Hunger strikers say their action will continue

The 32 residents of the Skellig Star direct provision centre were visited by  Department of Justice officials. 
Hunger strikers say their action will continue
Residents of the Skellig Star direct provision centre want to be moved to another accommodation centre. File picture: Alan Landers

Hunger strikers at a controversial direct provision centre say their action is to continue.

This is despite the visit to the 32 residents of the Skellig Star Hotel in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, who are on strike by Department of Justice officials.

They decided to take the drastic action on Monday because of ongoing problems at the venue.

The problems include allegations of food and water rationing, something management denies but which the Department of Justice is now investigating.

Residents say they are being forced into taking the action because they do not believe they are being taken seriously.

However,  in a move to try and end the hunger strike, residents were all given a letter from Department of Justice deputy secretary-general Oonagh Buckley.

In it, she appealed for them to end the hunger strike and promised at least some of the residents will be transferred in the coming days.

She said Justice Minister Helen McEntee and the department is "listening to your concerns and are acting to address the issues raised".

She told them: "I know restrictions arising from the pandemic and your relocation to Kerry have been difficult for you.

"We regret that you have felt it necessary to take this course of action and ask that you do not put your health in danger.

"We have heard your concerns.

"A number of residents have made applications for transfer.

“These will be considered in the coming days in line with the planned relaxation of current restrictions on transfers and the availability of suitable alternative accommodation.”

More: Skellig Star's short history mired in claim and counter-claim

She said: “We are also working on solutions to facilitate the transport needs of residents wishing to visit larger towns in the area.

“We will continue to listen to residents as regards other additional supports you may require in the wake of recent events surrounding the centre.”

Residents claim that when officials arrived at the centre on Monday, they spent most of the time talking to management and sampling the centre’s food for themselves, and checking facilities.

A number of officials, they say, approached the group of hunger strikers who claim they were then told officials wanted to deal with everybody on an individual basis.

They say that after they said they wanted to be spoken to and dealt with as a group, the officials left.

“One of us spoke to the officials and said they were speaking on behalf of the group,” said Azwar Fuard. “But the officials said they only wanted to deal with everyone on an individual basis.

“The reality if we are looking for a common solution for all of the people here.”

He said: “It is almost four consecutive months of living in an inhumane condition at Skellig Star Hotel direct provision.

“The past and present Government has not done anything to help us from this open prison.

“We have sent emails several times highlighting how we have suffered physically, socially, mentally, and emotionally due to the treatment received in the hands of Ipas during Covid and post-Covid.

“We need to be all moved out of this accommodation immediately by the Ministers.”

The residents want access to a social worker and for them to be transferred to an “appropriate accommodation centre” where they can have “proper vulnerability assessment and get adequate treatment for trauma”.

Mr Fuard said the letter from the department was regarded by residents as "an insult".

He said: "We did not go on hunger strike so someone could tell us they are listening to us and assure us that some of us will be moved.

"They don't seem to realise, this is a protest for everybody."

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