D Hotel rules out accommodating both asylum seekers and tourists

Drogheda hotel rejects ‘dual use’ plan after Taoiseach describes it as ‘the best solution’ for the town

The D Hotel in Drogheda has said it will not be possible “for child protection reasons” for the facility to have a “dual use”, whereby it accommodates both asylum seekers and tourists.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil on Wednesday that “it can be done” and would be “the best solution” for the town.

The Fine Gael leader also said full co-operation with the hotel operator was needed and any issues that might arise with child safety and protection had to be addressed. Mr Varadkar said there could be possible “additional finance” for community facilities in Drogheda.

However, a spokesman for the hotel said on Wednesday evening that “dual use of the hotel is not possible for child protection reasons”.

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It is understood talks took place between the D Hotel and Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman on Wednesday. Privately, hotel sources have expressed surprise that the issue is still on the table, describing it as “bananas”.

The hotel is also understood to harbour concerns around “dignity and privacy”, adding that much of its customer base is made up of families.

It emerged earlier this month that the D Hotel will be converted into an accommodation centre for up to 500 international protection (IP) applicants from March 5th.

In a statement released by the owners of the hotel – referred to as Fairkeep Ltd – they confirmed they had “entered into an agreement” with the Department of Integration for the housing of IP applicants for the next two years.

The D Hotel is Drogheda’s largest hotel, with 113 beds.

The Taoiseach was responding to concerns from Labour TD Ged Nash and Fergus O’Dowd of Fine Gael, who both represent the constituency of Louth.

Mr Varadkar said he knew Drogheda was a welcoming town to migrants and understood people’s concerns. He said Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman was meeting the town’s Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday and would also talk to local councillors on Thursday.

He said the Government wanted “a dual-use option” and that it had already been done in his own constituency of Dublin West as well as Dundalk. “It can be done, we think that’s the best solution, we’re not sure the operator will fully co-operate and there may be issues around child protection and so on,” he added.

“I’m sure those things can be sorted out… and that would be the best option, the best outcome for Drogheda.”

Mr Nash said Drogheda would lose 56 per cent of its tourism hotel beds in March. He said the nature of the Department of Integration’s arrangement with the hotel must be re-examined and the economic impact of the decision was “very real”, with a loss of €5.4 million in local revenue.

He said there needed to be a mitigation package and the vast majority of the town were only and ever concerned about “the loss of key hotel beds”.

Mr O’Dowd said the people of Drogheda were extremely angry and concerned they were losing their only remaining functioning hotel. “They are more than willing to play their part but this is not acceptable, they are losing a resource that is essential,” he said. “The policy is wrong and seen as arrogant and uncaring right now.”

The Fine Gael TD added that he knew the Minister wanted to do what was best, but that “this is the wrong way to deal with the problem”.

“It’s giving a voice to those who are extremists in our community and we need urgent, immediate and effective resolution of the problem,” he said.

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