'incitement' | 

Asylum seekers in Co Westmeath hotel victims of ‘sexual misconduct’ smear campaign

Patrick O’Connell speaks with men being housed at the hotel who are upset at the accusations
QUESTIONS: Reporter Patrick O’Connell speaks with men being housed at the hotel who are upset at the accusations

QUESTIONS: Reporter Patrick O’Connell speaks with men being housed at the hotel who are upset at the accusations

Harry’s Hotel in Kinnegad is said to be unsuitable for the number of asylum seekers

Harry’s Hotel in Kinnegad is said to be unsuitable for the number of asylum seekers

Labour councilor Denis Leonard (left) with Patrick O’Connell at Harry’s Hotel

Labour councilor Denis Leonard (left) with Patrick O’Connell at Harry’s Hotel

National Party in Kinnegad

National Party in Kinnegad

Harry's Hotel in Kinnegad. Pic Gary Ashe 8/7/2022

Harry's Hotel in Kinnegad. Pic Gary Ashe 8/7/2022

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

ASYLUM seekers placed in a hotel in Kinnegad have been subjected to a online smear campaign falsely accusing members of the group of sexual misconduct.

The Sunday World can confirm that NO allegations of sexual misconduct of any kind have been reported to gardai against any of the 75 asylum seekers placed in Harry’s Hotel.

A source said, however, that they are aware of claims circulating online against members of the group which may “constitute incitement to hatred”.

Claims of criminality against the men have also been circulated by members of the National Party who visited the town during the week.

On a video on their YouTube site, a party member said they were present in the town “to show support to the people of Kinnegad who have been the victims of a multitude of crimes perpetrated by residents of the DP (Direct Provision) Centre.

“Some of their actions have been completely deplorable,” he said. “The people are furious with some of the goings on and rightly so.”

Harry’s Hotel in Kinnegad is said to be unsuitable for the number of asylum seekers

Harry’s Hotel in Kinnegad is said to be unsuitable for the number of asylum seekers

A party member also interviewed a woman in the video who claimed her teenager had been followed around by some of the men.

Another party member can then be seen on the video stating: “We have seen an increase in crime in this town … there has been an increase in crime in this town because of housing military age men in this Direct Provision right behind me … Harry’s Hotel.”

A number of the asylum seekers at the hotel spoke to the Sunday World this week and said they are now fearful for their own safety – due to the allegations being made against them.

Harry's Hotel in Kinnegad. Pic Gary Ashe 8/7/2022

Harry's Hotel in Kinnegad. Pic Gary Ashe 8/7/2022

Somalian asylum seeker Yusuf (38) urged the people of Kinnegad: “Do not judge people by their cover.

“Many of the men here are married with families and children of their own. We have doctors in here, accountants and teachers.”

Yusuf said when the asylum seekers were originally moved to Harry’s on Thursday of last week people were friendly.

“It’s changed now,” he said. “We are afraid now. And even if not afraid … we are ashamed and embarrassed walking on the street because people are saying these things about us.

“And now people are trying to put fire on top of fire online.”

Labour councilor Denis Leonard (left) with Patrick O’Connell at Harry’s Hotel

Labour councilor Denis Leonard (left) with Patrick O’Connell at Harry’s Hotel

Asylum seeker Tariq (22) from the Lebanon insisted that the group were ‘not harassing anyone’ but added that the asylum seekers housed in the centre were being badly treated by the Irish government.

Citing problems with the food and facilities being made available to the residents, he said those present were being housed three to a room and do not feel secure.

“They dumped us here,” he said. “This is not a suitable facility. There is nothing in this town for the people here to do.”

A third asylum seeker, accountant Akram from Ethiopia, said he had fled Saudi Arabia to Ireland after his sponsor had withdrawn and he was threatened with deportation to Ethiopia.

Speaking of his arrival at Harry’s, Akram said the situation on the day of their arrival was ‘chaos.’

“They were two staff here and they said they were not prepared for our arrival,” he said.

He too criticised the standard of food and accommodation in the hotel but also the decision to locate the asylum seekers in such a small town.

“As you can tell … it’s a small town, there is nothing to do. If you want the specifics … the food is horrible. We spend the whole day hungry.”

In an interview with the Sunday World, local councillor Denis Leonard, who raised the unsuitability of Harry’s and the town of Kinnegad to host a Direct Provision Centre with Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman earlier this week , said the issues the people of Kinnegad have with facility is based on suitability and not with the asylum seekers.

“We’re a very proud town and we have people of every nationality living here,” he said.

“We have a lot of commuters and everyone has blended in very well. The problem we have is that Harry’s Hotel isn’t suitable to accommodate 75 residents never mind 150.

“Secondly, our town of Kinnegad is getting an awful lot of facilities under rural regeneration in the next year or two.

“For example, at the moment, we don’t have a secondary school, we don’t have a town park, we don’t have a playground, a community centre or a sports hall.

“The GAA and the soccer do a brilliant job here keeping so many of the young people occupied … but we don’t have the facilities required for a town of 3,000. As a result of that, there has hardly been a house built here in the last 15 years. Until the facilities catch up, there won’t be any houses built.

“So, if we can’t build a housing estate that could accommodate 100 or 150 people, why would you bring 150 single men into cramped hotel accommodation.

“It’s just not a suitable location and that’s why I wrote to the Minister.

“We will do our part. But you can’t do your bit for 150 people in a small town with no facilities.”

The Labour councillor said he was aware of the allegations being made online but said the only way to deal with allegations is, if they have any basis, to report them to Gardaí and let them investigate.

“That’s the only way of dealing with that. Allegations can not be made online that are not reported to the Gardaí. And that’s the first problem we have.

“A lot of the allegations appearing on social media have not been reported to the Gardaí here in Kinnegad or in Mullingar. What we have also discovered is a lot of these allegations are coming from abroad … that is they are not coming from people here in Kinnegad.

“So, there are people who are coming to Kinnegad and I’m sure they are the same people who have been in other towns where there are direct provision centres.

“And they are actually trying to stir up local hatred for the whole program.”

Cllr Leonard said what the town is now having to deal with is a ‘badly organised move of a mass amount of people into unsuitable accommodation into an unsuitable venue without any consultation with the local community or the county council.

Asked about the presence of the National Party in the town, Cllr. Leonard said: “They are not welcome in this town … absolutely not!

“We have distanced ourselves from the National Party. People brought their leaflets into a town meeting last night in disgust that anyone would think that it’s okay to put National Party literature into doors in Kinnegad when we are trying to deal with a local situation.”

National Party in Kinnegad

National Party in Kinnegad

In a statement to the Sunday World this week, the Department of Children and Equality confirmed it plans on accommodating 150 asylum seekers in Harry’s.

A spokesperson said: “Due to the unprecedented demand, accommodation all around the country has been utilised to help house applicants on an emergency basis. Harry’s of Kinnegad, has recently come into use for the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) to provide such emergency accommodation.

“The hotel will host approximately 150 international protection applicants. IPAS officials are working closely with all temporary emergency accommodation providers in terms of the services that will be needed for international protection applicants.”


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