Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy TD, today once again raised the issue of the group of asylum seekers which was moved from a Travelodge facility in Swords to the Skellig Star hotel in Cahersiveen. She said that Minister Charlie Flanagan had told her a few weeks ago that the first his Department had heard of the confirmed case in Swords before the group was moved was when her office contacted the Department to ask about the circumstances. The Minister had told her he would contact her with further information, but she said so far this had not occurred.
Catherine Murphy TD said:
“The information that came to me in late April is that despite a confirmed Covid case presenting in a group of flight-crew trainees who were sharing the Travelodge facility with asylum seekers, those asylum seekers were moved on, at short notice, on the 18th and 19th of March to a number of centres including the Skellig Star. This was done without testing or contact tracing. When I asked why the Department would have moved a large group, who had potentially been exposed to a confirmed case, across the country at a time when public health advice was for people to stay home and not head off to holiday homes etc, the Department’s reply to me was that the move was made to ‘de-risk’ the people. Yet it is my understanding that also immediately upon moving the large group, another group was moved into the Swords hotel, again without testing, and that within a short period of time a number of staff members in the hotel became ill with Covid.
“I asked Minister Stanton if this was indeed the case during a discussion in the Dáil a number of weeks ago and he confirmed to me that his Department had not been aware of any confirmed cases before the Department moved the group and that he would follow-up with me on the question as to whether or not a second group were then moved into the Swords hotel. Today it was confirmed to me that a second group was indeed moved into the Swords hotel which seems to undermine the Department’s argument that the original group was moved to ‘de-risk’ them.
“There are obviously serious questions regarding the communications process between the HSE – who you would assume were aware of the confirmed case of Covid in Swords prior to the group being moved on the 18th and 19th of March – and the Department of Justice who, it appears, were not made aware that the group had potentially been exposed before the Department moved them to other centres. I also need to understand if, as the Department stated in their reply to me in early April, the group was moved to ‘de-risk’ them, why a decision would be taken to move another group into the same facility very soon afterwards.”
During the exchange the officials from the Department were unable to provide answers to many of the questions posed by Deputy Murphy and have guaranteed to revert with further information to her queries.
26th May 2020