Leading article

Intimidation of asylum seekers is unacceptable

There will be growing fears that the latest arson attack on a hotel close to the border in Co Leitrim is part of a sinister and coordinated campaign against centres linked to asylum seekers.

Reports that some form of incendiary device may have been placed in the Shannon Key West hotel in the village of Rooskey are particularly alarming and it is clear that only the prompt response of two security personnel and a supervisor prevented much more serious consequences.

A senior Garda officer said yesterday he believed the perpetrators had arrived in the area some days in advance before breaking into the business late on Monday and attempting to start a fire.

The emergency services had to be called to another outbreak five week ago at the same building which is intended to become a reception centre for asylum seekers.

It will be recalled that, less than three months ago, another border hotel, this time in the Donegal village of Moville, suffered extensive damage when it was targeted in very similar circumstances.

The owner of the Caiseal Mara, who lived in the premises, had to be treated for smoke inhalation after escaping, with another senior Garda officer saying that the victim had been fortunate not to be killed.

Telephone threats had previously been made to the proprietor, and a brick was thrown through the windscreen of a car belonging to a security guard at the same location a week later, with plans to prepare the complex for the arrival of a group of refugees subsequently placed on hold.

It all follows a classic pattern of blatant intimidation, first verbal and then physical, which cannot be accepted in any civilized society.

A relatively small number of families who have been forced to flee from war-torn countries like Syria have had their applications approved by the Irish authorities and are in the process of starting new lives here.

The total in percentage terms is lower than in other EU countries, and those who have already arrived have been successfully integrated into a range of areas.

It is important that the arrangements are the subject of detailed consultations with community representatives, but all the indications are that the vast majority of people across Ireland are ready to extend the hand of friendship to the newcomers.

Indeed, anyone who understands the history of Irish emigration down the centuries will appreciate how vital it is to welcome the displaced and the marginalised.

It is deeply sad when a small number of individuals in both urban and rural districts instead offer illogical responses which are rooted in racism and xenophobia.

If they go further, and turn to acts of violence, then it is essential that they are dealt with firmly by the judicial system.

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