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Orphaned at eleven, Bashar seeks a new life

 

 

The backlash surrounding the proposed use of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey as a centre for asylum seekers is nothing new to the people of Ballaghaderreen, where refugees fleeing war-torn Syria have been arriving since last year.

  The Emergency Reception Centre at the former Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen has been a source of controversy since it opened in 2017 with locals and public representatives questioning the decision to locate those in need in a town which was hit hard by the recession. While the mostly Syrian refugees have been mainly positive about their experiences in Ballaghaderreen, there have been concerns as to what exactly the next step in their journey will be.

  For young Syrians like Bashar Samiz, that feeling of uncertainty has been a common theme throughout their lives. Bashar is 17-years-old and arrived in Ballaghaderreen just six months ago. He said he was just eleven-years-old when his entire family was killed by what his neighbours described as a “gas bomb”. He had been away from the family home at the time of the explosion but returned home to a scene of devastation.

  “We left Syria because there were a lot of problems and war and bombs five years ago.I came with my uncle because my mother, father, two brothers and sister all died in Syria.

  “It is very hard but it is life. I don’t like to speak with other people about my family. I keep that in my heart. It is hard but when I speak to people they can’t do anything for me. It doesn’t help and it doesn’t do anything. My uncle and aunt are my family now.

  “When I went back to the town (that day) people came and told me that (a bomb had hit the town). I didn’t see the bomb or anyone die but they told me that everyone died,” he said.

  Bashar was told that after the gas bomb there was a fire and many people were burned. He still doesn’t know where the bomb came from but believes that it came from one of the “many” planes that were in the skies above Syria at that time. His uncle Khalid took him in and became his guardian.

 Bashar said that shortly after his family’s tragic deaths he left Syria and travelled to Turkey with his mother’s sister.

  “I stayed in Turkey for six months and I met with my uncle Khalid in Turkey. I went to live with him and we decided to come to Europe”.

  Bashar said his uncle, a brother of his father, and himself a married man with five children, took him to Greece where they stayed for over two years before arriving in Ireland six months ago.

  Bashar and his aunt had initially made a cross border crossing in Turkey by bus. He says he made the dangerous journey into Greek waters by way of an inflatable ring at the age of fourteen. He was met by officials who brought him ashore and took them to a camp where they were fed and given clothes.

  Later Bashar said that he and his uncle would spend six months in a tent in a Greek town before police brought them to the countryside where they lived in a caravan at a camp before moving into a house.

  “The UN called us and ask ‘Do you want to go to Ireland?’ We said yes”.

  The UN carried out “many interviews” ahead of their journey to Ireland according to Bachar, asking him questions about his background and circumstances. Earlier this year Bashar arrived in Dublin and was taken to Ballaghaderreen.

  He said he made the trip with his uncle’s family  because he didn’t feel safe in Turkey and claimed that Syrian workers had been exploited by Turkish businessmen.

  While he described Greece as “beautiful”, he said that there was no work for him there. He said he wants to go to college to study design. School had finished in Syria when he was eight but he resumed his studies in Greece where he learned Greek before moving to the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre in Ballaghaderreen where he is learning English.

  He described Ballaghaderreen as a “beautiful town” adding that he felt safe, but he said that there weren’t enough opportunities and facilities in the town for young people.

  “I want to learn English. I want to go to college and I want to work. I want to start a new life,” he said before adding that that would require moving to “one of the cities”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asylum seekers for Rooskey

 

 

 

Department “in discussions” with owners

 

In a statement to the Roscommon People earlier this week, the Department of Justice confirmed that it was “currently in discussions with representatives of the Shannon Key West Hotel for its use as an accommodation centre for persons seeking asylum in Ireland”.

  The Department added that the hotel would not be used as an Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre similar to the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen.

  The Department refused to make any further comment until discussions with the owners of the hotel had been concluded but said that “as much information as possible” would be provided when that process had been completed.

  The statement came following a private meeting which was chaired by Fine Gael Local Area Representative Andrew Reynolds on Monday night where local community groups, the local school principal and the two local GPs raised concerns over the future of the hotel. That meeting was also attended by former Longford Town Fine Gael councillor James Keogh, whose sister Christina Barry is one of the directors of Abbey Castle Accommodation, who are rumoured to be in the running to manage the premises should it be used to accommodate asylum seekers.

