Cllr Aengus O'Rourke.

O'Rourke says he received threats over Athlone asylum seeker report

Athlone councillor Aengus O'Rourke has said there's a need for "cool heads and common sense" on the issue of immigration.

This morning (Thursday), it was reported by the Irish Independent that there were plans for 400 male asylum seekers to be accommodated at an unnamed site in Athlone.

This report has since been denied by Westmeath Government Minister Peter Burke, who said he had been told by the Taoiseach's office that Thornton Hall in Limerick was "the only identified site at present where large-scale capacity is being developed" for asylum seekers.

Cllr Aengus O'Rourke said he had received a number of threatening messages this morning, by text, email, or Facebook message, in relation to the reported arrival to Athlone of 400 additional people seeking international protection.

"Most of (the threats) were anonymous, of course," stated Cllr O'Rourke.

He said one of the threatening messages referred to asylum seekers as "rapists" and told him, "we know where you live".

The Fianna Fáil representative welcomed this afternoon's comments from Minister Burke when he said there were no plans from the Government to provide accommodation in Athlone for 400 additional arrivals.

"Athlone, more than most, has played its part for more than twenty years in accommodating asylum seekers. Our (direct provision) centre in Lissywollen is currently full and has always been full," said Cllr O'Rourke.

"In more recent years we have seen huge number of both Ukrainians and asylum seekers locate here also.

"The facts of the matter are that, as a town, Athlone is already bursting at the seams. Our doctor's clinics, dentists, primary schools, secondary schools and general services are already under huge pressure.

"Westmeath is already well above the national average, per head of population, in terms of accommodating asylum seekers and Ukrainian people.

"It makes no sense to include Westmeath in any future plans for additional arrivals. We simply do not have the capacity.

"I have already made my views known to our Government representatives and will continue to do so," Cllr O'Rourke concluded.