The Minister for Justice has called on people in Oughterard, Co Galway, to "step back" and allow the process for selecting new centres for Direct Provision to take place. 

Speaking in Galway this afternoon, Charlie Flanagan said that heightened tensions in the town in recent days were a matter of real regret. 

On Saturday, over 1,000 people took to Main Street in Oughterard, Co Galway, to highlight their opposition to possible plans for a Direct Provision centre in the town.  

Mr Flanagan said no decision had been made as to whether a former hotel in Oughterard would be used to house asylum seekers. 

However, he pointed out that the Government "hadn't got too many options here" and had to be mindful of its national and international obligations to those fleeing persecution. 

The Minister said the Government had a challenge to house 1,300 people who were currently in emergency accommodation. 

There was a need for more centres and he did not want those seeking asylum to be sleeping rough.

Minister Flanagan said that when any decisions were made regarding Direct Provision centres, there would be engagement by the Department and state agencies to ensure that there was access to education and healthcare for the residents.

His Cabinet colleague, Minister Katherine Zappone said she felt the Independent Galway West TD, Noel Grealish, should think about comments he made last week, clarify them further and perhaps withdraw them.

Mr Grealish made comments about asylum seekers at a public meeting in Oughterard last week.

In a report for RTÉ's Drivetime programme, journalist Lorna Siggins said that since Saturday afternoon's protest, there has been a round-the-clock presence outside the gates of the Connemara Gateway Hotel by a roster of local people bearing banners and wearing yellow safety vests.

Early this morning, construction workers arrived to continue work at the hotel but they opted not to try and gain access due to the large number of people involved.

Rory Clancy, a spokesperson for the Oughterard community protest, said they are going to maintain this protest for as long as it takes for the people to get what they deserve.