Justice Department 'concerned' by hunger strike at Skellig Star direct provision centre

As residents at a controversial Kerry direct provision centre begin their second day of hunger strike, the Department of Justice has said it will investigate conditions there and resolve any issues "as a matter of priority".
Justice Department 'concerned' by hunger strike at Skellig Star direct provision centre

Residents of the Skellig Star direct provision centre and south Kerry Locals stand together in Cahersiveen yesterday as residents begin their hunger strike. They claim that food and water is being rationed, which management at the former hotel denies. Picture: Alan Landers

As residents at a controversial Kerry direct provision centre begin their second day of hunger strike, the Department of Justice has said it will investigate conditions there and resolve any issues "as a matter of priority".

Some 32 residents of the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, decided to begin the hunger strike yesterday morning over ongoing problems, including allegations that food and water is being rationed. Management denies that.

Residents say they have had to resort to going without food because they believe, despite five months of raising concerns about conditions, that they are not being taken seriously.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “We are concerned that any resident would put their health in danger by refusing food.”

A resident told the Irish Examiner: “We want the Department of Justice to move us to a place where we can look after ourselves, where we can cook for ourselves.”

Another said that something needs to be done about the quality of food in the centre.

Up to 30 residents of the Skellig Star have walked out in recent weeks because they — according to other residents — couldn’t tolerate being there anymore. 

Those still there claim their food and milk is being “rationed”.

Residents also claim that despite a boil water notice being in place in the town due to a recent detection of the parasite cryptosporidium, their supply of bottled water has been cut.

They also claim during that the Covid-19 lockdown, each resident received five litres of water per day. But this — they claim — was reduced to two litres a day per resident until five days ago when, they say, the supply of bottled water was stopped.

Residents of the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen with renewed calls to close the centre and move the residents to more suitable accommodation as they begin Hunger Strike. Photo Alan Landers.
Residents of the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen with renewed calls to close the centre and move the residents to more suitable accommodation as they begin Hunger Strike. Photo Alan Landers.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The Department takes the concerns of residents very seriously. 

"Officials from the Department of Justice and Equality have been onsite in the centre in Caherciveen to see the situation first-hand and to hear the concerns of residents directly.

“They have also been tasked with examining issues raised around the provision of meals and any issues arising following the boil water notice currently in place in the town. Any outstanding issues will be followed up for resolution as a matter of priority.

“As is standard practice, officials visiting the centre today sampled the food on offer to residents to satisfy themselves as to the standard of food on offer.”

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae said: "The entire south Kerry community is outraged not only of the manner in which these residents were transferred to Caherciveen and the inadequacy of facilities in the premises, but also at how appalling these people have been treated in their community.

"I believe it is fair to say that the people in the centre are now at crisis point with taking the decision to go on hunger strike."

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