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Headache Hotel: Rally follows suspected arson attack

 

 

 

Roscommon People Editor PAUL HEALY, who grew up in Rooskey, reflects on a tense saga…and argues that converting the local hotel into an asylum centre would be a retrograde development for the village…

The mythical bus service

The speakers at Sunday’s anti-racism rally spoke while standing under a useless symbol of bygone days…a Bus Éireann sign which gives the false impression that useful public services are alive and well in Rooskey.

  One might ask many questions when reflecting on Rooskey’s big issue, one of which might be: If 80 asylum seekers come to be based in Rooskey, just how will they manage to travel without public transport?

  For starters, they can forget about getting a bus…

‘Nobody knows what’s happening’

This is not a straightforward saga. Just now, the Rooskey issue is all over the place, ‘up in the air’. Many questions, so few answers. Who set fire to the hotel? Will ‘Paradub’ still buy the hotel? Will the refugee project proceed? Or will a hotel re-emerge? What’s really going on? What next?

  Of course the ‘R’ word (no, not ‘Rooskey’) is being bandied about. In this emotive debate, there is little heed on nuance. If you aren’t in favour of 80 asylum seekers being effectively abandoned in a hotel in a small village, you’re at risk of being branded with the ‘R’ word. No wonder most people are keeping their heads down and saying little or nothing. Those who are engaging in ‘the debate’ include both moderates and extremists. There are agendas, visible and hidden. There is confusion and suspicion. Modern-day battle/‘debate’ is often waged on social media platforms; in that arena, some of the exchanges are vicious. There are ‘elements’ within society which are using the ‘Rooskey issue’ in order to pursue their ‘bigger picture’ agendas. It ought to be said too that nobody has a monopoly on what’s right or wrong here.

Two interlinked issues

A famous local building’s future is at stake. There is much more at stake too. Maybe the village’s economic future is linked to the fate of this building.

  It used to be called ‘The Beeches’. That’s when there was a huge old pub/B&B on the site, more than forty years ago. That name? There were beech trees nearby. Eventually the business there closed and the building fell into ruins. Many years later, a hotel was built there. Boom-time Rooskey (already thriving) just got boomier. That was then. 

  There were great times there, in the ‘80s, ‘90s and into the 21st century. A bustling hotel…food, drink, music, dancing, a community interacting, good times. Then the recession rattled the hotel…and it was probably the bypass that finished it off. But it was purchased by a Mr. James Kiernan, and suddenly there was hope. And month on month, year on year, we fed off rumours that the hotel’s comeback was imminent. And Rooskey waited, hopes high. But the years went by, and the blinds on those windows never rose. 

  It is fair to say, I think, that two issues are inextricably interlinked: the merits of housing 80 asylum seekers in a rural village, and the separate yet related question of whether or not a once-functioning hotel can be re-opened as part of efforts to revitalise a struggling tourism area.

Not what Rooskey needs?

A couple of years ago, the rumours (about asylum seekers being based there) began. Then the rumours seemed to go away. About a year ago, a company called Paradub raised hopes of restoring the dormant premises as a hotel. Then, the news that rocked Rooskey: the Department of Justice was doing a deal, and the Shannon Key West Hotel was earmarked as an asylum centre. The locals had not been consulted with.

  I’ve observed the ‘debate’. I’ve come to a view. Yes, I am firmly in support of the hotel re-opening as a hotel. No, I am not anti-asylum seeker. I think we should help asylum seekers, many of whom have suffered horrendously in their native countries. But, on balance, I am opposed to the Shannon Key West Hotel being used as an asylum centre.

  Why? Because it’s a bad proposal, one that reflects the arrogance of our ‘political masters’. It’s a plan that’s not thought through. The ‘esablishment’ hadn’t the courtesy to consult with locals. And besides, I fear that if the hotel is chosen for this purpose, it may never again function as a tourism amenity. And it’s the latter that Rooskey needs.

