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Monday, 16th January 2023

Louth Councillors show unanimous support for refugees and asylum seekers

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Councillors show their support for refugees and asylum seekers at the January meeting of  Louth County Council.

Louth County Councillors have unanimously supported a motion calling for them to support groups that welcome refugees and people who seek asylum, and a zero-tolerance approach for misinformation and intimidation.

The emergency motion, which was submitted by the Mayor of Drogheda, Councillor Michelle Hall at January's County Council meeting, received unanimous cross-party support from all the elected representatives present.

The motion also called for the government to implement Irish Refugee Council's recommendations for safer and suitable accommodation, an inspector for emergency and transit accommodation and a refugee response director to liaise between government departments.

In her response to overwhelming support in the chamber, Councillor Hall said; "In County Louth we pride ourselves on being welcoming and how quickly we make friends with newcomers, but some people want to divide communities using fear.

“Whether we were born in Ireland or came here seeking safety, we all just want to be safe and live a decent life. It’s been a tough time for asylum seekers, communities and elected representatives.

“I’ve been feeling very sad for everyone. In many areas like Termonfeckin, people have been left in limbo to process that we have emergency temporary direct provision, we have to learn new language about refugees and think about how life is changing so quickly.

“But we are known as an Ireland of a thousand welcomes and most people want a better life for all.

“That’s why we need to come together to demand homes for all and decent jobs so we can care for our families. We need better investment in communities including sports clubs, better public transport, health care, and all the things we need to build strong, diverse communities of equals.

“We need to collectively unite and condemn misinformation or intimidatory tactics which try to divide communities as we witnessed last week across areas in Co. Louth and other counties in Ireland. There is a need for better communication to inform the public on the correct information about people seeking asylum and refugees.

“This lack of commitment to inform and educate the public and indeed, elected representatives leaves a vacuum, where those with other agendas can fill by spreading fear and misinformation using terms like ‘plantation’ centres and ‘men of military age’. We need to uphold our commitment to human rights.

“Currently due a lack of investment in appropriate housing to end direct provision by 2024 as agreed by the Government, housing for refugees and people seeking asylum is deteriorating. If temporary, emergency type of accommodation is going to be used we should insist that it is for the shortest time possible and that health and safety standards are maintained and prioritised," concluded Cllr Hall.

Councillors from all around the council chamber spoke about their full support for an end to misinformation and the deliberate spreading of fear and hate by extremist groups.

Councillors Eileen Tully and Joanna Byrne said they had called in at different times to the Triple House in Termonfeckin and Councillor Tully expressing she had no time for the 'league of haters'.

Councillor Hall’s Labour party colleagues commented on the motion with Cllr Pio Smith saying how emotional it was to hear everyone speaking so compassionately, and he went on to highlight the murder of a former female MP in Afghanistan on Sunday. Cllr Fiachra MacRaghnaill also denounced the Irish Freedom Party and their tactics.

Cllr Sean Kelly who visited Ukraine last year expressed continued support for all those fleeing conflict. There was an amendment to the original motion as the Chief Executive, Joan Martin did not agree with some wording so the word 'management' (of Louth County Council) was removed.

There was a round of applause for Cllr Hall when she finished speaking and then all councillors posed for a photo holding sheets of paper spelling out the words LOUTH FOR ALL.

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