to tell the refugees to their faces his opinions, saying that there is no place in Ireland for ‘right-wing incitement of hatred’. She also said that the houses being given to the refugees are not on the social housing list, but rather a separate European Commission refugee project.
She explained, “Since the word went out that the refugees are coming I’ve been getting phone calls and emails and texts everyday from people asking how they can help so I have found no negative feedback.
“The article reads like Bill Slattery is saying ‘the refugees are taking houses off the social housing list’ which is completely not true. What he says, he’s almost inciting people to give them a reason to be angry at these refugees and I was just appalled, it’s not acceptable to say that he’s representing the people when he’s not.”
Ms Garvey continued, “My 17-year-old son said to me, ‘why don’t we just let them be’ — so if it’s obvious to a 17-year-old you’d think it would be obvious to Bill Slattery.
“He said he wouldn’t be surprised if people resented them — What is he trying to do, is he trying to split the community?”
Others who supported Ms Garvey’s views included Ennistymon locals Jeanne Crosse, Aoife Merrins, Anita Cullinan, Sarah Foust, Mairead Skerrit, Jack Griffin, Aisling Wheeler and Linda Rynne.
Ms Crosse said that she herself has been on the housing list and has since had to move in with her mother and is just thankful to have a roof over her head, and the Syrian people should be welcomed with opened arms. Ms Foust, who runs a gallery in the town, said that the town has a great opportunity to offer the refugees a ‘beautiful place of sanctuary’ and that Mr Slattery’s comments were ‘absolutely the wrong response’.
She said, “I wanted to respond to Bill Slattery’s comments because a number of us here in Ennistymon are actually quite delighted that we can make a contribution to the worldwide crisis of refugees fleeing Syria and I think all of us have been hoping that Ireland will honour its promise to house refugees and that we’re able to make a contribution here in Ennistymon is a great comfort to us.
“I don’t think [Mr Slattery] is being a responsible public representative — he’s saying one side of the story. But the other side of the story is there’s a large group of people here mobilising to welcome the refugees here. The refugees coming in are in the most desperate of circumstances, they don’t have any other options.”
She added, “If we can’t offer them that, the sanctuary that Irish people have been given all over the world, in Ennistymon, I despair.”