  So I think that locating 80 asylum seekers in the Shannon Key West Hotel would be a retrograde step for Rooskey, in fact a potentially disastrous error. Disastrous, that is, for Rooskey’s already perilous economic outlook.

  The divisions and tensions this proposal is creating could have been minimised. Much of the blame for this mess lies squarely at the feet of recent governments, which in my view have done little more than pay lip service to the refugees’ issue, while being utterly apathetic about the decline of once-great villages like Rooskey. Successive governments are hiding behind a failed direct provision policy. Worse, when they are tackled about the choice of venues and the lack of communication, they seek to wriggle free of culpability by saying that property owners are responding to calls for ‘expressions of interest’. Poor Department of Justice! Some cute buck down the country just thrust details of another vacant premises on their desk, and what else could the officials do but sign up?

  As if, were the political will there, a fairer and more sensible system could not operate. Give us a break!

Flawed policy

The one thing direct provision isn’t, is ‘direct’. Our arrogant politicians have unforgivably allowed a direct provision farce to continue, while showing no willingness to fast-track the process. Asylum seekers are left languishing in direct provision centres for months on end – in some cases years – with no proper access to education and health services, and no opportunity at all to enter the workforce.

  Such centres have not unreasonably been compared to prisons. That scores of people are housed for unacceptably long periods in such close quarters – with hope and opportunity denied – is a damning indictment of our approach.

  What’s really hard to justify if this pattern of choosing small towns/villages as locations for large groups of asylum seekers, often when there are inadequate facilities, and usually with no proper consultation. It’s no wonder some people believe the Government is dumping the ‘asylum seekers problem’ on rural Ireland.

  Towns and villages that self-evidently are not equipped to cope with an influx of 80 or so asylum seekers ‘in one go’ are still selected to do so. Invariably, there is little or no communication with the community. There is no regard for the blindingly obvious fact that endeavouring to subsume a large number of people into a small area in one fell swoop is daft, unfair and pretty much unworkable.

  Unfair on whom? On the host town/village, and on the asylum seekers.

  In the case of Rooskey, the 80 new villagers will be joining a community which is already shorn of vital services. That bus sign is now bogus; there is no bus service. The school and medical services cannot suddenly expand to meet the new needs. Sporting/leisure facilities cannot miraculously increase. Rooskey is not equipped for this. It can perhaps be ‘made’ work, but it’s been a shoddy process.  It’s a Government, a system, being unfair to rural Ireland, creating challenges in a village that has been crying out for some positive economic support. 

Cultural differences

Personally, I think we should 100% embrace new cultures. I totally, 100%, agree that new cultures can enhance our society. But is it fair on a small Irish village, or on the arriving asylum seekers, to merge different cultures so swiftly, and on such a scale?

  Rooskey has always welcomed foreign nationalities. These are not idle words. It’s fact. People from numerous countries have made Rooskey their home, and they are as local now as any home-grown locals. But is it not asking a lot of a small community to absorb 80 people with a different cultural background, many of whom presumably won’t be fluent in English, into its community in one step – without any proper consultation or preparation?

Calling all cities…

So yes, I think locating 80 asylum seekers in a small rural village is unfair and wrong. I say that with the interests of both small villages and asylum seekers at heart. The real story here is the brazenness of the political elite. Why is this happening in the way that it is?

  The alternative (and logical) approach would be for the Government to concentrate accommodation of asylum seekers in urban areas, where facilities are greater and where integration would be easier.

  And to process the direct provision system faster.

  Rural Ireland, Rooskey included, could still play its part. Why not locate a small number of asylum seekers in villages like, and including, Rooskey? Try that, Charlie Flanagan, and then sit back and observe the absence of opposition and the warmth and sincerity of the welcome. But no, Charlie & Co. prefer their sweeping, all-embracing lip service-inspired policy of dumping this ‘problem’ en masse on tiny rural areas.

