Skellig Star accommodation centre to host Ukrainian refugees

Arrivals of refugees at centre in Kerry to begin on Tuesday, local community told

A controversial accommodation centre in Cahersiveen, west Kerry, is to host Ukrainian refugees, local representatives have been informed.

The Skellig Star Hotel, 60km from Killarney, was at the centre of controversy in March 2020 when it suddenly opened as a direct-provision centre and more than 100 people seeking asylum were transferred from other direct-provision centres in Dublin at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There was an outbreak of the virus shortly after their arrival. After several protests involving both residents and locals, it was closed as a direct-provision centre in September and the residents were transferred out.

Suggestions that it would reopening as a centre were rejected last year by the Department of Justice, which was then the main accommodation agency for asylum seekers.

Fianna Fáil councillor Norma Moriarty said she had received confirmation from Minister for Education Norma Foley that the centre would be used for Ukrainian refugees after enquiring about increased activity around the hotel this weekend.

The 56-bed hotel and its 30 apartments, which have now been completed, would be suitable “if lessons are learned”, Cllr Moriarty said.

However, Covid-19 was still of concern and the community in Cahersiveen would like to be reassured there would be no overcrowding, she added.

The community had no real details yet, except the first people were arriving on Tuesday.

Schools

There would be plenty of room in primary and secondary schools in Cahersiveen and the children would be warmly welcomed as schools need extra pupils, Ms Moriarty said.

“The one area under strain will be health,” she added.

Cahersiveen and the wider area has just three GPs, and they are exhausted after the demands of Covid-19. “We will need extra resources in health,” the councillor said.

Richie O’Connell, chairman of the Cahersiveen Chamber Alliance, representing businesses in the Iveragh town, said “there is great support for Ukraine in this town and people want to help”.

The Killarney Valley Hotel in Fossa outside Killarney, as well as the 3Lakes Hostel in Killarney town, a sister premises, are also to become centres for Ukrainian refugees, closing to guests after St Patrick’s weekend, it has emerged.

A third hotel, elsewhere in the county , is also understood to be finalising a contract , which in the case of the Killarney premises is for six months with option to extend.