'Disregard for garda vetting' at Cahirciveen direct provision centre

The Skellig Star hotel in Cahirciveen.
By Michael Clifford

One of the main companies running direct provision centres had complete disregard for garda vetting of staff at one of its centres, according to documents seen by the Irish Examiner.

Townbe, the management company owned by businessman, Paul Collins, wrote to the manager of the Skellig Star hotel in Cahirciveen last March, days before the hotel opened as a direct provision centre. The manager of the hotel had expressed concerns that the staff to be employed at the centre were not garda vetted, as required.

“We will get them vetted asap,” the Townbe representative emailed back. “But for the moment run with those staff as I can’t see that the vetting will matter too much.” Townbe runs direct provision centres in Dublin and Leitrim as well as the Skellig Star.

The centre at Cahirciveen has been mired in controversy since it opened in mid-March and suffered an outbreak of Covid 19 in the weeks that followed.

On May 21 the Irish Examiner reported that almost two months after 100 asylum seekers had moved into the centre over half the staff had not been garda vetted. It is understood that all staff are now vetted. However, further inaccurate information was provided last week by the Department of Justice to politicians about garda vetting.

Members of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee have been told that once the issue around vetting was discovered in the Skellig Star, any staff who were not vetted were kept off-site until their situation was regularised. According to staff rosters from the period in question, this information is wholly inaccurate.

The vetting issue is one of a number raised by Oireachtas committee members which have received inaccurate responses from the Department of Justice.

The department wrote that “the group manager (of Townbe Ltd) provided on site training to the Skellig Star manager prior to the centre opening and ongoing management support after the centre was in operation.” The Irish Examiner has established that the manager of the hotel did not receive training either before the centre opened or during the remainder of her tenure as manager until she resigned her position six weeks later.

The committee was also told that the initial compliment of 15 staff has previously worked in the hotel. Five of the staff has experience in the hotel, the remainder were recruited specifically for the direct provision centre.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith, a member of the committee, has written to the committee secretary to express concerns about the information supplied by the department to it.

“My fear is that the information provided here in inaccurate,” she wrote. “It suggests the department is not checking the source of the information or worst simply taking at face value the replies provided to them by the service provider." Messages left for Mr Collins had received no reply at the time of going to print.

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