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Welcome the stranger, says Archbishop in comment on Achill protests

By Cian Molloy - 05 November, 2019

Archbishop Michael Neary

As protests continue about locating asylum seekers in a former hotel on Achill Island, the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, has issued a statement saying Ireland has a moral obligation to welcome the less fortunate into our country.

For some days now, there has been a picket placed on the entrance of the Achill Head Hotel in Keel East, where the Department of Justice plans to accommodate up to 35 asylum seekers for at least 3 months.

The first of these asylum seekers, a group of 13 women, were due to be moved to the location last week, but because of protests that did not go ahead.

Some of those who are protesting claim that the remote location is one that is completely unsuitable for asylum seekers. For example, there is only one bus a day between Keel East and Achill Sound, where the area’s main supermarket is located.

Archbishop Neary begins his statement by declaring that Achill people are known nationally and internationally as being a welcoming people and that the community there contains people from around the world.

“Ireland is now moving from an era of austerity and recession to a more prosperous period in our economic cycle,” Dr Neary said. “As Christians we are morally obliged to welcome the stranger and, in the context of our improved circumstances, we have a responsibility to share with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We should also be particularly alert to those who are experiencing serious upheaval and a crisis of hope in their lives.

“Critically, we also have a moral obligation to serve the common good by preventing the exploitation of sensitive situations concerning vulnerable people by those who trade in hatred and fear.”

The archbishop said that most Irish families know about emigration and the “fear and trepidation” that accompany it. “Let our faith, and our own lived-experience, be a model of generosity to others,” he said.

One factor that may have led to disquiet among locals is that many were taken by surprise by the Department of Justice plans for the Achill Head Hotel. Dr Neary said: “It is important that effective advance planning be undertaken by the State including a full and transparent consultation with local people. Such preparations should go some way to allay fears and misunderstandings while, at the same time, enabling this important human-centred initiative to work sustainably for the whole community.”

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