Last Monday, National Party representative Paul McWeeney tweeted that a work colleague of his was unable to make an appointment for his sick baby in his local GP practice in Ballaghaderreen, county Roscommon. McWeeney’s tweet alleged that the practice in question only sees Syrian and Ukrainians on Mondays, and so his colleague’s Irish baby had to wait. The tweet was addressed to the HSE and highlighted the pressure which Ireland’s asylum and migration policies have put on local GP services. It has since gone viral with over 400k views and has provoked a sharp response from Twitter.
Most commenters claimed that McWeeney’s story never happened simply because it did not reference the specific clinic or doctor involved. These commenters share a bias that right-wing representatives like McWeeney only spread disinformation and lies. They outright dismiss the possibility that there might be an inkling of truth to his claim. They just have to wait for a regime journalist to report on the story for them in order to confirm their bias. The Journal did this on Wednesday in typical fashion with a ‘debunking’ article. The article reads like any other article on the ‘far-right’, with compulsory Americanisms like ‘debunk’, ‘fact-check’, and ‘Great Replacement conspiracy theory’. The article logically finds McWeeney’s claim to be ‘FALSE’ in all caps, so that liberals can rest assured that there is absolutely nothing of concern happening in Ballaghaderreen.
It should also be mentioned that there were others commenters who decry that the Irish are now being discriminated against in their own country. However, this reaction, like the liberal one, also misses the bigger picture of what might be happening in towns like Ballaghaderreen. It is not enough to say that the Irish are simply being discriminated against in their own country. There are structural issues at play which have to be acknowledged if any progress is to be made on the issue of Irish displacement.
HSE Working Conditions
For example, is it possible that towns like Ballaghaderreen are being inundated without consultation by an uncapped number of foreign asylum seekers? Is the HSE forcing local doctors to take on asylum seekers, even when their patient list is full? What is the consequence if a local doctor repeatedly refuses to take on HSE referrals of asylum seekers? Will such a doctor be penalised, or potentially lose his or her licence? If a hundred or more asylum seekers are suddenly moved to a town like Ballaghaderreen, is there any obligation on the HSE to provide additional doctors to that town?
If the answers to these questions are what you might expect of the Irish Government, then McWeeney’s tweet becomes a bit more believable. It may make more sense for an oversubscribed GP practice to see all of its asylum seekers on a single day because of their need for batch vaccinations, translation services, foreign medications, specific forms, etc. This scenario might then result in someone’s sick baby not being seen on a certain day due to timing constraints. However, it does not mean that the GP practice has an officially dedicated weekday to discriminate against Irish patients, it may just be a result of working conditions imposed upon them by state authority.
What remains to be understood is how a quaint rural town like Ballaghaderreen became host to so many foreign asylum seekers and refugees. The answer to this riddle lies partially with the fact that Ballaghaderreen is the location of one of Ireland’s first Emergency Relocation and Orientation Centres (EROC).
The purpose of the EROC is to ensure that the Irish State conforms to UN and EU migration policies. It was first set up during the European Migrant Crisis in 2015 in order to deal with the then influx of Syrian refugees, among others. Its purpose was to relocate asylum seekers to Ireland from other EU countries, especially Italy and Greece. It has had its contract continually renewed in the same location, despite the Department of Justice initially deciding not to renew it in 2018. EROC now assists the State in dealing with large influxes of Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion.
Vultures Encircling Dead Properties
Ballaghaderreen’s EROC centre is located in the Abbeyfields Hotel. The hotel was derelict since 2010 after the ‘08 Crash, but was bought in 2015 by Combin Properties. 2015 was the same year that Combin Properties was awarded the EROC contract by the Department of Justice for an undisclosed sum. The briefing document for the EROC states that “due to the commercial sensitivity of this information, [the value of the contract] cannot be disclosed”. Combin Properties is not a registered company in Ireland. Although there is a company of the same name in Bermuda, according to the Irish Times. It is hard to understand why a contract of this magnitude was awarded by the State to a company which is not even registered here. Combin Properties’ main associate in Ireland is Remcoll Capital, which has been itself described as a vulture fund by opposition politicians.
Furthermore, the EROC briefing document states that after spending a minimum of six months in emergency accommodation, these asylum seekers should expect to have “a suitable permanent housing solution […] identified for them”. If only the State could do the same for its own homeless citizens. This is why asylum seekers and refugees are not on any housing waiting list. Suitable permanent housing solutions are simply ‘identified’ for them instead. But how exactly are these permanent housing solutions identified?
This is where Remcoll Capital steps in again. A year after their associate Combin bought the Abbeyfields Hotel, Remcoll bought a ghost estate in Ballaghaderreen for around €500,000 total. €500,000 for 52 houses. Such a figure is hard to believe. The price of a single similar such house in Dublin would now be about the same. The ghost estate in question is called River Oaks, and was built during the Celtic Tiger. The 52 houses in the estate were never occupied, alongside 230 other derelict properties in the town. Remcoll describe themselves as “a property investment and property advisory organisation”, whose owner is Phillip Collins. Remcoll claims on their website that “being and becoming a social provider and a social carer hasn’t been easy but is worth it.” Worth every Bermudian dollar perhaps.
