‘Unacceptable’ that Cahersiveen direct provision staff not Garda vetted

Department official tells Oireachtas committee Co Kerry facility now properly resourced

A number of TDs raised the controversy over the transfer of more than 100 asylum seekers from Dublin to the Skelligs Star hotel in Cahersiveen where 24 Covid-19 cases were identified. Photograph:  Google maps

A number of TDs raised the controversy over the transfer of more than 100 asylum seekers from Dublin to the Skelligs Star hotel in Cahersiveen where 24 Covid-19 cases were identified. Photograph: Google maps

 

It was “unacceptable” that a number of staff at a direct provision centre in Co Kerry had not been Garda vetted in advance of the arrival of asylum seekers from Dublin, the Department of Justice has admitted.

Deputy secretary general Oonagh Buckley said that all 15 staff at the Cahersiveen centre have now been vetted and all had undergone training with Tusla, the child and family agency.

Ms Buckley told Sinn Féin Kerry TD Pa Daly that it was brought to the department’s attention last Wednesday that employees at the centre had not been vetted.

She was responding during a hearing on Tuesday of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee which is investigating the State’s response to the pandemic.

During a session on direct provision the committee was also told that only between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the 160 healthcare workers confirmed as living in direct provision, had opted for alternative accommodation to minimise their risk of community transmission.

These healthcare workers would have been granted approval to stay in the State but remain in direct provision because they cannot afford private rental accommodation.

A number of TDs raised the controversy over the transfer of more than 100 asylum seekers from Dublin to the Skelligs Star hotel in Cahersiveen where 24 Covid-19 cases were identified.

Ms Buckley said that as soon as the department was informed that staff might not have been vetted they immediately contacted the Garda vetting unit.

She said it was the employer’s obligation, in this case the hotel owners, to ensure Garda vetting was done. “It is also part of our governance structures and we have to ensure that it is done.” She added that “all staff who need to be Garda-vetted have been Garda-vetted as of Monday”.

Mr Daly asked had any of the staff been vetted or done Tusla training, amid claims at the committee that only inexperienced staff were operating at the centre.

Ms Buckley said one of the management resigned in the first week that asylum seekers moved from Dublin to Cahersiveen but the manager now in place “is a very experienced centre manager” and the department was happy that it was now properly resourced.

She acknowledged that “it was an unacceptable thing that happened”, that Garda vetting had not been done. She said that some of the staff had previously been vetted for other centres but not for Cahersiveen.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil Kerry TD Norma Foley said a resident of the centre was placed in isolation on March 20th, one day after arrival in Kerry.

She said she had verifiable evidence that the department was informed on March 24th.

Ms Buckley said she would like to see the verifiable evidence because they could not establish the department had any knowledge of a case before March 30th “when a centre manager reported to our daily helpline that he had one case of a person self-isolating”.