‘Westmeath has already done its bit’
“Westmeath has taken on its fair share” of refugees and asylum seekers. That’s according to the chair of the Castletown Geoghegan Village Steering Group, who oppose plans to house people seeking international protection in Middleton House on the outskirts of the village.
The group, who organised a meeting in the village hall last Wednesday evening that was attended by some 300 people from the wider hinterland, say that the Castletown Geoghegan does not have the infrastructure to cope with what would be a significant increase in its population of around 140 people.
Earlier this month, the group were informed that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth were looking to accommodate 244 asylum seekers in Middleton Park.
The Westmeath Examiner was told by a reliable source that the figure of 244 was incorrect and that the number was more likely to be closer to 140.
However, speaking to the paper this week, Deirdre Clarke, the chair of the Castletown Geoghegan Village Steering Committee, said that even if the lower figure is correct, the village would be unable to cope with what would in effect be a doubling of its current population.
She said that the group are “disappointed” by the lack of engagement from the department.
“The anxiety for us as a local group is that we have been trying through the appropriate channels to reach out to Roderic O’Gorman’s office.
“It is very disappointing when you have a small group working tirelessly to get answers for the greater community and we seem to be getting the same stuff churned over. We are getting no answers and no engagement.”
Referring to the government’s new Community Recognition Fund, which provides funding to local authorities based on the number of new arrivals, Ms Clarke says that the Westmeath allocation of (€1.65m) shows that the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the county is already “disproportionate” compared to its neighbours such as Offaly (€670,000), Longford (€650,000) and Roscommon (€690,000).
“What we are asking the government for is a fairer dispersal of people. Look at their own figures, you can see Westmeath has taken on its fair share.
“The government say that we all need to do our bit – in our opinion, Westmeath has done its bit.”