Meanwhile, back to tourism…

It was The Beeches, it was a hotel, it became vacant, then this. Can the past be revisited? I believe that choosing the building for asylum seekers at the expense of the prospect of it returning as a hotel risks setting the development of the village back many years.

  ‘Paradub’ has said its intention is to proceed with purchasing the hotel and that the company wants to open it as a hotel. Rooskey is a tourism village, always has been. It’s a haven on the Shannon! Tourist-related facilities are what’s needed. Shannon-based development is what’s needed. An ambitious project, such as restoration of the hotel, is urgently needed in a village that has been depressed by several setbacks over the past couple of decades. If the hotel becomes an asylum accommodation centre there may be no turning back. This may be a turning point in the history of this great village.

What happens next?

If the asylum seekers’ project proceeds, I confidently predict that the refugees will get a very friendly welcome, as in Ballaghaderreen. Generosity of spirit will kick in, the hand of friendship will be extended. I don’t for a moment agree with people who in some way fear immigration. That is not what this is about. This is about a flawed direct provision policy, and about the linked apathy of the political establishment in regard to rural villages like Rooskey. Direct provision? Direct derision. And this is about Rooskey’s potential shining asset –the hotel – being used for a purpose that is not compatible with what a struggling area needs.

  Rooskey needs to be developed, not treated with disdain. Rooskey has been fighting back…since the factory fire, the bypass, the decline of the fishing, and the recession. It’s a fantastic village, a brilliant community. I don’t believe that this project, on this scale and in this ill-prepared way, is the right fit for the village now.

 

 

‘Rooskey doesn’t need a rally to prove it’s not racist’

 

 

 

 

Asked why he believed there wasn’t a larger turnout of local people at last Sunday’s anti-racism demonstration in Rooskey, businessman and Fine Gael Local Area Representative, Andrew Reynolds, said he believe the people of Rooskey had no case to answer following the recent arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel.

  “I think the reason there wasn’t a larger local presence at last Sunday’s demonstration is because the people of Rooskey wouldn’t have felt the need to prove they weren’t racist. They wouldn’t see the need for an anti-racism protest or rally,” he said.

 

No politicians present

 

Not a single politician attended Sunday’s anti-racism rally in Rooskey, held in the wake of an alleged arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel. The premises has been chosen as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers.

  Speakers at Sunday’s event, who strongly condemned social media criticism of their motives, were anxious to convey an impression that many of those attending the rally were locals. In actual fact, there were no more than a handful of (village) locals present in an attendance of approximately 80-90 people. 

  Leah Doherty, one of the event organisers, said it was “sad” that there were no public representatives present.

  Other speakers insisted that most of those present were locals and that social media commentary to the effect that campaigners would be “bussed in” from other parts of the country had been exposed as inaccurate.

  After members of the Green Party, Sinn Fein and People Before Profit addressed the rally, Ms. Doherty asked if there were any politicians present. When there was no response, Ms. Doherty said this was “sad”. A member of the attendance asked if there was any Church representative present, a comment which went unanswered.

Condemnation following Rooskey arson attack

 

 

 

Paradub expected to press ahead with purchase

 

There has been widespread condemnation following last Thursday night’s suspected arson attack at the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey, which had been earmarked as an asylum seeker reception centre in recent months.

  It is believed two people broke into the premises between 7 and 8 pm and attempted to spread flammable liquid in the reception area. A security guard raised the alarm shortly before 8 pm. No-one was injured in the incident. A technical examination was subsequently carried out at the scene and Gardaí have this week renewed their appeal for witnesses.

  Speaking in Ethiopia last Friday, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the incident as “completely unacceptable” and said that hostility to migrants doesn’t represent Ireland.

  “It’s important that we not be dismissive of people who have concerns about migration. Migration is a good thing, Ireland has benefited enormously from migration, in my view. Migrants help run our public service, they make our economy stronger, but it does need to be managed,” the Taoiseach said.

  Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “deeply concerned” following the incident, adding that it was “too early” to say when the hotel would be ready to accept migrants.

  “The hotel had recently contracted with my department to provide accommodation for 80 asylum seekers who have come to our country to seek protection, many of whom have experienced conflict and trauma and are vulnerable.

  “The final preparations were being made in the hotel for their arrival. Thankfully, there were no residents in situ when the fire broke out,” he said.

  Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy slammed the incident but criticised the Government and the Justice Department for what he described as “an extremely poor process of consultation and engagement with the community of Rooskey”.

  Deputy Murphy added: “The Government’s approach of pushing refugees and asylum seekers into small towns around rural Ireland is simply not working. Many of these small rural towns are already on their knees and the necessary infrastructure from a transport, educational and health aspect are just not in place and the Government needs to take responsibility for the lack of judgement in relation to this whole approach,” he said.

  Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny described the incident as “very alarming” and said that arson attacks, threats or racism had no place in Rooskey.

  “The direct provision model is not a good model for the taxpayer or the unfortunate refugees seeking asylum.

  “The decent people of Rooskey and surrounding areas are generous and welcoming people and would not want to be associated with this type of behaviour or racist agenda,” he said.

  Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the entire community of Rooskey condemned the attack but that concerns regarding the use of the hotel had been raised recently.

  “Genuine concerns had been highlighted in recent weeks that the area itself and the hotel would not be suitable for those vulnerable people due to a lack of primary services. But one thing needs to be made very clear, the community of Rooskey would never condone last week’s suspected actions,” he said before adding that he hoped the potential investors would “push ahead” with their plans for a hotel.

  Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan said he would work with stakeholders to ensure “the best outcome” for the future of the building and praised the quick actions of the emergency services.

  It is believed that no permanent damage was done to the hotel and a source this week confirmed that the incident will not deter prospective new owners of the hotel, Paradub Ltd., in their efforts to finalise their purchase of the premises as soon as possible.

  Investigations are ongoing and anyone with information regarding the fire on Thursday, January 10th is asked to contact Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station on 071-9650510.

Ballinlough crash victim to be laid to rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The young woman who died following a road traffic accident near Ballinlough last Friday will be laid to rest this Friday.

  Anne Grogan, above, of Cloonlough, Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon passed away in hospital on Monday due to injuries she sustained after the car she was driving was involved in a collision with a van and a lorry.

  Originally from Granlahan, Anne was in her early 30s and was married to Ciaran Grogan. The couple had three children: Oisín, Odrán and baby Áine.

  A teacher at Ballyhaunis Community School, Anne was also very involved with Michael Glavey’s GAA Club. The club posted a tribute on Tuesday evening.

  “It is with great sadness the Michael Glavey’s GAA family have learned of the untimely passing due to a tragic accident of our dear
Anne Grogan, née Keane.

  “Deepest sympathies are extended to her devoted husband Ciaran and their children Oisín, Odrán and baby Áine. To her parents Mattie and Phil, siblings Martin, Tommy, Mary, Sylvia, David and Jackie and her parents-in-law Joe and Breda and all her family members.

  “During her distinguished career with Michael Glavey’s she served as a player, winning many underage awards. Anne was a member of the team who won the junior championship in 2003 and intermediate championship in 2005 and All-County League, also in 2005.
  “She also represented the club with Roscommon minors in 2001/2002. To add to her playing accolades was a hugely successful managerial career which saw Anne coach many teams including our minor girls to win 4 county titles: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011. A dedicated club officer she served in many roles; as ladies secretary, treasurer and children’s officer, a position she held until her untimely passing.

  “Anne will be sadly missed by the whole community including the heartbroken members of our Michael Glavey’s club family.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh d’anam dílis, a Áine agus go dtuga Dia suaimhneas na síoraíochta duit ar neamh, xx.’

