More than nine in ten residents have voted against plans to plant 115 migrants in the small town of Lisdoonvarna, local media reports.
The Irish government says there can be “no delay” in beginning to transfer the first batch of asylum seekers it intends to accommodate in a hotel in the town of just 300 people.
But in a secret ballot held at a meeting in the County Clare town on Wednesday, 197 locals voted against the plan, compared to just 15 who voted in favour, the Irish Times reports.
Owner of the King Thomond Hotel, Marcus White — who plays a key role in tourism to Lisdoonvarna — told residents of the 300-strong heritage town home to one of Ireland’s folk oldest festivals that he would respect their wishes.
“If the village is not able to accommodate 115 people, so be it. I’m not going to do something to hurt this town”, local media reported him saying.
Urging the hotelier to honour his word in the wake of the decisive ballot, Lisdoonvarna Fáilte chairman Paddy Dunne said: “I hope Marcus will listen now and reconsider. We really appreciate everything he does for the village bringing in tourists but it is too much for the community to handle,” he stated, stressing that locals feel no ill will towards the hotelier.
“It is not a question that we don’t want these people,” Dunne added, professing that while Lisdoonvarna residents feel sympathetic towards refugees, the village lacks the resources needed to cater for a 38 per cent increase in its population overnight.
“People in the village will be welcoming to a lesser number, but not 115. It is not about the asylum seekers coming, it is about the way in which the Government has conducted this, having no consultation and no facilities in place,” he said.
According to the Irish Times, the government’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) responded by saying the Department for Justice deal with White “should not put an undue strain on existing resources and services” in the town.
The newspaper, which is one of a number of national and regional media organs paid to promote the government’s plans to boost Ireland’s 4.7 million population by another million using mass migration, reports that the first asylum seekers were due to arrive in Lisdoonvarna on March 5th, but the date has been put back a week due to bad weather.
“The plan cannot be further delayed”, insisted the government.