Taoiseach insists no ‘veto’ over who moves into communities following protests over asylum seekers at Co Mayo hotel

Plans to house 50 asylum seekers in Ballinrobe hotel have been scrapped after two nights of protests

Protestors gathered outside the hotel in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. Picture: RTÉ

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said no-one has a “veto on who moves into their area” following protests at a hotel in Co Mayo that was set to house asylum seekers.

Protestors gathered at the hotel in the Main Street area of Ballinrobe for a second night in a row on Saturday over plans to accommodate 50 asylum seekers in the venue.

It was reported on Sunday that the hotel owner has withdrawn the lease offered to the Republic’s Department of Integration following the protests.

Local Fine Gael councillor Michael Burke said the withdrawal was made as the owner “doesn’t want any hassle”.

The asylum seekers were due to be housed in the hotel from Monday.

In December, a fire broke out at a hotel in Galway that had been due to house asylum seekers, and gardaí are investigating the incident as criminal damage.

Tensions remain in parts of the Republic over the housing of asylum seekers and following the riots in Dublin in November, involving far-right elements that occurred after three young children and a care worker were injured in a knife attack in the city centre.

The protest in Ballinrobe has been opposed by the United Against Racism Mayo group, which in a statement has hit out at “fear mongering” in the area.

Leo Varadkar told RTÉ's This Week programme on Sunday that the comments made by Michael Burke do not reflect government policy.

“I also need to be very clear. Nobody in a free society, nobody in a democracy has a right to exercise a veto on who moves into their area or community. That doesn’t just apply to international protection,” the Taoiseach said.

He added of the Fine Gael councillor: “I have said back to him very clearly the situation we are now facing is that the alternative to providing accommodation centres is people on the streets.

“We already have 400 people at the moment who we are not able to provide any accommodation for. So, this isn’t an ideal situation”.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland’s immigration policy was “fair and welcoming” to asylum seekers who arrive in the Republic legally, and “we are also firm and tough on those who do not”.

He added: “We would not be able to run our public services without migration.”