By Kieran O’Mahony
A WELL-known landmark hotel in Macroom is to become a home for asylum seekers for the next few months.
The Riverside Park Hotel closed suddenly last week and around 30 people, made up of families – some with schoolgoing children, moved into the hotel last Thursday week.
It is expected more families will arrive this week to stay in the hotel rooms which have been leased by the Department of Justice for approximately three months, under what appears to be new management in the hotel.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice confirmed that no new direct provision accommodation centre has opened in Macroom.
‘The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has sought expressions of interest for emergency temporary accommodation which was advertised in the national media in January of this year,’ a statement said.
‘The advertisement sought bed and board in hotels and guesthouses on a 12-24 week basis. This advertisement has led to a number of emergency locations being used on a short term basis,’ it added. The Department also said that it does not divulge the location details of emergency accommodation.
It is understood that with other direct provision centres at full capacity, emergency temporary accommodation is now being sought to cope with the demand.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan also said the big ‘stand out’ feature was the lack of information from the State authorities about the plans. ‘People here in Macroom recognise that these people are coming from distressed situations and there’s an openess to help them. But they do feel that the government authorities haven’t been forthcoming with information ... and locals are being kept in the dark by a government that is fond of spin and PR normally,’ said Deputy Moynihan.
Cllr Eileen Lynch (FG) agreed that the initial lack of information or consultation was a problem. ‘Now that information is forthcoming the reaction is positive from the locals, and people realise that these families are fleeing their own countries and didn’t choose to come to Macroom,’ said Cllr Lynch, who also confirmed that the hotel was not being used for emergency accommodation for homeless Irish families, as originally believed.
Meanwhile, a group known as Macroom Friends of Asylum Seekers has been set up by locals to offer support to the asylum seekers.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Síle Ní Dhubhghaill said that there was a lot of unpleasant commentary online, so they decided to set up a Facebook page to counteract it and do something positive. ‘We called into the hotel on Monday and left our contact details with them in case any of the families need our help with anything from translation to basic stuff.’
Síle added they will welcome anyone to the group and they plan to hold some events for the families in the coming weeks. ‘We have already had offers of toys and prams from people and we will co-ordinate all these with the families in the hotel.’
In 2001, the hotel – then called Lynch’s Lodge Hotel – had been earmarked by the Department of Justice as a direct provision centre but, following a legal challenge by locals, this didn’t materialise.
Far right UK activist Katie Hopkins tweeted earlier this week about the hotel accommodating asylum seekers but she removed the controversial tweet following an online backlash.
Organisers of the Crowley Clan Gathering event that was due to take place in the hotel next month were informed recently that the venue is no longer available, and it will now take place at the nearby Castle Hotel. At time of going to press, there was no comment available from local minister Michael Creed’s office.