  Andrew Reynolds said he had been invited to a meeting with James Keogh last Monday morning. He said that Mr. Keogh informed him that he was acting “on behalf of Abbey Castle Accommodation” who he said had been successful in obtaining a contract from the Department of Justice to operate a centre for asylum seekers in the hotel. Mr. Reynolds said that Mr. Keogh asked him if his catering business could “provide 70 hours of labour” for the centre but he had declined this offer. He then informed Mr. Keogh that he would have to make that offer known to the public and invited him to the subsequent meeting that Monday night.

  Local politicians meanwhile, have expressed their concerns over the possibility of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey being used to accommodate asylum seekers.

  Independent TD Denis Naughten confirmed that he has written to Minister of State Denis Stanton to highlight his concerns while Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy accused the Government of acting under a “secret type of cover”. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice said that Rooskey was not a suitable location for asylum seekers while Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins claimed that “lessons have not been learned by the Department from the experience in Ballaghaderreen”.

  Former Roscommon County Councillor, Tom Crosby, has called for an emergency public meeting and said that he was “very disappointed” to hear that up to 80 refugees would be placed in the hotel.

  “A similar situation occurred in January 2001 when it was speculated that 20 asylum seekers were being brought to Strokestown, again without any consultation with the community. At that time, as chairman of Roscommon County Council, I immediately called a public meeting which took place in Strokestown on February 5th 2001 where six representatives where nominated from the various communities groups from around the town.

  “I was delegated to make the case to the department highlighting the various reasons that Strokestown was not a suitable location because of the lack of facilities to cater for these people which in many cases were fleeing war torn large cities.

  “It is ludicrous to propose to bring four times the number of those unfortunate people to a small village like Rooskey without any consultation with the community. I am calling on our elected public representatives to immediately call a public meeting and communicate with the Department of Justice before it is too late for all concerned,” he concluded.

 

Our questions to the Department…

 

Roscommon People: Are there plans to use the former Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey as an EROC and if so who will operate such a facility?

Department: (We) are currently in discussions with representatives of the Shannon Key West Hotel for its use as an accommodation centre for persons seeking asylum in Ireland. This will not be an EROC like the premises in Ballaghadereen (sic).

 

Roscommon People: If so, what would be the suggested timeline for such a move?

Department: Until we conclude those discussions we cannot make any further comment on the matter at this time.

 

Roscommon People: Will financial support be provided for the relevant services which will be required should the move go ahead?

Department: When those discussions are concluded we will provide as much information as possible.

 

Roscommon People: With the contract for the Ballaghaderreen EROC (the former Abbeyfield Hotel) set to end in December of next year when will the centre begin the process of winding down?

Department: (No response).

 

Roscommon People: Will there be any further arrivals at the Ballaghaderreen EROC and when and where will the current residents be rehoused?

Department: Residents will continue to reside in Ballaghaderreen in 2018 and 2019. Residents are rehoused following availability of housing. Any queries regarding the housing of refugees should be addressed to the Department of Housing.

 

Roscommon People: Will the lessons that have been learned at the Ballaghaderreen EROC in terms of services and timelines for rehousing be adhered to in the planning for a similar centre in Rooskey?

Department: (No response).

What our TDs have to say on Rooskey...

 

 

 

 

Denis Naughten (Independent)

“I have written to Minister Stanton, who has responsibility for immigration, outlining my concerns at the proposal to accommodate asylum seekers in the former Shannon Key West Hotel.

  “This is an isolated location which cannot provide the facilities that will be needed by the families that would be accommodated in such a centre.

  “These people would have to travel to other locations to avail of the services needed and I have asked Minister Stanton to consider this before deciding on a location”.

Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fáil)

“Over the last few days the village of Rooskey was told that a refugee centre was moving to the former Shannon Key West Hotel, nobody in the community was informed (prior to this).

  “Why is the Government doing this under a secret type of cover? Why not go to the communities first and then the communities could meet these challenges head on and support these people? Extra support in schools and doctors’ surgeries, etc. is talked about but it isn’t happening – just like it didn’t happen in Ballaghaderreen. Local communities need back-up and support to be able to help these communities.

