A group of residents from Dromahair in Leitrim have been told that the arrival of people seeking asylum to the village has been put on hold pending the resolution of a hotel planning issue.
The Community Engagement Group (CET) had a meeting last night with Dromahair Concerned Citizens and their concerns will be relayed to the Department of Integration.
Around 155 international protection applicants, including families and 31 single men, were due to be accommodated at the Abbey Manor Hotel which has been refurbished in advance of their arrival.
The meeting took place following protests in the village last Friday night.
It is reported that there was a gathering of over 100 people following rumours that asylum seekers were travelling by bus from Citywest in Dublin to the village.
There were also reports of attempts by a number of people to block roads around the area.
Earlier, Independent TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marian Harkin said she understands that gardaí did not receive any evidence to substantiate that there were roadblocks set up.
Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Ms Harkin outlined that, even though she received a number of emails around illegal checkpoints, and despite some social media commentary, there has been no evidence of such roadblocks.
"When the original letter came from the department that 155 International Protection applicants would be housed in the Abbey Manor hotel in Dromahair, the concerned residents contacted their TDs … I contacted the Minister and spoke about how the infrastructure in Dromahair was way below par, no community centre, a choc-a-block medical centre, a school oversubscribed, and asked for support, but nothing came back," Ms Harkin sad.
She said that a number of weeks later, "rumours started to circulate, and tensions were high on Friday night".
"The gardaí did come – it took them quite a while to get there because I believe there were very few gardaí in north Leitirm – but they did come.
"The rumours were that a bus was coming, there was no bus, so nothing happened.
"It is my understanding that as of now, gardaí have not received evidence to substantiate the assertion that roadblocks were put in place.
"Even though I did receive one to two emails and certainly there was some comment circulating about it on social media."
Ms Harkin said that the residents in the area have said they will be "first in line" to welcome any such families being accommodated in the village, but that there was a distinction between families and single men.
Spokesperson for the Dromahair Concerned Citizens group Fiona McPadden attended last night's meeting with CET.
She said: "The Community Engagement Team recognised our concerns and agreed we had valid concerns.
"And I suppose they acknowledged that the number of refugees that were coming to Dromahair was a very high number.
"There are currently just over 900 people living in this area.
"And there is a lot of pressure on the Government to please refugees in rural communities, whether they have infrastructure or not.
"They also recognise that the site that the refugees are going to here isn't really an appropriate location to have refugees"
Bernie Linnane is a local area representative for the Labour Party. She said herself and Bláithín Gallagher, Green Party local area representative for North Leitrim were invited by CET to last night's meeting but were prevented from gaining access by the Dromahair Concerned Residents.
"It is not divisive to say that there is more than one viewpoint in this village.
"There are many of us who see things differently to the Concerned Residents group and would be willing to welcome new arrivals to Dromahair and work with the relevant authorities to obtain the necessary services and supports for our community.
"It serves no one to deliberately obstruct access to meetings and discussions.
"There has already been far too much secrecy surrounding the future of our hotel.
"The residents of Dromahair - we are all concerned and deserve better. Open and honest discussion and engagement is the only way for this community to move forward"
Fiona McPadden acknowledged that some people had been refused admission to the meeting.
She said that having rival groups at last night’s meeting with the Community Engagement Team would be counter-productive.
"We felt that it would be counterproductive to have two opposing groups at the meeting. We have various concerns.
"The Leitrim for All group (a recently formed group to welcome refugees) don't seem to have any concerns with welcoming refugees and our group have always said that we welcome refugees but that we have to discuss our concerns and discuss the numbers that are going to be coming to Dromahair.
"I suppose we didn't want the meeting to turn into a slagging match. We don't want to go down that road. All along we've said that we just want to peacefully and calmly voice our concerns and we need those concerns to be listened to"
Sinn Fein TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny, said people are accepting that migration is happening everywhere in the country but there should be a better process in place to manage it.
"I think we should have better communication earlier.
"I think we should have a means in which we can develop more accommodation for people because that's one of the big issues we have here, it's the intense competition for services ... whether it be health services or accommodation services or social service, whatever.
"When people see more people coming into the community from wherever they see that as adding to that competition.
"We have children in school that can't get an SNA and to see more children joining in that class and putting more pressure on the teacher, that that irks people that annoys them that that gets people under people's skin and can lead to people becoming unaccepting of new people coming into the community and that is something we need, and the Government needs, more than anyone else, to work to resolve those issues.
"Last Friday night when that situation occurred where people were out on the streets, in fairness people working in the department came back to me with an email stating that there was no body arriving imminently, that was not happening and they clarified the situation that no bus had left Citywest in Dublin at all going anywhere.
"So whoever started that rumour did so maliciously in order to get people out on the streets and cause trouble.
"And that's that's what we need to ensure doesn't happen anymore. And that can only be resolved if we get a proper dialogue and it has to be inclusive"
Fianna Fail Councillor Mary Bohan runs the post office in the nearby village of Drumkeerin and says local people have huge empathy for people fleeing war zones.
"The people of Dromahair are not opposed to people fleeing war and persecution coming to live in the area, we believe the building is not suitable at present for 155 people, there are serious planning issues to be resolved.
"The lack of communication from Minister O Gorman’s office despite numerous requests has led to unnecessary speculation and rumour which was not helpful"
Fiona McPadden said the Dromahair Concerned Residents group hope to hear back from the Community Engagement Team shortly and at that point she hopes that they will work together with Leitrim for All and be in a position to welcome asylum seekers to the community.