It should be mentioned that Ballaghaderreen is one of the cheapest places to buy property in Ireland. This makes it a very lucrative place for vulture funds like Remcoll to ‘identify’ properties for the state-backed asylum industry. The Government can then guarantee paid occupancy on formerly derelict properties. Remcoll claims to have sold the houses after refurbishing and rejuvenating them, but they do not state whom they sold the properties to. Some of the properties are now on the private market for €100,000 each, you do the maths. Given that they do not even respond to attempts to contact them by the Irish Times, the public can only speculate about who really owns these houses.
Another Hundred Welcomes
Whilst it remains a mystery who now owns the houses in River Oaks, the owner has recently approved the sudden arrival of over a hundred asylum seekers there under the International Protection scheme. These asylum seekers are known to locals to be predominantly African, not Ukrainian. The news of the arrival of another hundred migrants has been to the dismay of the community of Ballaghaderreen. They believe that they have already burdened their fair share of ‘international obligations’ and cannot cope with additional numbers. Nowhere in ‘Official Ireland’ is there talk about the Government’s national obligations. National obligations to help Irish families secure their own permanent homes. That sort of thing won’t help a minister to land a cushy number as a commissioner or ‘elder’ in the EU or UN.
The concerns of locals were somewhat expressed by the Fine Gael councillor for Roscommon Liam Callaghan. According to the Roscommon Herald, Callaghan stressed that “education, childcare, health, public transport, recreation and integration and schools along with emergency and crime prevention services were all at capacity in Ballaghaderreen.” If health services are at capacity in Ballaghaderreen, then McWeeney’s tweet becomes all the more believable. Why did the Journal not reach out to the Cllr Callaghan for comment on their ‘fact-check’ article?
Abuse of Hospitality
Whilst the Irish people have shown enormous hospitality in response to the war in Ukraine, and previously to the war in Syria, one must acknowledge that this hospitality is now being abused. For example, are those asylum seekers who claim to be from Ukraine actually Ukrainian? Should Ukrainian males of military age be expected to fight at home against the supposedly ‘illegal’ war and not to desert? Will Ukrainians asylum seekers be required to return and rebuild once the war is over? Should it be state policy to permanently integrate all asylum seekers into the Irish population? Should asylum seekers and refugees be accommodated instead on a strictly temporary basis? How many asylum seekers make bogus applications? How many failed applicants are actually deported?
The rough estimate for the number of Ukrainian asylum seekers now in Ireland is over 70,000, and there is no official cap on the number of people who can come into the country and claim asylum. One wonders how many more asylum seekers the Irish State can feasibly accommodate without serious political or social fallout. There has already been a serious stabbing incident in Killarney after 400 single male asylum seekers of various nationalities, notably Georgian and Algerian, were lumped together into a single hotel. The latest anti-asylum industry protests in Ballymun, East Wall and elsewhere have shown that there is considerable public anger at the level of asylum spoofing that is going on in the country.
Lessons from Previous Opposition
These protests are but the latest wave of public discontent against the Government’s asylum policy. The previous wave began before Covid, when the State began its trend of setting up Direct Provision (DP) centres in disused rural hotels. The best example for how to deny the asylum industry a foothold in a community was the Galway village of Oughterard. The Oughterard protest was successful because the locals managed to protest continuously at the hotel before anyone was moved in there.
Once a hotel is occupied however, a protest outside of it is going to fail. This is because it targets the wrong people. The media can easily construe it as a threat to the safety of the lodgers, and this delegitimises the protest, as was recently done in relation to the Ballymun protest. These kinds of protests should only be directed at those in power. It should only target the seats of power, such as constituency offices and Leinster House.
The powers that be have one main strategy to promote their asylum policy, and that is to enlist the help of anti-Irish NGOs. The briefing document for EROC even outlines this strategy, saying that “after a very short initial period, we will establish a ‘Friends of the Centre’ group to coordinate local voluntary supports.” How much this ‘friendship’ costs is hard to determine. Although it would explain why there are groups like “East Wall for All”, “Ballymun for All”, “Drimnagh for All”, etc. popping up like clockwork in response to asylum seekers being located in these areas. The media construes these groups as grassroots, representative, and voluntary; but in reality they are astroturfed efforts which are orchestrated by state-funded NGOs.
This tactic was exposed before when a planned DP centre failed to go ahead in a disused hotel in Rooskey, county Leitrim. After the empty hotel was fire-damaged, an ‘anti-racism’ rally was orchestrated in the town in order to create the image that locals support the State’s asylum policy. This rally was organised by an NGO called United Against Racism, who bussed activists into the town in order to create a spectacle for a sympathetic media presence.
