Sunday 24 March 2019

Owner says 24 people have moved in to Grand

Esther Hayden

Asylum seekers have already moved into the Grand Hotel in Wicklow town despite the massive opposition to the use of the hotel as a direct provision centre.

Adrian Shanagher who owns a 50 per cent stake in Firebreak Hospitality, the company which purchased the Grand Hotel some 14 months ago, said 13 of the 33 bedrooms in the hotel are already being occupied.

'I already have 24 people in my hotel who are guests of the Department and they are lovely people.

'They are fleeing situations in their own countries. They are good people from Sudan, Syria and Pakistan,' he said.

He said that despite the opposition to the centre some members of the clergy in addition to a number of local people had begun to 'reach out' with the asylum seekers.

However Mr Shanagher said he had been left feeling frustrated by the views of people in the locality.

He alleged that had received nasty emails and personal attacks since the news was announced adding that racism and bigotry were behind some of the nastier comments which had been made.

The Department of Justice and Firebreak Hospitality agreed a deal in which the Grand Hotel will be used as a direct provision centre for 100 asylum seekers for a one year period. However it is possible that this contract may be extended and the hotel could continue to be used as a centre for a number of years leaving the town without a hotel.

It is expected that a staff of 20 full time staff will be employed to operate the direct provision centre.

Concerns about transforming the hotel into such a centre were raised at a public meeting last week and there were angry outbursts at various stages during the event.

One man who attended the meeting said: 'I have a 27-year-old son, he goes out at the weekend with his friends, he has a few drinks around town, he can't get a taxi, so he walks home. Say he's walking past the Grand Hotel some night and next thing these people are there and they try to take his wallet off him or try to attack him. Maybe he could get knifed.'

Another man said he was against the asylum seekers coming to Wicklow because 'we don't know who they are. If we knew who they were possibly it would be easier to take. If we knew that they were vetted it would be a lot easier. 'We've got kids here, we've got young girls here.'

Wicklow People