Local residents in Caherciveen have rejected the apology from Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan for the way he and his department handled the relocation of asylum seekers from Dublin to the Kerry town.
Mr Flanagan took the unprecedented step of taking out full page ads in local newspapers to apologise in an open letter aimed directly at the people of Caherciveen.
However, instead of allaying local fears and anger, the apology appears to have backfired, with resident saying it does not go far enough and calling for the centre to be closed.
At least 25 residents at the Direct Provision centre at The Skellig Star Hotel, Cahersiveen have now tested positive for Covid-19.
More than 30 people, some with children have been removed from the centre. The remaining residents, who have been in lockdown for the past three weeks, were allowed out for the first time yesterday.
In his apology, Mr Flanagan stated one of the residents had not tested positive before the move the Caherciveen as had been reported, but he admitted the source of the virus might never be known.
Residents said this suggested that the source of the virus was the local community.
Jack Fitzpatrick chairman of the Cahersiveen social and business alliance said no one was looking for an apology.
What everyone wanted is for the centre to be closed because it is totally unsuitable, he said.
“No one is looking for an apology – we are looking for a solution. And where is the solution? He came down to apologise and ended up insulting us, saying the source was here in the community,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
A statement from the asylum seekers at The Skellig Star Hotel, Cahersiveen, provided to Radio Kerry, thanked the minister for accepting the move to the hotel in Caherciveen “was wrong”.
However, they said the impact of Covid-19 was known by March 2, well in advance of their forced move from Dublin to Kerry.
The issue of whether the Department of Justice followed HSE advice in moving people out of Dublin on March 18, during the pandemic, still needed to be addressed, the statement said.
Local Fianna Fáil Councillor Michael Cahill said the apology was "worthless" unless Mr Flanagan closed the centre.
I now call on Minister Flanagan, for once and for all, to close down the Direct Provision Centre based in The Skellig Star Hotel, Cahersiveen and finally house those held there in humane conditions as should have been the case from day one.
Meanwhile, Killarney solicitor Padraig J O’Connell has confirmed that legal papers seeking an injunction to close the centre are being drawn up.
Mr O’Connell has been instructed by a local man to seek the injunction.
A barrister has been appointed and the matter is to come before the Circuit Court at the earliest opportunity once the documents are in place, Mr O’Connell said.
A march is to take place through Cahersiveen today by locals in support of the residents calls to close the centre. It will be the second such march.