Advertisement

We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

RollingNews.ie
THE MORNING LEAD

Millions spent on security at asylum seeker centre where staff were 'unvetted' and 'paid cash'

A January 2023 report found there was “no vetting in place for staff” and that the majority of workers had around “three months of experience in this field”.

THE GOVERNMENT IS paying millions per year for security at an asylum seeker centre in Dublin, but a number of the staff who worked there were not always garda vetted and did not always hold appropriate licences.

A report in January 2023 found that a number of staff at the Citywest centre did not have a licence from the Private Security Authority (PSA) of Ireland. Anyone who works as a security or enforcement guard in Ireland must have a PSA licence.

The risk assessment report, which was commissioned by the firm running the security operation at Citywest, also found that some staff were “clearly unsuitable” to be working at the centre.

Sabre Risk Management (Sabre), the private investigation firm that carried out the risk assessment which the Department of Integration received, said some staff were hired and managed by a subcontractor.

The security system in place at Citywest came under scrutiny at the end of March when footage appeared to show an asylum seeker being held down by two staff members at the centre, while another punched him in the head repeatedly.

The Department of Integration identified the workers as security personnel. It said that an investigation is ongoing, and that two of the security workers who appeared in the clip are “no longer” working at Citywest.

A spokesperson for the department told The Journal that it is currently drafting a new tender for security services at Citywest.

In its report following a site visit and speaking with workers, Sabre said in January 2023 that “80%” of the staff carrying out security duties at Citywest did not have a PSA licence and that the majority were not garda-vetted at that time. It also said that some staff were being “paid cash every Friday”.

The Department of Integration, in multiple statements, has said that it has never been aware of a subcontractor being involved in the security service at Citywest. It also told The Journal that it has been “assured” by the contracted firm that there are no staff working there without PSA licences and garda-vetting “at minimum”.

The Department of Integration also said that the PSA audited the company in April of this year and found no issues.

“The company furnishes named security guards for the hours rostered on their monthly invoices to the department. DCEDIY, have in the past and again more recently, requested and received confirmation from the security company that it is compliant with the Garda vetting and PSE licensing requirements in relation to its function in [Citywest],” a spokesperson for the department said.

Investigation

The Sabre report, seen by The Journal, outlined how subcontractors were used at the site. It found that one subcontractor who is no longer operating at Citywest was running the “night shift” at the centre at that time, and that a “large percentage” of the staff were being “paid in cash…every Friday”.

The report said that that subcontractor organised a “large group of family and friends travelling to Dublin from Ballinasloe every evening and then returning to Dublin the next morning”. The investigator said that this had created a “nepotism” situation and a “closing of ranks”. It further said that workers who were “claiming to be facilities staff… go on to describe themselves carrying out security duties”.

It said that there was “no vetting in place for staff” and that the majority of workers had around “three months of experience in this field”.

The report said that the centre was operating under pressure due to overcrowding, and that due to a shortage of mattresses, some asylum seekers were buying their own from Dunnes Stores.

It also found that staff were being paid between €9 and €14 per hour, and that the majority of staff claimed to work three shifts or less per week. Sabre also found that there was no clock-in system in place for these staff, no handover between shifts, and no formal security system.

The original contract awarded to Superior Group provided for daytime staff to be paid €19.50 an hour, a floor manager to be paid €25.50 per hour, and for floor marshalls to be paid €22.50 per hour. Night time security staff were contracted at the same rate.

It is not clear what contractual arrangements existed between the subcontractor and workers.

The Journal understands that a number of staff subcontracted by a contractor who was paid approximately €40,000 each week from late spring-time 2023 up until mid-March of this year, continued to work in the centre until March 2024.

The risk assessment report that the Department was sent identified this person as one of the people on site at Citywest who was paying staff “in cash”.

Roles of security staff

In a separate issue, the report’s authors discovered that staff were seen to be “hand-picking and selecting the refugees to leave the centre”.

It recommended that Department officials should be in charge of selecting who is to be transferred out of the centre – to alternative accommodation.

The Department has said that it was never the case that security personnel were involved in choosing who was transferred out of the centre to other accommodation.

“Security staff assisted the floor manager in collecting documentation from residents which were then brought to International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) staff to make “the final selection”,” a spokesperson for the department said.

However, they also said a new bed management system was put in place in August of last year, which sees IPAS staff only overseeing transfers.

“Citywest Facilities Management have conducted regular risk assessments and have not identified any issues with the new bed management procedures,” a department spokesperson added in response to questions about whether issues had been raised since January 2023. 

“As part of the operation at CityWest transit hub, full site and risk assessments are conducted on a regular basis,” they also said. 

Multi-million-euro contract

The Department signed a contract worth €2.5 million annually with a Co Monaghan based firm called Superior Group for security services at Citywest in the summer of 2022.

That contract is now worth substantially more due to an increase in the number of people living at the centre presenting a need for further security personnel. The department paid Superior €174,619 in May 2022 for a month’s worth of services, but paid the firm over €350,000 in March 2024 for the same.

A company called Superior IRL provided security services for the HSE when it ran a Covid centre, and a vaccination centre at Citywest.

The former directors of that company, Fiona and Vincent Dullaghan, are now both directors of a Northern Ireland-based company called Superior Holdings NI.

In the summer of 2022 the Department of Integration awarded a contract to Superior Group for security services at the Citywest transit hub for asylum seekers. There was no tender process, as accommodation was being sought on an emergency basis.

The address for the company on the contract was the same as that of the Republic-based company, in Carrickmacross Co Monaghan. The Department has been paying invoices from Superior NI Group since the start of the contract in June 2022.

Originally, Fiona and Vincent Dullaghan from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, were co-directors of Superior Group IRL. They both resigned from their posts one year ago, and Rory McMullan was appointed as director.

Superior Group IRL last publicly filed an annual return in 2021 for the year previous. At that time, it had €581,000 cash in hand, more than double the previous year.

Superior Group IRL’s assets were valued at €1.4 million, and it had just over €112,000 in a profit and loss account. The name of the company was changed to Fire Safety Security Advantages in 2022, two months after the Dullaghans resigned as directors.

Superior Group NI was incorporated in 2019 in Northern Ireland. While Fiona Dullaghan was originally a director of the Northern Irish company, and listed as the person with significant control, Vincent was later appointed as co-director in September 2022.

The company was dormant in its first year. Its financial statement for the year ending 1 January 2023 shows that it had €911,154 in a profit and loss account, and €1,686,000 cash in hand, up from €438,000 and €1,317,000 respectively. The number of employees at the company rose from 12 in the year ending January 2022 to 47.

Requests for comment from Fiona and Vincent Dullaghan, Superior Group Holdings NI and the subcontractor have gone unanswered.