- 31 Jul 20
Asylum seekers at Skellig Star Hotel, have suspended their hunger strike. The dramatic development comes following today’s promises of imminent relocation, made in the Dáil by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD. Two families got their transfer letters to Tullamore and Athlone – and the transfer date is August 4...
The process of relocating residents in the controversial Cahersiveen direct provision centre at the Skellig Star Hotel has begun in earnest. Two families received their transfer papers yesterday, telling them that they will move to Athlone and Tullamore respectively on Tuesday,
Residents of the Kerry-based centre had refused to eat for the past three days, demanding immediate relocation and access to mental health professionals.
The recent rationing of water at the centre, as a result of water contamination, was described as the ‘last straw’ by residents, prompting the hunger strike on Monday.
Own Door Accommodation
Speaking in the Seanad, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, told the chamber that the first families at Skellig Star who had applied for relocation will be transferred by the end of next week.
“Places for the first families are currently being identified and moves for them will be completed by the end of next week,” the Minister told the Dáil. “Other residents in the centre will be moved to permanent accommodation as soon as spaces can be found. This process will be completed in a relatively short period of time and no more than a few months.”
Speaking in the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also said that he was keen to solve the issue immediately, adding however, that finding appropriate accommodation for residents can be challenging.
People before Profit TD Bríd Smith told Leo Varadkar that she was appalled by the treatment of asylum seekers at Skellig Star Hotel.
“Owner [of Skellig Star] Paul Collins has rationed the water to 1 Litre a day. I think they would do better at a refugee camp in Lebanon,” Deputy Smith said.
“These residents need to be moved out. Their demand is simple: move them to own-door accommodation which is available in Tullamore or Mosney. The Department of Justice is once again letting these people down.”
Residents at Skellig Star Hotel told Hot Press that they had been assured by the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Education (local TD Norma Foley), as well as several other TDs, that the promise of relocation will come good.
They added, however, that they were ‘suspending’ their strike, and fasting would resume if the Department of Justice fails to fulfil its promises.
“Surely if they won’t follow through, we will resume immediately,” they said, “we feel excited that finally we are leaving a place that traumatised us so much. We just had a big celebration.”
Residents are hopeful that, after their relocation, no other asylum seeker in the country will be moved to Skellig Star Hotel and that their departure will mark the closure of the infamous centre.
“What they do with the property is not our problem, but I hope they won’t send asylums seekers here again,” one resident said.
The Department of Justice is in a year-long contractual agreement with the former four-star hotel in Cahersiveen.
A Stained History
Since it was opened in March 2020, the Skellig Star Hotel has been the subject of several controversies, starting with the relocation of asylum seekers from various hotels in Dublin and Leitrim.
Some residents were moved from a hotel in Swords that was hit by an outbreak of coronavirus. The HSE later confirmed that it had authorised the transfer, while they were fully aware of the contagion in the Swords hotel.
The Department of Justice also later apologised for disseminating information that was inaccurate, suggesting that no resident showed symptoms of coronavirus for “well over a fortnight” following the transfer to Kerry.
The relocation had a tangible impact on the lives of children, who lost their friends and system of support in schools, and lived through an active outbreak at their new home.
Hot Press reported extensively on the issue, earlier in May.
The recent glad tidings follow news of a fresh outbreak at Newbridge Direct Provision Centre in Co Kildare, that is linked to a coronavirus crisis at a Dog Plant Food in the country, where two of the residents worked.
At the Kildare centre, the number of people to have fallen ill with Covid-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus, has reached twenty. It is still out there.