State spends more than €100,000 guarding empty Donegal hotel

The Moville hotel, earmarked to open as a direct provision centre, was target of arson

The Caiseal Mara Hotel in Moville following the arson attack last November. Photograph: Aoife Moore/PA Wire

The Caiseal Mara Hotel in Moville following the arson attack last November. Photograph: Aoife Moore/PA Wire

 

An estimated €108,000 in State funding has been spent since January on security services at an empty hotel in Co Donegal earmarked to open as a direct-provision centre.

The Department of Justice funded 24-hour security services at the Caiseal Mara Hotel in the village of Moville on the Inishowen peninsula which was set to open as a direct-provision centre earlier this year.

The hotel, where about 100 asylum seekers are still due to be housed, was severely damaged in November 2018 following an arson attack.

Invoices released to The Irish Times under Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts show the contractor selected to run the direct-provision centre requested payments of €36,614 over a 10-week period in early 2019. The fortnightly bills were between €7,169 and €7,749 each between late January and early April 2019. to cover the cost of employing 24-hour security staff.

Invoices from Orbit Security in Letterkenny to the contractor Bridgestock Care Limited show the company charged about €3,616 per week.

Emails released under FOI show the department agreed to reimburse Bridgestock up to €5,000 per week for the cost of securing the hotel.

Correspondence dated December 2018 reveals Bridgestock chief executive Michael Gillen warned the amount of work needed on the hotel following the fire had caused “huge frustration and delays in trying to get things done”. Mr Gillen wrote that the owner of the hotel had requested that no works take place until the insurance claim assessment for the fire damage was completed. He noted that 12 staff had already been recruited and trained to work in the centre and warned of “everyday costs” that had arisen since December 4th.

Anxiety

At the time, the contractor expressed confidence that the centre could still receive its first residents by the end of February and open in full by the end of March subject to insurance costs. However, Mr Gillen underlined the company’s “anxiousness with the current state of affairs” and requested that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) confirm that it was “fully on board” and that the Bridgestock contract would remain in place.

He noted the owner of the hotel, Ciaran McKenna, was “hugely stressed and frustrated” following the arson attack and the McKenna family wanted confirmation that “the plan” for Caiseal Mara was still going ahead. Mr Gillen said the company would have to renegotiate the lease/buy option on the property once the insurance issue was settled as the cost of making the property “fit for purpose” had escalated significantly follow the fire.

In an earlier email written the day after the fire, Mr Gillen noted locals were “generally ashamed” by the attack and were “more galvanised than ever in wanting to ensure that the centre actually opens and that the centre guests receive a warm welcome”.

By the end of 2018, Bridgestock had received a total of €97 million in payments since 2000 to run direct-provision centres, including €5.8 million last year. It currently operates two centres in Co Mayo and Sligo town.

A spokesman for the department confirmed that the Caiseal Mara hotel remains unoccupied but is scheduled to open as a direct-provision centre in due course.

The cost of supplying accommodation to asylum seekers is expected to exceed more than €100 million this year because of the use of an additional 30 emergency accommodation centres which have opened in recent months. Direct-provision services usually costs €78 million a year and have topped €1.25 billion since 2001.

There are currently 6,212 people living in direct-provision centres across Ireland, with an additional 1,087 people staying in emergency accommodation.