‘Hopeless’ hundred in Direct Provision in Co Clare spend third night in sub-zero conditions

Authorities are scrambling to cope with sub-zero temperatures, while flights cancelled in Dublin and drivers warned

Around 100 people living in tents at a Direct Provision centre in Co Clare spent their third night of sub-zero temperatures on Friday night with “raw” winter conditions set to continue this weekend and into next week.

Ireland will remain in the grip of an Arctic air mass in days to come, with no great thaw expected to follow the lifting of some cold, ice and snow warnings on Saturday.

Outreach workers in contact with the international protection applicants said a sense of “hopelessness” was beginning to set in amid poor conditions, though a small number were moved to alternative accommodation on Friday.

With temperatures expected to dip below minus 4 degrees at Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre on Sunday night, the heating system for the tents is understood to have malfunctioned several times in recent weeks.


Of 103 residents, six were moved to alternative housing on Friday, with others due to follow in coming days, the department responsible for the issue told The Irish Times.

Most of the men who had to spend the night in tents in the Knockalisheen had not slept, according to Eugene Quinn, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service.

About twenty had gone into the main reception building at the centre and spent the night in recreation rooms there. The rest has slept in tents in the sub-zero temperatures.

One man he met “I could see the bags under his eyes and the tiredness. He was kind of wan looking and just cold and tired. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty as well because they don’t know when they are going to leave, and where they are going to go to,” Mr Quinn told the Saturday with Colm O’Mongain programme on RTÉ Radio.

“Most of the men that I spoke to said they had barely slept last night... Most of them had wrapped themselves in the clothes they had.”

Ten men who were to be moved to indoor accommodation on Friday had to spend the night in the tents when the move of one group of five to Dublin was cancelled, and the plan to move another group five to Waterford was cancelled when the bus could not travel because of the weather conditions.

Minister of State for Local Government and Housing Peter Burke said the Government was examining six barracks around the country for their suitability for modular housing as part of the response to the crisis arising from the large numbers coming to the State seeking international protection and to escape the war in Ukraine.

Sinead Gibney, chief commissioner with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), said the conditions in the Knockalisheen centre were not acceptable and that the organisation was examining whether they reached a threshold where they constituted a breach of human rights law.

She said there was a “two tier system” in place in terms of the treatment of people from Ukraine and non-white people seeking international protection.

However, the results of a new IHREC survey showed that nine out of ten Irish people were supportive of the equal treatment of migrants and those seeking international protection.

Some people were trying to use the crisis over accommodating migrants and refugees to “seed division and sow hatred” but the statistics showed that most people welcomed diversity, she said. She called on the Government to move the international protection system out of “crisis mode” and to pro-activity combat racism.

Meanwhile, the weather caused disruption to air and road travel with another 50 flights through Dublin Airport cancelled on Saturday.

Dublin Airport operators DAA refused to rule out more flights being grounded in the run-up to Christmas because of the cold snap.

“All surfaces will continue to be monitored throughout the night, with the team on standby to provide further treatments if and when required,” media relations manager Graeme McQueen said on Friday night.

Nevertheless, uncertainty remains, with passengers intending to fly from the airport in the coming days advised to check for updates with airlines.

In a Twitter post on Saturday morning, DAA said “all surfaces at the airport - runways, aprons etc - were pre-emptively treated through the night. daa’s teams were on hand in the terminals overnight to help passengers seeking to rebook their cancelled journeys from Friday, providing water etc to those waiting at airline desks.”

On Friday, Aer Lingus and Ryanair said they cancelled a small number of flights as ground crews toiled to get planes in the air.

There looks to be little reprieve ahead. Although some limited snow, ice and freezing fog warnings for various parts of the country are due to expire at noon today, there is no indication of major change.

Met Éireann said the country would remain wintry and “raw” in the days ahead, although with little expectation of widespread heavy snow.

The ongoing conditions have been swept in by a south-moving Arctic air mass, ensuring daytime temperatures struggle to reach low single figures.

Counties Donegal and Mayo face the prospect of snow on Saturday. Meteorologist Paul Downes said showers could be “intense” and there was “definitely a need to be careful on the roads, especially back roads”.

Saturday’s daytime temperatures will remain around freezing, climbing only to highs of plus 4, although with generally dry conditions and low winter sunshine. Around Dublin, freezing fog will loiter.

Things do not look much better for Sunday, with temperatures unlikely to rise much above freezing. “It really is quite raw conditions,” Mr Downes said.

Monday could even see temperatures dip to as low as minus 6, but minus 2 will be more typical. Not much let-up in the cold is expected until at least next weekend.

Met Éireann also warned that, while unusual in Ireland, freezing rain can sometimes occur, converting to dangerous, invisible black ice when it hits a surface, sometimes taking on the deceptive appearance of a wet surface.

Carlow Weather, the popular amateur forecaster, noted there would be “very little thaw now over the next seven days which will lead to frozen pipes. If you have turned off heating in areas, keep an eye or also attics etc.”

The country has scrambled to deal with the cold snap. Dublin City Council gritted more than 300km of roads on Thursday night into Friday morning and, with operations ongoing, had stocked about 1,800 tonnes of gritting salt in storage units across four city depots.

Amid warnings of freezing fog, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) issued driving advice, appealing to motorists to slow down, keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead and use fog lights.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times