The recent arson attacks on hotels earmarked to become direct provision centres have had a number of knock-on consequences.
For one, the asylum seekers, who already live in a constant state of limbo, are further displaced.
Many of those who could have taken up accommodation in Rooskey, Roscommon, and Moville, Donegal, are living in a hotel in Monaghan. There are currently 124 asylum seekers living in the 43-room Treacys Hotel in Carrickmacross.
But unlike the fire-bombed hotels, the situation in Treacys Hotel is not a permanent fix. It’s quite the opposite. The hotel, which is part of the Treacy Group, is providing emergency accommodation for those living in the direct provision system.
The Department of Justice has a contract with private company Trenthall Limited which procures hotel rooms for the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). However, the RIA does not have exclusive use of these rooms and they are generally booked on a nightly basis.
Trenthall is run by former Monaghan County manager Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney.
Treacys Hotel’s contract is with Trenthall and it provides up to 35 rooms to the company when possible. Treacys Hotel is also a working resort which hosts weddings and other functions. This means when the hotel has other bookings all 124 residents pack up their belongings and are moved to another premises.
This happened on at least two occasions last year when the hotel was booked for functions. And it will continue to happen in the future as the hotel plans to accept future bookings, as is its right.
People representing the local asylum seekers complained about the situation in Monaghan. A Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland spokesperson said: “People are being imported and exported like goods for the kitchen.
“Some weekends they’re faced with a different bed, reception and rules for collecting their food.
“The Government has a responsibility to these people who are seeking international protection because the Government signed up to the UN Refugee Convention,” he added.
In response to queries, a Department of Justice spokesperson said: “In December 2018, RIA became aware after the event that residents were transported from Treacys Hotel in Carrickmacross to Wexford to facilitate an event in the hotel.
“The hotel provider was contacted by RIA and told that this was not to happen again without consultation and if residents had to vacate the hotel on a short-term basis in the future, that suitable local alternatives would have to be found and agreed,” he added.
Mr McEnaney confirmed residents were brought to Hotel Rosslare in Wexford.
However, hotel owner John Treacy said he was not aware of residents being brought to Wexford but said they were transferred to a three-star hotel in Ennis, Co Clare, which is also part of his family owned business.
He said this happened on two occasions since October for one night each time.
Mr McEnaney said he was not aware of people being brought to Ennis.
Either way, the fact remains people living within the direct provision system were moved from the hotel they were staying for an evening to make way for a private function.
Mr Treacy said his hotel was required to fulfil contracts he had with wedding parties and tour operators.
“The unfortunate thing is when we decided to take the asylum seekers in we already had bookings in before we took them so we told them we didn’t have availability on certain days because we had to be loyal to our previous bookings that are already booked in.
“There was a wedding there, deposits were paid so what am I supposed to do – go tell a happy couple that are getting married ‘I’m very sorry but I can’t take your wedding because I’ve taken this group’,” he added.
Mr Treacy said he would continue to take bookings for weddings and tour groups.
Treacys Hotel in Carrickmacross was officially opened by RTE star Francis Brennan in November 2017 .
However, in September 2018 a sink hole appeared at the nearby Magheracloone GAA club. A second hole followed in December and resulted in a number road closures in the area.
The sink holes were claimed to have been caused by supports collapsing in a local mineral mine.
The news concerned tour operators who had groups booked into the hotel.
“Unfortunately, the roads started to close. You could still get to the hotel but people started cancelling. Health and safety has to be the main priority of these travel groups so what could we do?” Mr Treacy said.
Around this time, the hotel was asked if they would take in asylum seekers while permanent accommodation was being arranged by RIA.
Mr Treacy said his company was “trying to help people out” and believes those staying in his hotel are happy with the conditions.
“The people are happy, they are happy with the area ad they love the staff there.”
The country’s direct provision system is accommodating 6,000 asylum seekers. This includes 227 people living in Cavan and Monaghan.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the service was operating at “full capacity” and “authorities are stretched”.
“The issue of direct provision is a significant challenge and I accept the current regime is far from ideal”
The Department of Justice spokesperson said: “New centres that were due to open in Moville and Rooskey have been delayed due to recent malicious events. These centres would have provided accommodation for 180 of the cohort currently in emergency accommodation.”