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File photo of Mosney direct provision centre in Co Meath Alamy Stock Photo
Immigration

Hotels, state bodies and Direct Provision: The companies behind Ireland's refugee housing sector

More than €2 billion was paid by the Government on the sector last year.

MORE THAN 30 private companies were paid over €10 million by the Government for accommodating Ukrainians and asylum seekers last year, a significant increase on 2022.

Figures published by the Department of Integration for 2023 show that almost €1.8 billion was paid to more than 850 companies, charities and state bodies for accommodating refugees and International Protection (IP) applicants last year.

The list of those who received payments includes international hotel operators, small B&Bs, homeless charities, private developers, real estate companies, catering businesses, security providers and companies involved in running Direct Provision centres.

Despite a pledge by the Government to end Direct Provision within its lifetime, last year saw companies which run DP centres collectively paid more than €130 million.

The figures reflect the Government’s struggle to find accommodation for tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge in Ireland over the past two years.

The Journal recently reported how the spend on housing new arrivals has doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels, amid a record number of IP applicants and more than 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine coming to Ireland since the start of 2022.

Data from the Department of Justice, which oversaw the housing of IP applicants before 2020, shows that just over 60 companies were contracted by the Government for IP accommodation in 2019, with only two earning more than €10 million that year.

But an analysis of over 9,000 payments by the Department of Integration last year shows that 859 companies were contracted to provide accommodation last year, 32 of which received over €10 million.

Details of payments over €20,000 made by the department are published on its website every quarter, with figures for the last three months of 2023 released last week.

The total value of payments for 2023 published on the department’s website was €1.79 billion, though a spokesperson said that a total of €2.1 billion was spent last year.

The department explained that the disparity was down to the exclusion of payments less than €20,000 and payments to reimburse local authorities that provided accommodation.

The highest-paid company was Cape Wrath Hotel Unlimited, the operator of the Citywest Hotel in Dublin, which received more than €67 million from the department in 2023.

The company is a subsidiary of the investment group Tetrarch Capital, which also part-owns the Mount Juliet Hotel in Kilkenny and Howth Castle in Dublin.

By comparison, Cape Wrath was paid just €2.67 million by the department for accommodation in 2022.

Its most recently filed accounts, for the year 2021, show it made a loss of almost €4 million before it received nearly €70 million from the government over the next two years.

The largest individual payment in 2023 was worth €7.66 million and was made last March to Cromey Limited, a Cork-based company which formed in 2021 as a merger of operations associated with IP accommodation provider Millstreet Equestrian Services.

That was almost €3 million higher than the biggest payment in 2022, which was €4.8 million paid to J Junior Services Unlimited Company, whose directors have links to the Imperial Hotel in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.

The next second most-highly paid individual company, Brimwood Limited, is part-owned by former Monaghan GAA manager Seamus McEnaney and was paid almost €36 million by the government in 2023.

Brimwood operates six hotels in Co Monaghan, the Airport Manor Hotel in Dublin, four hotels in Co Louth, four locations in Co Donegal and one in Sligo.

Ten other companies with directors who are related to McEnaney also received millions in payments last year, including:

  • Corduff Jg Enterprises, directed by McEnaney’s son Gavin, which was paid €6.6 million;
  • Longfield Ventures Limited, directed by another of McEnany’s son’s John and his nephew Gary, which was paid €4.9 million;
  • Highgrove Property Limited, which lists McEnaney’s son John and nephew Gary among its directors, which was paid €3 million;
  • Fernboro Limited, which also lists John and Gary McEnaney as its directors, which was paid €1.3 million;
  • JMA Ventures Limited and Oakgate Limited, directed by McEnaney’s sister Margaret McCarville, which were paid €10 million and €7.6 million respectively;
  • Rosscorp Limited, directed by McEnaney’s nephew Conor, which was paid €3.4 million;
  • Rossblue Management Limited, also directed by Conor McEnenay and his brother Christopher, which was paid €4.6 million;
  • Copperwhistle Limited, whose directors include McEnaney’s brother Frank, which was paid €396,000;
  • Foxstrand Limited, directed by McEnaney’s nephews Dylan and Kian, was which paid €800,000.

The third most-highly paid company in 2023 was Guestford Limited, the owner of the Red Cow Moran Hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin, which received €31.9 million from the Department of Integration in 2023.

Several international hotel groups also received significant payments last year.

They include Tifco Limited, the hotel group backed by a US private equity firm which owns the Travelodge business in Ireland.

The department separately paid €30.4 million to Travelodge hotels, €21 million to Tifco and €10.6 million to Pumpkin Spice Limited (another company owned by Tifco in Ireland) in 2023.

The JMK Group, a UK-based company which operates the Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport, was also paid €27.6 million.

A number of Direct Provision operators were among the companies to receive eight-figure sums last year.

They include Mosney Holidays, which operates a direct provision centre for hundreds of asylum seekers in Co Meath and which was paid €26 million in 2023.

Next Week and Co, which received €21 million, operates the 108 bedroom Riverside Park hotel in Macroom and also the 230 bed Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen.

Bridgestock Care, which has capacity for more than 1,000 asylum seekers for locations in Sligo, Mayo, Donegal and Clare, received almost €17 million in 2023.

Millstreet Equestrian Services, which houses IP applicants in Cork and Waterford and whose parent company is Cromey Limited, was paid €16 million.

Campbell Catering, which trades as Aramark, received €14.6 million, while the Canadian-owned East Coast Catering received €12.6 million.

Other direct provision operators who received payments in 2023 include Fazyard Ltd (€8.9 million), James White and Co (€4.4 million), Maplestar (€5.8 million), Onsite Facilities Management (€4.5 million), and Sidetracks Limited (almost €3 million).

The department’s figures showed that a number of state bodies also received payments for accommodating Ukrainians and asylum seekers last year.

They include the Health Service Executive, which was paid over €60,000, the health watchdog HIQA, which was listed as receiving more than €1.2 million, and the office of the Dublin City Sheriff, which received more than €350,000.

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