  “I have tabled a number of parliamentary questions with the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan seeking clarification on a number of issues relating to the refugee centre in Rooskey”.

Michael Fitzmaurice (Independent)

“Many people came to a public meeting not too long ago and it was anticipated that the hotel would be opening for events or opening on a full-time basis. If this had come to pass, I would have said that it would have led to a new dawn for the area.

  “Firstly, this is not about being against asylum seekers; but Rooskey is a very small village. The medical, educational and transports services that would be required to house these asylum seekers are just not there.

  “In the local area, medical practitioners are at capacity. Are we going to see what happened in Ballaghaderreen, where people were – through no fault of their own – foisted by the HSE on top of services that were already bursting at the seams?

  “It is my view that The Shannon Key West Hotel is not a suitable location for asylum seekers”.

* In conversation with Dan Dooner

 

Hopkins: ‘No lessons learnt’

 

 

 

Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins believes that lessons have not been learned from the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre in Ballaghaderreen after the Department of Justice confirmed on Tuesday that it was in discussions with the owners of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey with a view to using the premises to accommodate asylum seekers.

  Senator Hopkins said she has raised her concerns with the Taoiseach as well as the Minister for Justice.

  “I have made it very clear to them that the north Roscommon region is doing its fair share in supporting individuals seeking refuge through the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre established in January 2017.

  “I strongly believe that this is a shared responsibility which should be borne right across the country. It is unacceptable that one small area of north Roscommon should carry a significant portion of our national responsibility.

  “I am very aware, having been actively involved with the EROC in Ballaghaderreen, that proper resources and service provision need to be put in place to support both the refugees and the local community. From the experience in Ballaghaderreen, proper planning and funding for additional resources and services were not put in place.

  “It seems to me, that lessons have not been learned by the Department from the experience in Ballaghaderreen. I am very concerned about these proposed plans in a village the size of Rooskey,” she concluded.

Hospital’s claims on respiratory services disputed

 

 

The local man who first highlighted concerns over respiratory services at Roscommon Hospital is disputing HSE claims that the service is still available at the hospital.

  This week Roscommon Hospital moved to allay fears that respiratory services at the hospital may be closing.

  The hospital confirmed that the vacancy which arose because of the resignation of the permanent Respiratory Consultant almost three years ago has still not been filled.

  In a statement, the hospital went on to say that it had been decided that respiratory patients would continue to be seen by a Consultant Physician at Roscommon University Hospital and referred on to a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine in another hospital, as required.

  The hospital stressed that all respiratory patients should continue to attend their appointments at Roscommon University Hospital as scheduled.

  Castleplunkett resident Henry Hughes, who first highlighted this issue on Shannonside Radio, is not happy with the HSE/hospital response.

  Mr. Hughes says that people with serious respiratory problems will not be treated at Roscommon Hospital and that COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) clinics will not be held there. Alarmed at the HSE stance – which went public earlier this week – Mr. Hughes contacted the Roscommon People.

  “I spoke to a Risk Manager at Roscommon Hospital on Wednesday (yesterday) and she confirmed the position. She said there will be no more clinics for anyone with COPD”.

  Mr. Hughes said that people who have minor respiratory issues will be treated and that all patients with appointments are indeed being advised to attend the hospital. However, he contends, people with serious respiratory problems, on turning up for their appointment, will be told they are not being treated in Roscommon and that they can choose an alternative hospital (at which to be treated).

 

 

Business as usual? What the hospital said

 

In correspondence to Deputy Eugene Murphy, Mary Garvey, General Manager of Roscommon University Hospital, wrote: “In January 2016 the permanent Respiratory Consultant in Roscommon University Hospital resigned. The respiratory service continued with a locum consultant while efforts to recruit a permanent replacement were ongoing. Unfortunately the post did not attract any suitable candidates.

  “It was decided that respiratory patients would continue to be seen by a Consultant Physician at Roscommon University Hospital and referred on to a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine in another hospital, as required.

  “Roscommon University Hospital has a specialist respiratory nurse who works closely with the Consultant Physicians in Roscommon and the Consultant in Respiratory Medicine in Portiuncula University Hospital in managing these patients according to their clinical needs.

