Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy
In a statement released tonight…
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who was the first person to inform the Department of Justice that there had been a confirmed Covid-19 case at the Travelodge in Swords, Dublin before a number of asylum seekers were moved out of the hotel to direct provision centres, including Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry in March, 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 [David] 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.”
Kerry Fianna Fáil TD Norma Foley in the Dáil this evening and Oonagh Buckley, Deputy Secretary General at the Department of Justice, linking in via video link
In the Dáil.
Fianna Fáil TD Norma Foley raised the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, at the Special Committee on the Covid-19 Response.
At least 25 residents of the Skellig Star Hotel, which was turned into a direct provision centre in March, have tested positive for Covid-19.
Ms Foley said:
“I would absolutely dispute and I will, as I get the opportunity to go on, I would absolutely dispute the fact that the residents of the hotel accommodation in [Travelodge, Swords] Dublin were not impacted by that positive diagnosis and equally so, I’m still not clear as to who overruled HSE Cork/Kerry in relation to their misgivings but I will move on.
“I note from the submission by the HSE Head of Primary Care that the HSE is of the view that the first case of suspected Covid-19 in the Skellig Star was the 30th of March.
“Now that date puzzles me as I have verifiable evidence of a written communication from the Skellig Star to the Department of Justice on the 24th of March confirming a suspected case of Covid-19.
“In fact the resident concerned was placed in isolation on March 20th, one day after arrival to Caherciveen.
“So two points, if the Department of Justice knew of a suspected case on March 24th, why is it the HSE was not aware of it until March 30th? And that’s almost a week later?
“Secondly, the timeline might not be of importance to either the HSE or the Department of Justice but it is hugely, hugely important to the resident of the Skellig Star and the community of Caherciveen.
“This timeline confirms unequivocally that Covid-19 was transported by bus on the 18th and 19th of March to the Skellig Star and the community of Caherciveen.
“I say this with absolutely no blame to the residents of Skellig Star but I do apportion absolute culpability to the HSE and the Department of Justice for not conducting the necessary Covid-19 testing prior to leaving Dublin.
“To my mind, at the very least, this was a grave oversight and, at worst, an unequivocal dereliction of duty of care to all concerned.”
Meanwhile, Ms Foley also asked if the department of Justice and HSE are aware that no professional deep-cleansing of the Skellig Star has taken place between March 18th to the present day, despite 25 confirmed cases at the hotel.
The TD said what’s been used throughout the pandemic is Mr Price Stardrops, a white vinegarette spray at €1.49 a bottle.
Earlier: “The Truth Will Out”
Sinn Fein TD Matt Carthy and Ms Buckley had this exchange:
Matt Carthy: “Could I ask for specific numbers, as quickly as possible, because time is running out, of the number of residents that are currently sharing bedrooms with non-family members?”
Oonagh Buckley: “There’s approximately 1,700 sharing bedrooms…”
Carthy: “How many would be sharing, how many non-family members would be sharing toilet facilities?”
Buckley: “Substantially more.”
Carthy: “We don’t have a number?”
Buckley: “In effect, you could say, that anybody who is not in own-door accommodation, which is about a quarter of our population, is almost certainly either sharing cooking or toilet facilities.”
Carthy: “And would that include shower facilities, washing facilities…”
Buckley: “That is a requirement of our centres.”
Carthy: “Ok, and do you get that there’s a problem there?”
Carthy: “In the event of an outbreak of Covid-19.”
Buckley: “…my statement. We know there are weaknesses in the system, we would like to improve it but we’re trying to manage our system in the middle of a pandemic so we have to, we are trying to manage the best we can with a system that we know isn’t fit for purpose and we know it needs to change.”