Minister for equality Roderic O’Gorman ignored a report of dire conditions in refugee accommodation in Letterkenny, county Donegal.
The Ditch late last week reported on this accommodation where tenants are forced to share a makeshift kitchen exposed to flowing rainwater, which runs over sockets before forming puddles on the floor.
Green Party minister O’Gorman was first made aware of issues in the centre in July 2022 when his private secretary acknowledged an email describing conditions there. Staff in tanáiste Leo Varadkar’s office later directed O’Gorman to respond to a further report in early September.
O’Gorman didn’t do so.
‘A further reply will issue as soon as possible’ – (it didn’t)
Roderic O’Gorman’s Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth manages accommodation for all refugees and those seeking asylum in Ireland. The department’s International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) oversees its own accommodation centres, emergency accommodation and the still-enduring Direct Provision.
Green Party TD O’Gorman on 19 July, 2022 received a report from Letterkenny, Donegal activist Kelly Bonner describing one of these centres “where we currently have 40 males in one house sleeping in children's bunk beds”.
“The place is severely overcrowded, a safety hazard and completely inhumane,” she wrote.
The centre is in Mount Southwell, Letterkenny and was the subject of a Ditch report last Friday. The manager of the centre, Declan McGettigan, told The Ditch, “Everything's up to date through IPAS.”
O’Gorman’s private secretary responded to Bonner on 20 July, 2022, writing “on behalf of Roderic O’Gorman TD, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth”.
The secretary acknowledged receipt of Bonner’s mail and wrote, “Your correspondence is receiving attention and a further reply will issue as soon as possible.”
No further reply was issued.
Another local activist later emailed tanáiste Leo Varadkar when conditions had worsened in the centre. Where once the approximately 40 tenants were forced to share one kitchen between them, now the accommodation provider had installed what is effectively an outdoor kitchen for the men to share.
In this 5 September mail the activist warned Varadkar of the health and safety risks posed by this new kitchen with, as video obtained by The Ditch shows, exposed plug sockets covered in rainwater.
“Sadly some of the conditions the most recent asylum seekers have had to face have been seriously lacking. An example of this is those living in Mount Southwell where nearly 40 men are living, sleeping in unsuitable bunk beds, with until recently one kitchen. A new kitchen has been built which is a health and safety hazard,” reads the email.
On receipt of this mail Varadkar’s private secretary forwarded it to O’Gorman’s department. “For attention and direct reply please,” read the mail.
O’Gorman’s office didn’t respond.
Activist Kelly Bonner in her first mail to O’Gorman wrote that all she was seeking was a heads up on conditions locally “so we can volunteer and help as much as we can in a positive way”.
“Anything you can do to help these poor people,” she wrote, “and also to help us, as a community, to help them integrate and at the very least be in a safe, humane space while their application is being processed" would've been appreciated.
O’Gorman declined to comment to The Ditch.