However a local woman faced down the rally organisers because she knew that they were not actually from Roosky, and that they came there with a duplicitous agenda. She also proclaimed that the town did not have the services to cope with additional asylum seekers, similar to Ballaghaderreen. No DP centre ever opened in Rooskey. The same NGO is now being mobilised again in response to recent protests in Dublin, and the media is once again giving ample coverage to their astroturfed counter-demonstrations.
Given the scale of the recent protests against the Government’s asylum policies, it is no wonder why there is a renewed interest by media outlets like the Journal in discrediting those who speak out against it, like McWeeney. The media now report in unison that these protests were “orchestrated by the far-right”. From a cursory glance at other news stories, it seems that what they term as ‘far-right’ is any expression of nativism, any attitude against open borders, or a belief that charity begins at home. It is obvious that they do not want isolated nativist protests seen in Ballymun or East Wall coming together in solidarity to become a nativist movement nationwide. Such a movement might just force the Government to reconsider their uncapped migration policy, and it would show just how out of touch the media actually is with the public.
In order to prevent this possibility, the Government and its media are on a damage control campaign against the representatives of concerned locals. They will be all too eager to label the ongoing protests as far-right in order to discredit them, and to totally dismiss the legitimate concerns that locals have in relation to their safety, their access to housing, or to vital services. Gardaí are now preparing special policing plans to deal with these nativist protests, as was seen in response to Thursday’s protest across Dublin suburbs. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has politicised the Gardaí by denouncing the protests, despite no crimes having been committed.
Thursday’s plan was eerily reminiscent of the ‘Ring of Steel’ operation which the Gardaí led two years ago against lockdown protestors on St Patrick’s Day. In that operation, the Gardaí showed their full force when they entirely shut down Dublin City for a day. To do so they deployed over 2,500 personnel across the city and at major road checkpoints, as well as deploying the horse unit, the canine unit, the undercover unit, riot police and the Garda special branch. If the current protests continue to escalate, expect a similar response and crackdown being directed by Leinster House.
The culture of greed which was created by property developers and financial speculators during the Celtic Tiger years has not disappeared. Whereas the previous economic bubble built houses for home-ownership, the current bubble builds hotels, apart-hotels, and rental accommodation for non-ownership. The bubble has become a more globalised and spectral web of holdings and insider deals with a ‘progressive’ veneer. This economic reality expresses itself through the vulture capitalism and asylum industry we witness in Ireland today. Hedge funds snap up housing estates and hotels wholesale, while the asylum industry lobbies for open borders and ‘permanent housing solutions’. The Government then wastes no time in giving out private contracts worth undisclosed sums for the indefinite use of these properties as ’emergency accommodation’, and the cycle continues.
Just as with Covid, it is under the auspices of ‘social care’ and ‘protecting the vulnerable’ that neoliberalism now reaps in its profit. Our goodwill as Irish people is being abused and used against us, toward displacement in our own land. The GP practices are full, the hospitals are full, the schools are full, the colleges are full, the housing lists are full, the rental sector is full, the asylum hotels are full. Ireland is full. It cannot take in any more people. Enough is enough.
This is why there is a need for continued pressure on Leinster House to scrap its reckless and dangerous asylum policy. Already, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced long overdue measures to end illegal migration into Ireland. This is not enough. There needs to be a total reconsideration of the purpose and function of the Irish State. The Irish State no longer represents the interests of the Irish people. Action on the streets needs to be directed at Leinster House in order to prevent further damage. The protests should be viewed as only the beginning of a movement to overcome the entirety of Ireland’s ruling class and their displacement policy.
Leo’s pledge to reduce the number of asylum seekers is as hollow as Coveney’s promise to end homelessness by 2017.
Why have applications from ” Georgians ” reached a record high ? Gardai used to board planes ( immediately after touchdown ) in order to prevent documents being destroyed / smuggled out by ” legit ” passengers. Roderick & his fellow Greens ( such as Cllr Janet Horner ) want Ireland’s flimsy border to be consigned to the nearest recycling bin.
As per Twitter today.
A ‘pathway to permanency’ in Ireland should be opened for tens of thousands of Ukrainians, clearing the way for them to ultimately apply for citizenship or long-term residency, the new Minister of State for Integration has said
Their is No Cap on migrants and there never will be,as long as those
that have seized and abused power hold the electorate to ransom.
Think back,not so long ago when herr Merkel gave the green light to all
refugees,instructing them to head straight to Germany and ignore EU
borders.They did and actually broke the Dublin Treaty by doing so.
Subsequently,she took her pick of qualified migrants and dumped the rest,to places like Ireland.The Dublin treaty abolished,herr Merkel free.
Since then,simple Simon signed off on the UN migration pact,including the EU.UN-der that pact one cannot differentiate between migrant,legal
or illegal,refugees economic or political,asylum seekers climate or other.
So one cap fits all,rock up play dumb and bobs you’re uncle.
EXCEPT,under the article of Genocide ( UN-260? ).This article,to which
Ireland became a signatory explains larger populations from larger
Continents invading smaller island nations…Lets go to court then!