  “All respiratory patients should continue to attend their appointments at Roscommon University Hospital as scheduled”.

  Deputy Murphy noted the reply, stating that the response points out that the hospital has been unable to fill the permanent respiratory consultant post following the resignation of the consultant in January 2016.

  This, he said, opens up a bigger question as to problems attracting and retaining consultant posts in hospital such as Roscommon.

  Deputy Murphy said that it would appear from the hospital statement that respiratory services are still available at Roscommon and patients are being referred on to a consultant in respiratory medicine in another hospital as required.

 

 

 

 

Bord na Mona blow: Murphy calls for €250m fund

 

 

 

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy says that a €250m deal which was put in place to support the Spanish coal-mining industry is exactly the type of initiative that’s needed in the Midlands in light of Bord na Mona’s decision to transition away from its reliance on peat-harvesting based employment.



  Last week, Spain’s new Government secured agreement between management, unions and other stakeholders for a €250 million deal that will see investment in Spain’s northern Asturias, Aragón, and Castilla y León regions and support for miners who may see their employment end.



  “The Spanish situation is very similar to that of the Midlands here” said Deputy Murphy. “The numbers losing their jobs in Spain is estimated at just over 600. The expected Bord na Móna direct job losses is in the same range with a similar number of indirect jobs in the region expected to be lost.
The agreement in Spain demonstrates that it is possible to make progress on the Paris 2020 targets but without wholescale damage to communities and regions”.



  Deputy Murphy claimed that his party has the solution.  “Fianna Fáil’s proposal for a Sustainable Transition Forum, underpinned by funding from the EU’s Globalisation Fund, is exactly what the Midlands needs to allow it move away from its dependency on jobs associated with peat harvesting”.



Call for hospital parking charges to be abolished

 

 

Former county councillor Tom Crosby, a declared Independent candidate in next year’s local elections, has backed calls from the Irish Cancer Society for hospital car parking charges to be abolished.

  This follows recent claims that some cancer patients are paying up to €63 a week for parking on hospital grounds.

  Mr. Crosby acknowledged that the hospitals in Roscommon and Ballinasloe Hospital offer free parking, but he said the issue of charges is very contentious elsewhere.

  “In Mullingar and Portlaoise hospitals, a visitor or patient can park for free for 30 minutes – but Mullingar charges €1.50 for the 30 minutes after that, while in Portlaoise there is a €3 flat fee after the free period elapses”.

  Mr. Crosby said that public hospitals have collected almost €13 million in a year in parking charges. He said that maximum charges for parking for a full day range from €3 to €15 and that there are currently no national guidelines governing charges for parking.

  He is now calling on the HSE to carry out a review of hospital car parking charges and to engage with the Irish Cancer Society and other patient advocacy groups.

  “This should happen without delay and they should ensure that such a review takes account of the circumstances of patients, particularly those who require long-term care, all with a view to establishing clear guidelines on this sensitive issue as a matter of urgency”.

Roscommon jobless figures fall again – Feighan

 

Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan has said that the Live Register is continuing to decline in County Roscommon at a time of “record unemployment figures nationally”.

  “The CSO has reported that the monthly unemployment rate has dropped consistently over the past year and has now fallen to 5.3%, as of October 2018. There are now about 29,000 fewer people out of work in Ireland compared to October 2017 and it is almost eleven years since the unemployment rate was so low.

  “Roscommon is benefitting as the CSO also reports consistent decline in the Live Register figures showing the number of persons on the Live Register in October 2018 is at its lowest number since May 2008”.

  Senator Feighan added: “The Live Register has declined by 16% on an annual basis and by 55% since Fine Gael launched the first Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012. In Roscommon, the number of people on the Live Register has declined by 47% since Fine Gael launched its Action Plan for Jobs in 2012”.

News…at a glance - November 9th

 

 

Roscommon Heritage Group meeting

The Roscommon Heritage Group will meet on Tuesday, November 20th at 8.30 pm at Gleeson’s Townhouse in Roscommon town. All are welcome. Please contact acting secretary Theresa on 087-7554393 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Remembrance Mass for County Council staff

A Mass for deceased Roscommon County Council staff and members has been arranged for Friday, November 16th at 6 pm in the Sacred Heart Church, Roscommon. All welcome.

