Republican News · Thursday 10 August 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Bigotry in Ballsbridge

This week, the Dublin government capitulated to the demands of a small group of residents in Ballsbridge, Dublin, that a planned reception centre for asylum seekers should not go ahead.

The Pembroke Road Residents' Association had mounted a High Court challenge to the government proposals, supposedly on the grounds that there was no planning permission for the centre and that An Bord Pleanála had already refused permission for the retention of the premises as a guesthouse. These were solid legal arguments, but a letter signed by a memeber of the residents' association betrayed a more sinister motivation for the objection.

The letter, circulated earlier this year, stated that the plush Dublin 4 area was ``becoming saturated with unwanted elements who are a threat to the community''. Barrister Paul Walsh, who heads the association, has since tried to distance himself from the letter, but he hasn't got very far.

Residents in Rosslare, Co Wexford, have had their legal team contact the Pembroke Road association since the decision, as they are also opposed to the use of a local hotel in Rosslare as another reception centre for asylum seekers, and are looking for some help from their fellow travellers in Ballsbridge.

So, where do these asylum seekers go? People in Rosslare don't want them and neither do the elite of Ballsbridge. The answer is all too predictable.

Working-class areas, especially those ravaged by drugs, poverty and a whole myriad of related social problems, end up having to cater for people many of whom have even more social problems. They haven't got barristers chairing the local residents' association, nor have they time to create fictitious problems when confronted with so many real ones.

The objections raised in both Pembroke Road and Rosslare are based not on planning law loopholes, but on pure, plain, unadulterated intolerance. Do they not see that they should carry a share of the burden of compassion in our society, if indeed compassion has become a burden?

The message from the government cannot allow for any uncertainties on this issue. They must take the lead in ensuring that refugees and immigrants are given fair opportunities and that they are housed according to the facilities available and not according to the ease with which the well-heeled cappucino mob can secure a NIMBY (not in my back yard) decision.

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