FOUR families are set to move into a new direct provision centre for asylum seekers in Tipperary tomorrow amid fears opponents of the plan may mount pickets at the complex.
A number of Borrisokane locals expressed fears their community may now find itself at the centre of a dispute similar to that which made headlines in Oughterard in Co Galway.
The proposed Oughterard direct provision centre was abandoned after local protests over the sheer scale of the complex.
At one point, more than 2,000 people protested outside the former Galway hotel.
Tipperary locals are now desperate to avoid a similar controversy.
The Department of Justice met officials from the Tipperary community in a bid to address local concerns and agreed to modify plans for the Riverside apartments in Borrisokane.
Four families are scheduled to move in to the complex – eight families fewer than originally planned.
However, it is understood the department still hopes to bring the number of resident families up to 12 – to a total of between 70 and 80 people – once local issues have been resolved over school and medical resources.
The department also promised to work with a local community liaison committee which hopes to ensure the asylum seekers are welcomed into the community.
Tipperary solicitor Michael Collins said it was a wonderful opportunity for the community to demonstrate what is best about rural Ireland.
Mr Collins urged people to show compassion and kindness towards the new arrivals – and to show they were welcome to the proud Tipperary community.
But a community briefing meeting in Borrisokane staged in the Church of Ireland hall witnessed a number of people calling for protests against the complex along the lines of those witnessed in Oughterard.
One individual distributed leaflets calling for the complex to be opposed – and warned the arrival of up to 80 people would swamp already stretched local services.
Another said the community had been kept completely in the dark about the planned number of asylum seekers earmarked for the Riverside complex, their nationality, age profiles and even their ability to speak English.
“I don’t understand what all the secrecy is about,” one resident said.
Locals also voiced concerns that individuals from outside the area were attempting to exploit the issue.