Department “in discussions” with owners
In a statement to the Roscommon People earlier this week, the Department of Justice confirmed that it was “currently in discussions with representatives of the Shannon Key West Hotel for its use as an accommodation centre for persons seeking asylum in Ireland”.
The Department added that the hotel would not be used as an Emergency Reception and Orientation Centre similar to the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen.
The Department refused to make any further comment until discussions with the owners of the hotel had been concluded but said that “as much information as possible” would be provided when that process had been completed.
The statement came following a private meeting which was chaired by Fine Gael Local Area Representative Andrew Reynolds on Monday night where local community groups, the local school principal and the two local GPs raised concerns over the future of the hotel. That meeting was also attended by former Longford Town Fine Gael councillor James Keogh, whose sister Christina Barry is one of the directors of Abbey Castle Accommodation, who are rumoured to be in the running to manage the premises should it be used to accommodate asylum seekers.
Andrew Reynolds said he had been invited to a meeting with James Keogh last Monday morning. He said that Mr. Keogh informed him that he was acting “on behalf of Abbey Castle Accommodation” who he said had been successful in obtaining a contract from the Department of Justice to operate a centre for asylum seekers in the hotel. Mr. Reynolds said that Mr. Keogh asked him if his catering business could “provide 70 hours of labour” for the centre but he had declined this offer. He then informed Mr. Keogh that he would have to make that offer known to the public and invited him to the subsequent meeting that Monday night.
Local politicians meanwhile, have expressed their concerns over the possibility of the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey being used to accommodate asylum seekers.
Independent TD Denis Naughten confirmed that he has written to Minister of State Denis Stanton to highlight his concerns while Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy accused the Government of acting under a “secret type of cover”. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice said that Rooskey was not a suitable location for asylum seekers while Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins claimed that “lessons have not been learned by the Department from the experience in Ballaghaderreen”.
Former Roscommon County Councillor, Tom Crosby, has called for an emergency public meeting and said that he was “very disappointed” to hear that up to 80 refugees would be placed in the hotel.
“A similar situation occurred in January 2001 when it was speculated that 20 asylum seekers were being brought to Strokestown, again without any consultation with the community. At that time, as chairman of Roscommon County Council, I immediately called a public meeting which took place in Strokestown on February 5th 2001 where six representatives where nominated from the various communities groups from around the town.
“I was delegated to make the case to the department highlighting the various reasons that Strokestown was not a suitable location because of the lack of facilities to cater for these people which in many cases were fleeing war torn large cities.
“It is ludicrous to propose to bring four times the number of those unfortunate people to a small village like Rooskey without any consultation with the community. I am calling on our elected public representatives to immediately call a public meeting and communicate with the Department of Justice before it is too late for all concerned,” he concluded.
Our questions to the Department…
Roscommon People: Are there plans to use the former Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey as an EROC and if so who will operate such a facility?
Department: (We) are currently in discussions with representatives of the Shannon Key West Hotel for its use as an accommodation centre for persons seeking asylum in Ireland. This will not be an EROC like the premises in Ballaghadereen (sic).
Roscommon People: If so, what would be the suggested timeline for such a move?
Department: Until we conclude those discussions we cannot make any further comment on the matter at this time.
Roscommon People: Will financial support be provided for the relevant services which will be required should the move go ahead?
Department: When those discussions are concluded we will provide as much information as possible.
Roscommon People: With the contract for the Ballaghaderreen EROC (the former Abbeyfield Hotel) set to end in December of next year when will the centre begin the process of winding down?
Department: (No response).
Roscommon People: Will there be any further arrivals at the Ballaghaderreen EROC and when and where will the current residents be rehoused?
Department: Residents will continue to reside in Ballaghaderreen in 2018 and 2019. Residents are rehoused following availability of housing. Any queries regarding the housing of refugees should be addressed to the Department of Housing.
Roscommon People: Will the lessons that have been learned at the Ballaghaderreen EROC in terms of services and timelines for rehousing be adhered to in the planning for a similar centre in Rooskey?
Department: (No response).