Statement from the Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, the Rt Rev Patrick Rooke.
In a week where there have been many fears and concerns expressed by local residents regarding possible plans to create a Direct Provision Centre in the village of Oughterard, I am concerned that these anxieties among the resident population may be interpreted as antagonism towards refugees and asylum seekers.
Many fears are overcome when local people have the opportunity to meet with those who may come to live alongside them in such a Centre and to hear their stories. I myself have visited the Direct Provision Centre in another part of my Diocese, at Ballaghaderreen, and found the people living there to be delightful and appreciative of local welcome and support. I would encourage the State to provide opportunities for meeting and listening.
When called to reach out to strangers, I am conscious of the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. And as an Irish citizen, I am aware of our reputation as the land of Cead Mile Failte. I don’t live in or near Oughterard, and it is no doubt easier to speak from a distance. I would, however, urge the people of Oughterard to heed Minister Flanagan’s appeal to pause and reflect further.
Oughterard is already a village under pressure. For a new influx of people to be properly catered for, Government should be planning, in parallel, to provide extra services and facilities above and beyond those that already exist. Such an undertaking would also, I believe, go a long way towards allaying the local community’s concerns.