  Ballyhaunis Community School described Anne as a much-loved member of the school community in a tribute on its website.

  “We will miss Anne’s dedication and professionalism as a teacher and, above all, we will miss her kindness and her warmth as a good friend.

  “Her loss is felt profoundly by the school community and this is only a shadow of the grief borne by her husband, children, parents, brothers and sisters”.

  Her remains will be reposing at McDonagh’s Funeral Home, Castlerea this evening (Thursday) from 4 pm to 7 pm. Funeral Mass will take place in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ballinlough at 1.30 pm tomorrow (Friday) with burial afterwards in the local cemetery. May she rest in peace.

 

  

 

 

Drop in jobless total

 

 

The number of people signing on the Live Register in County Roscommon has dropped by 16% in the last year.

  Welcoming the news, Senator Frank Feighan said this amounts to around 420 people who are “back making a living, to the benefit of themselves, their families and the local communities in which they live”.

  He added: “Since Fine Gael’s Action Plan for Jobs was launched in February 2012, the county’s Live Register has decreased locally by 46.4%.

  “This good news for Roscommon comes as the CSO revealed that the Live Register has fallen below 200,000 nationally, the lowest since 2008. This figure represents a year on year decrease of 15.5%. Ireland is a stable, competitive, secure economy that is open for business”.

 

 

 

‘Carbon tax increases would cripple rural Ireland’

 

 

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice claims that any increase in the carbon tax in future Budgets would have the potential to “cripple those living in rural Ireland”.

  Deputy Fitzmaurice was heavily critical of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other politicians for supporting such measures.

  “If the tax was to increase to €80 per tonne, a total of 21.2c would be added to the price of a litre of diesel…then people in rural Ireland will be forced to carry the burden once again.

  “The Taoiseach has continued to repeat the line that the tax is not designed to take money out of people’s pockets, but rather to encourage a change in behaviour.

  “But people in rural Ireland – and especially farmers – will have an unfair burden to carry once again, compared to those living in cities.

  “It is obvious that those living in cities would find it easier to lead a low-carbon lifestyle versus a person living in the countryside.

  “People in cities have better access to public transport and are also likely to have a variety of services on their doorstep. On the other hand, a car is a necessity for someone living in rural Ireland.

  “It is ironic that the Taoiseach is advocating for an increase to the carbon tax at a time when rural bus routes are being cut and when pensioners are being forced to travel longer distances to get to post offices in order to collect their pensions,” he said.

  The Roscommon-Galway TD also believes any carbon tax increase would have an adverse effect on agriculture.

  “If the carbon tax was increased in the next Budget, the price of fuel would jump as well – further harming the already tight profit margins achieved by farmers when they bring their produce to market after months of labour.

  “This fuel hike would also see the price of food for all consumers rise, given that the produce is transported around the country by lorries.

  “It is evident that this notion that significant increases to the carbon tax in the next Budget will set us on the right path to bridging the gap to our EU climate change targets was dreamed up inside the M50, without any thought for those living in rural Ireland,” Deputy Fitzmaurice said.

 

 

Naughten welcomes appointment of contractor for Coláiste Chiaráin

 

Independent TD Denis Naughten has welcomed the appointment of a contractor to build the new second level school, Coláiste Chiaráin, at Summerhill, Athlone, Co. Roscommon.

  The Department of Education has now appointed JJ Rhatigan for what is a major building project which will see a completely new school designed to cater for up to 1,000 pupils from south Roscommon and the west side of Athlone.

  The new school will have 37 classrooms along with science laboratories, home economics room and a large PE hall.

  Denis Naughten said: “With the new school to be constructed on a 28-acre site, there is ample room for the development of sporting and other facilities, which will not only benefit the pupils of Coláiste Chiaráin but also the wider community”.

Bridge works commence in Kilbegnet 

 

 

Cllr. Ivan Connaughton has welcomed the news that works commenced on Kilbegnet Bridge last Tuesday (15th) that will see a new 900mm pipe inserted to alleviate the backup of water after heavy rainfall.

