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The D Hotel Leon Farrell

'The best solution': Taoiseach says Government wants to see a dual-use model used for D Hotel

The Taoiseach described the protest in the town at the weekend as a far-right protest.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR told the Dáil today that he believes a dual-use model for the D Hotel in Drogheda will be the best solution for the town. 

This would mean the hotel would be used for both tourist accommodation and international protection seeker accommodation.

His comments come after the hotel made headlines last week when it was announced it would house around 500 asylum seekers as part of a two-year contract with the Department of Integration.

The Taoiseach confirmed that Minister for Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman would meet the Drogheda Chamber of Commerce today and will tomorrow meet with local councillors. 

“If at all possible we want to use a dual-use model for the D Hotel,” the Taoiseach said. 

“It’s done in my constituency, it’s done in Dundalk. It can be done. We think that’s the best solution.

“We aren’t sure the operator will fully co-operate and there may be issues around child protection and so on. I’m sure those things can be sorted out,” the Taoiseach said. 

On Saturday, around 300 people protested over the loss of the hotel and the arrival of 500 international protection seekers, however local politicians asked members of the public to avoid the protest which was organised by the far-right Irish Freedom Party. 

A post on the Irish Freedom Party’s website promoting the protest said: “We don’t wish to colonise other people’s countries so why should they be allowed to colonise Ireland?”

TDs for the area have attempted to separate concerns about the hotel being used to house international protection seekers from concerns relating to the loss of tourist accommodation in the town and the potential economic impact this might have. 

Raising the issue in the Dáil today, Labour TD Ged Nash said the arrangement between the hotel and the Department of Integration needs to be reexamined.

Nash said the town of Drogheda has a “long and proud history of social solidarity, tolerance and pluralism and that continues” and he asked the Taoiseach for his views on a dual-use model for the hotel.

The Louth TD said for the vast majority of the people in Drogheda the issue has only ever been about the loss of hotel beds. 

“Here is the evidence, on Saturday the far-right organised a protest in my hometown. 300 people attended.

The important point is 41,000 Droghedians didn’t.

“The economic impact of this decision is very real and evidence shows a loss of €5.4m in revenue locally. There needs to be a mitigation package,” Nash said.

In response, the Taoiseach said he has a “personal affection” for Drogheda because his father worked in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital when he first moved to Ireland. 

He said he does understand where the people of Drogheda are coming from with their concerns and he thanked the three Drogheda-based TDs (Nash, Imelda Munster and Fergus O’Dowd) and Drogheda councillors for the approach they have taken. 

He said Drogheda Borough councillors are a “credit to their town”.

“I know it’s a welcoming town to migrants,” the Taoiseach said.

“And finally, I heard about the protest. And I understand that during the protest people from the town were asked to come up to speak and they couldn’t find very many. I think that says a lot.” 

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd also raised the issue in the Dáil today as did Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster. 

Munster told the Dáil that local representatives were not consulted on the decision until after the contract was signed. 

She asked when a decision will be made on a dual-use model and asked why such a model was not planned from the beginning. 

“I presume you’re not just stringing people along in Drogheda,” she said. 

In response, the Taoiseach said he thinks a dual-use model can be put in place and he acknowledged that “perhaps that’s what should have been done in the first place”.

With reporting by Charlie Byrne


Clarification: In an earlier version of this article, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was quoted as saying, “I understand that during the protest people from the town were asked to come up to speak and they couldn’t find anybody.” However, it was an incorrect transcription, and what he said was, “I understand that during the protest people from the town were asked to come up to speak and they couldn’t find very many.”

A video of the protest, watched by The Journal, includes a small number of speakers who identify themselves as either local residents or local candidates for the June elections.