Friday 26 April 2019

Up to 220 asylum seekers set to lose home as centre to be turned into five-star hotel

  • Hatch Hall contracted to be used as direct provision centre until January 2020
  • Department of Justice says it has not been formally notified of any intention to terminate contract earlier
Hatch Hall Photo: Google Maps
Hatch Hall Photo: Google Maps

Amy Molloy and Rachel Farrell

THE group behind the luxury Ashford Castle hotel in Co Mayo have announced plans to open another five-star hotel in Dublin at a location currently used to house up to 220 asylum seekers.

Red Carnation Group made the announcement at a staff event in London on Sunday night.

Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons, shared the news on social media alongside an image of Hatch Hall, which is currently used as a direct provision centre.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Hatch Hall is currently contracted to serve as a direct provision centre until 16 January, 2020.

"The Department has not been formally notified of any intention by the contractor to terminate the contract earlier than this date," the spokesperson said.

"In the event that an attempt is made to terminate the contract before its expiry date, the Department will take all appropriate steps including by seeking to re-accommodate those still in the protection process within RIA’s accommodation portfolio and by providing residents with status or permission to remain with assistance to move on from accommodation centres."

Ashford Castle. Picture: Tile Films
Ashford Castle. Picture: Tile Films

Founded in 1913, Hatch Hall was previously used to house UCD students including former taoiseach Brian Cowen and Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary.

The property was bought by developer Gerry Barrett in 2004 for over €16 million, who announced intentions to develop the hall into a hotel, but it has been used as a direct provision for over a decade.

It is contracted to hold up to 220 asylum seekers, according to the most recent Reception and Integration Agency report.

In a statement on social media, a spokesperson for Red Carnations said: "We look forward to opening our third property in the country and continue supporting Irish hospitality."

While the Irish Refugee Council said: "If and when this happens, Hatch Hall will be the third direct provision centre (Watergate Hall and Gardiner Street the others) to recently close in Dublin.

"Crucial that people living there, many who have strong connections to Dublin (school, study, medical) can remain here."

The Department of Justice says the Reception and Integration Agency has processes in place to assist those with status or permission to remain who have chosen not to leave direct provision accommodation and to move on from centres.

Last week, the DOJ confirmed plans to open an accommodation centre for refugees in Rooskey on the Roscommon/Leitrim border will not go ahead.

In a statement, a department spokesperson said that the decision was made not to proceed with the asylum centre at the Shannon Key West Hotel following difficulties with the lease.

"The Department of Justice and Equality regrets that it is not in a position to proceed with plans to open an accommodation centre in the Shannon Key West Hotel, Rooskey," a spokesperson told Independent.ie.

"The decision was taken following legal advice sought from the Chief State Solicitors Office which found difficulties with the lease agreement between the owners of the hotel, and the operator renting it, which made proceeding with the proposed centre unviable."

They added that the department is "not party to these lease arrangements" and that the matters were outside their control.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan denied the government gave in to "racist arsonists" by making this decision.

The proposed centre in Rooskey had been hit by two arson attacks in recent months.

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