  The L-1820 road will be closed to accommodate the works until this Friday (18th) and diversions are in place via Rosmoylan road. 

  “I have been continuously making representations to get this work done for the past three years and I welcome this news.

  “I will now be working with the owners of the adjoining homes and Kilbegnet Development Association to seek additional funding from Roscommon County Council to deal with surface water issue on the road. I will also seek additional car parking beside this bridge, which is badly needed for the adjoining cemetery where the road is narrow and is a serious problem at funeral times,” Cllr Connaughton said.

Man charged in relation to Strokestown incident

 

 

A 54-year-old Donegal man is due to appear at Harristown District Court in Castlerea tomorrow (Friday) charged with violent disorder relating to an incident at a farmhouse at Falsk, Strokestown on December 16th. PJ Sweeney, with an address at High Cairn, Ramelton, Co. Donegal, appeared before a special sitting of Castlerea district court last Saturday. Evidence of arrest, charge and caution was presented at a special sitting of Roscommon District Court to Judge Deirdre Gearty by Sgt. Maura McGarry from Boyle Garda Station.

  After a short hearing, Judge Gearty refused an application for bail and remanded Mr. Sweeney in custody to appear at a sitting of the District Court in Castlerea on Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

News…at a glance - January 18th

 

 

Roscommon Macra tractor run on February 3rd

 

Roscommon Macra will hold a tractor run on Sunday, February 3rd. Registration will take place from 12 noon, with the run starting a 1 pm.

  The route will take in Brideswell, Dysart, Taughmaconnell and then back to Brideswell.

  All proceeds raised will be divided equally between Roscommon Macra and the IWA Cuisle Holiday Centre in Donamon.

 

Knockcroghery Community Alert meeting

 

There will be a public meeting of Knockcroghery Community Alert in Knockcroghery Community Centre on Monday, January 21st at 9 pm. Those wishing to sign up to the Text Alert system can do so on the night.

 

Underwater Search & Rescue annual collection

 

The Roscommon Underwater Search & Rescue Unit will hold their annual church gate collection on Saturday and Sunday (19th and 20th) at the following Churches: Boyle, Croghan, Drumlion, Aughrim, Dangan (Kilmore), Arigna, Keadue, Cootehall, Crossna, Drumboylan, Ballinameen, Corrigeenroe, Elphin, Creeve, Frenchpark, Ballinagare, Breedogue, Mantua, Tulsk, Killina and Kilmurray. All monies collected will go towards the maintenance of the unit.

  The club would like to thank you for your generous support in the past and hope that you will be able to support this collection.

 

RSPCA spaying and neutering programme

 

Roscommon SPCA has commenced a spaying, neutering and microchip programme this week. Owners can have cats and dogs spayed/neutered, and dogs microchipped and registered at a discount, the rest is covered by Roscommon SPCA.

  This community-based programme is run by Roscommon SPCA and part-funded by the Department of Agriculture animal welfare grant for 2019 and donations received.

  The programme will run whilst funding is available. To apply, email your name, address, contact number and vet details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 087-0505594.

 

Blood donation clinic at the Abbey Hotel

 

Tonight (Thursday 17th) is the last night of the current blood donation clinic at the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon town. The clinic will run from 5 pm to 8.30 pm. For more information call LoCall 1850-731137.

 

Thank you from St Vincent de Paul

 

St. Vincent de Paul in Roscommon town are sincerely thankful for all donations of money, food and toys received before Christmas.

  A special word of appreciation to the children from local and surrounding schools, who, through their Christmas tree appeal, carol singing and food collections, helped greatly.

  As the demand for services continues to grow, all donations are really appreciated.

  The local St. Vincent de Paul contact number is 086-0741352 or there is a postbox in St. Coman’s Club, Abbey Street, Roscommon town.

 

 

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