You’ve got to walk in those shoes – but what’s going to happen?

Through the rear view mirror: What will happen in Killarney when tourists start to arrive next March or April?

A decision will have to be made before next March or April whether Killarney is going to remain as a major tourist destination or will it become a big direct provision centre, a meeting of the local municipal district council heard today.

Cllr Brendan Cronin said that while the minister responsible has questions to answer, there are business people in the town that are going to have to be asked the very same questions.

He was referring to the bigger accommodation service providers who are providing facilities for asylum seekers, as well as Ukrainian refugees, and he insisted that it’s important that the also answer the questions that are being put.

Cllr Cronin said his real concern is what will happen to the Ukrainian refugees in Killarney when their six-month contracts have expired?

“Where are they going to go? The country can’t cope right now and more people are coming. What’s going to happen in March or April? Are these businesses going to put these people out?

Cllr Cronin said Killarney is facing an awful situation and those responsible were just kicking the can down the road.

“We must look within at our business sector also because you can’t take with one hand and expect it’s all going to be rosy next March or April.

Hotel Killarney which has been used to accommodate refugees and asylum seekers

“It’s gone into the pocket, you’ve made the money, you don’t have to employ people and you’re on a winner but what’s the knock-on effect?” he asked.

Cllr Cronin warned that Killarney’s future and the future of its tourism product was at stake and there are a number of people locally who have to answer questions.

“You can talk about tackling the minister but what about the old government cheque now?” said Cllr Cronin who added that it was important to appropriate blame on a level basis.

He said he is aware of a case where a property owner had his premises assessed and deemed acceptable by IPAS, a contract was drawn up and payment was agreed but it was only at that stage that Kerry County Council was notified, out of courtesy.

“There was no contact with the HSE, the local education services, health care providers or anyone else,” he said.

He acknowledged that the issue can become extremely emotive and that it was important for everyone to be practical and reasonable and honest when discussing the matter.

Cllr Brendan Cronin: Business people have questions to answer

Cllr Cronin said there is an element of duty involved when the people fleeing Ukraine have had their country “blown to smithereens” and they have no water or power.

“You’ve got to walk in those shoes for a while too and realise you’re carrying your whole life in a small pull-a-long 10kg bag that would Ryanair would allow you on a plane. We must take the broader picture,” he said.

Cllr Marie Moloney said people were blaming the government but the business people that are still offering the premises in Killarney should be asked why they are doing it to the town?

“They are the ones that are actually destroying the tourism trade in town by cutting down on the bednights,” she said.

Cllr Moloney said Killarney initially opened its arms, opened the town and opened houses to Ukrainians but, after a while, the goodwill seemed to disappear a bit and now it’s becoming a problem.

“We cannot bring people from the Ukraine into Killarney and then not be able to provide the services. They are going from one hell to another,” she said.

While they have accommodation, they can’t get to see a doctor if they get sick and some secondary school students have to travel from to Rathmore to school because there isn’t room in the schools in Killarney, she pointed out.

Cllr Moloney said people accepted it when there were Ukrainians housed in Hotel Killarney but then they were moved to another location and “other people” were brought in.

Cllr Marie Moloney: The goodwill seemed to disappear
Cllr Niall O’Callaghan: A lot of it is down to greed

“I know for a fact that there are people actually afraid to walk the streets or walk down along the road. I’m not being dramatic. I’m telling you the truth,” she told the meeting.

“We’ve created the fear in the people of Killarney by bringing in too many,” Cllr Moloney added.

Earlier Cllr Niall O’Callaghan asked the council to write to the relevant minister to ask for a plan in relation to the resettling of asylum seekers to Killarney as the town is struggling to cope with the influx.

He said when a big hotel signs a contact and takes in refugees, it’s the small café across the road that is struggling  because they’re not getting the knock-on business from the hotels but they still have to pay their staff and their rates.

“The decisions being taken are taking more bednights out of the town. A lot of it is greed,” he said.

He said small businesses can’t be expected to survive if the spend is taken away from the town and he asked what will happen next spring when Killarney wants to welcome visitors?

“Killarney won’t survive by turning people away. I understand the situation in Ukraine but putting them into a hotel room and leaving them there for months is not going to solve it,” Cllr O’Callaghan said.

Cllr John O’Donoghue who wondered what autonomy the council had regarding the location of asylum seekers was told that the International Protection Accommodation Services, under the remit of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth, has sole responsibility for the location and relocation of people into and out of Kerry.

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