Religious goods on display at Sacred Heart Church

This Saturday and Sunday (10th and 11th) the Roscommon branch of Apostolic Workers will have on display at the entrance of the Sacred Heart Church in Roscommon town, a selection of religious goods.

  Consider donating a chalice or sacred vessel on behalf of a friend who has had a special occasion including a wedding anniversary, birthday, jubilee, confirmation or retirement, or pick up something in memory of a loved one who has departed this life.

Glenamaddy Christmas Fair

The Glenamaddy Christmas Craft Fair will take place on Sunday, 25th of November featuring 35 local producers.

 There will be plenty of crafts on offer on the day, a face-painting section for the kids, a guess the weight of the cake competition and a raffle with lots of prizes and some dancing and music by the local Comhaltas! This promises to be a great day and admission is free!

Hospice appeal for volunteers

Mayo/Roscommon Hospice is seeking volunteers to help with the sale of cards at outlets over two weekends in late November and mid-December in local towns. Any hours you can give would be most appreciated. Contact 094-9388666 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mass for the Holy Souls

Special Mass for the Holy Souls will take place at Our Lady Star of the Sea Prayer Centre, Curraghboy, Athlone on Wednesday, November 14th at 8 pm.

  The celebrant will be Monsignor Daniel McHugh from Birmingham (UK) and formerly from Taughmaconnell and Curraghboy. Confessions will be available from 7 pm prior to the commencement of Holy Mass. All are most welcome. Contact 086-4054489 for more information.

Cam Bóthar auction in Curraghboy on Saturday

Cam Bóthar Committee is holding a fundraising auction this Saturday (10th) in McDermott’s Lounge, Curraghboy.

  There will be animals and other items for auction. Music in the lounge will be provided by Pat The Man and there will be a number of raffle prizes on the night. Your support would be gratefully appreciated.

Class of ’77 Convent Reunion

The Convent of Mercy, Roscommon Leaving Certificate Class of 1977 is holding a reunion on Saturday, November 24th at 5 pm in Jackson’s Restaurant, Roscommon town. All are welcome to come along.

Lisnamult Residents’ indoor market

Lisnamult Residents’ Association will host an indoor market on Sunday, November 11th from 11 am to 4 pm in Greenfields Childcare Centre in Lisnamult. There promises to be something for everyone and the association is looking forward to seeing you there.

Friendship Circle at The Core

The Friendship Circle is meeting this Sunday between 3 and 5 pm at The Core in Roscommon town with a view to creating Christmas cards and decorations. All are welcome. For more information please call 087-0937669.

Knockcroghery Hospice  Coffee Morning – a thank you

Knockcroghery Hospice Coffee Morning would sincerely like to thank all who donated so generously at our recent event. The total amount raised for our local hospice was €3,501.45.   We would like to express our gratitude to all our loyal local sponsors who come on board each year without hesitation allowing our raffle to be an impressive display of what’s available in our local businesses. 

  Many thanks to our main sponsor the Clay Pipe Visitor Centre and indeed to all our sponsors.

  We also want to acknowledge the continued support of the Creggan Court Hotel Athlone. They make so much available to us and for that we are very grateful.

 

Smash and grab raid at Vodafone shop

 

A large number of phones and other items, though to be worth in the region of thousands of euro, were stolen from the Vodafone shop in Roscommon town in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

  The smash and grab raid, which is believed to have taken as little as three minutes, happened some time between 4 am and 5 am.

  Roscommon Gardaí are now examining CCTV footage from Main Street and are anxious to trace the whereabouts of a silver car, believed to be a silver 5 Series BMW, which may have been acting suspiciously in Roscommon town or the Lanesboro area late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

  Number plates were also stolen from a vehicle in the Lanesboro area on Tuesday night and it is believed that that incident may have been linked to the robbery in Roscommon town.

  Roscommon Gardaí are appealing for information on 090-6638300 and drivers who may have been in the general area between 4 am and 5 am on Wednesday morning are also being asked to check their dash-cam footage and report anything suspicious to Gardaí.

 

 

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