TDs speaking at a demonstration in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary on Saturday have rejected suggestions that protests in the town are motivated by racism.
Demonstrations have taken place outside the Racket Hall Hotel in the town after it was closed at short notice last week to house international protection applicants.
The government has since responded to the protests over the closure of the town’s only hotel by agreeing in principle to purchase and reopen another hotel for community use.
On Saturday, demonstrators marched from Rackett Hall to Castle Street in the town, where they heard speakers including independent TDs Mattie McGrath and Michael Lowry.
Addressing accusations of racism, Mr McGrath said locals would be happy to welcome people to the town but only if resources and amenities were in place to do so.
“I have tried my best to defend your honour and your name when you were besmirched by national media and by others saying you were racist,” he said.
“There’s not a racist person in this town.”
Mr Lowry, meanwhile, criticised the government’s plans to purchase and reopen the Damer Court — which has been closed since 2013 — as a community model hotel.
He described it as an ‘on the hoof’ reaction to the protests, claiming concerns he raised with government over the past year about the town’s lack of amenities had fallen on deaf ears.
“The facts are that Roscrea has taken its share, Roscrea has been very welcoming to hundreds of refugees, Roscrea’s services here are completly overburdened,” he said.
Calling for improved gardaí, health and educational services for the town, he added: “The people of Roscrea are ready to integrate people, you have done your bit, you have done your share, there is no racism here, there’s no anti-immigration here.
“But what we are looking for is fair play, we’re looking for the resources to manage what we have already.
“The people of the town are concerned to hold their identity, to hold the character of the town and to hold the camaraderie and the community spirit that it was always acknowledged for.”
Mr Lowry claimed that around 5,000 people turned out for Saturday’s march.
The government has agreed a one-year deal for Rackett Hall to house up to 160 international protection family applicants at the site.
Seventeen men, women and children arrived at the the hotel on Monday under a heavy garda presence.