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The owner of a bed and breakfast in County Leitrim provided housing for Ukrainian refugees, but it has recently been forced to close due to serious fire safety concerns raised about the structure. Despite 103 refugees allegedly being housed at Mitchell's in Carrigallen, according to information provided to the Department of Integration, which manages the response to the Ukraine crisis, an inspection by officials revealed the bed and breakfast only had room for 50 people.
An internal memo from March 23rd said three lower-level rooms had been “adapted for accommodation”, which was unauthorised. Officials queried whether any Ukrainian refugees were being accommodated under the commercial contract “in other premises,” but said the response was “unclear and unknown by the staff member” contacted. A joint inspection report by the department and Leitrim County Council said officials would “need to identify where additional guests are residing”.
On March 27, the council delivered a fire safety notice to the building's owner, noting that the lodging was in a "potentially dangerous building." Both alarms "for the automatic detection of a fire outbreak" and appliances "for extinguishing fires" were lacking, according to council fire officers. A lack of "adequate means of egress from the building" in the event of a fire was mentioned in the notice, which forbade the building from being used as lodging. There was also worry that a fire would "likely spread quickly within the building" if it started.
The first and second floors, the basement, and the bedrooms in an outhouse behind the building were all mentioned in the notice. The internal memo and fire safety notices were made available to The Irish Times via the Freedom of Information Act. In April of last year, the department signed a contract with the property to house Ukrainian refugees. According to records, Patrick Mitchell (58), of Carrigallen, who owns Mitchells Hospitality Ltd., received at least €91,000 as per the contract last year.
A spokesman for the department said it immediately terminated the contract at the start of April “due to fire safety issues brought to our attention by the local authority”. The department said 91 Ukrainian refugees, who have since been housed elsewhere, were being accommodated by the provider at the time.
“The use of secondary properties to provide temporary accommodation was uncovered, which runs contrary to the Government and department policy of not interfering with the private rental market by paying commercial rates for private dwellings,” a spokesman said. In response, a solicitor acting for Mitchells Hospitality Ltd. stated it had provided accommodation for 88 refugees “on a full-board basis for a 12-month period” across 18 rooms in its hotel and 16 rooms in its bed and breakfast. “Throughout this period, the residents were well integrated into the local community of Carrigallen, and my clients did their utmost to provide quality accommodation and food.”
The solicitor said Mitchells Hospitality took the fire safety notice, which did not relate to “excessive numbers” being housed on the premises, “extremely seriously”. Necessary building works undertaken to bring the building into compliance were nearly finished, he said, adding that the local authority was “satisfied with the owner’s ongoing commitment and coordination of the project”.
“This will then be followed by a final inspection and certification of the modifications and upgrades,” he said.
The State has been under pressure to accommodate tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers from other countries over the past year and a half, primarily sourcing accommodation in hotels, guest houses, and other private providers.
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30 November 2023