More than 500 people attended a public meeting in Oughterard in Co Galway to voice concerns that a former hotel in the area may be turned into a direct provision centre.

A number of councillors said the town did not have the infrastructure in place to accommodate large numbers of asylum seekers.

They called for clarity from the Department of Justice as a matter of urgency.

In recent weeks, work has been taking place at the former Connemara Gateway Hotel, which has been closed for well over a decade.

The refurbishment of the old 60-room hotel is taking place as a tender process is ongoing to find locations for new asylum seeker centres in the west of Ireland.

The former Connemara Gateway Hotel

More than 500 people turn up at the meeting to oppose any such plans.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said it could not confirm the location of new centres at this time but said an evaluation of offers was under way.

The department said engagement with local communities and political representatives would begin as soon as commercially sensitive aspects of the process were completed.

Councillor Thomas Welby

Councillor Thomas Welby called the meeting because he said nobody knew if the search for locations for asylum centres was related to the work that is under way at the hotel.

The department has not confirmed whether a contract has been signed, but anger is mounting at the lack of information forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Joe Loughnane, who represents the Galway Anti Racism Network, spoke outside the meeting at the community centre in Oughterard.

He was mindful of concerns over lack of information, but said he believed most of the people there were not racist.