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Minister for Integration Roderic O'Gorman Alamy Stock Photo

Minister says gardaí were told in advance that asylum seekers would be housed in Galway hotel

A Policing Authority meeting heard yesterday that gardaí are not kept informed by government departments of when asylum seekers are moving into a premises.

MINISTER FOR INTEGRATION Roderic O’Gorman has said that gardaí did receive advance notification that a Galway hotel was set to house asylum seekers, before it was subsequently set alight in a suspected arson attack.

Senior members of An Garda Síochána told a sitting of the Policing Authority yesterday that the force is not informed by government departments when asylum seekers are moving into a premises.

Deputy Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon disagreed when it was put to her that Gardaí always get advanced notice of where asylum seekers will be placed.

She said that “notification is invariably late in the day, and it’s a constant challenge” and that information about the placement of asylum seekers in the Ross Lake Hotel in Galway came through “an informal route” as opposed to central government.

However, that account has now been disputed by O’Gorman.

Speaking to The Journal today, Minister O’Gorman said that An Garda Síochána was, in fact, notified on Friday that asylum seekers were to be housed at the hotel. 

“We’ve a community engagement team now set up since last August and it has a protocol when it comes to opening new international protection accommodation. They contact the local TDs, councillors and senators, send them a briefing and offer phone calls and follow up as such,” O’Gorman explained. 

He said that the Department has a “nominated contact person in An Garda Síochána, a nominated contact person in the Department of Justice, the HSE, in Tusla”.

So that is built into the system and they get notified as well,” the Minister said.

“To be very clear, that was done on Friday. As soon as the emails had been sent to the local reps, it was sent to all the statutory agenies.”

“I’m pleased on our side the system was in place, the system was very clearly followed and An Garda Síochana got the notification on Friday afternoon along with all the other statutory bodies,” O’Gorman said. 

Similarly, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also told to reporters today that gardaí were informed on Friday. 

“I think it’s important the gardaí are notified any time we establish a new accommodation centre,” Varadkar said. 

“In relation to Galway, Minister O’Gorman has confirmed the gardaí were informed in writing, but for whatever reason that message didn’t get through to all of the right people on the ground,” he said.

“We’re going to have to review that now and perhaps adopt a belt and braces approach where it’s not just an email or a letter, but there’s a letter, email and a phonecall,” the Taoiseach added. 

“I can confirmed that gardaí were informed.”

The fire at the Ross Lake Hotel in Rosscahill started at around 11.35pm on Saturday. The hotel had been earmarked for asylum seekers. 

There were no people inside the building at the time of the incident. Gardaí are investigating how the fire started.

With reporting by Eoghan Dalton, Eimer McAuley, Christina Finn and Jane Matthews