In the third of a series, asylum campaigner John Grayson examines the private companies involved in providing services under the Direct Provision (DP) system for asylum seekers in Ireland.
‘Monetizing people (seeking asylum) is unforgivable.’ (Andy Storey, lecturer in political economy at University College Dublin, Dublin InQuirer, 10 May 2017)
There were many more companies and individuals with a financial interest in the DP system in the past – there were over eighty DP centres in the first few years of the system. Seventeen companies were left in 2016 owning and/or managing thirty-six DP centres.
Aramark is the largest prison catering company in the USA, with contracts with 500 ‘correctional facilities’. The DP business is managed by Aramark Ireland Holdings Ltd, part of the US Aramark corporation which has its headquarters in Philadelphia and is quoted on the New York Stock Exchange. Aramark is involved in running three state-owned DP centres which accommodate up to 800 asylum seekers: at Kinsale Road, Cork; Knockalisheen, County Limerick; and Athlone, County Westmeath. In 2000, Aramark paid £300 million for a ‘tie-up’ with Campbell Bewley, one of Ireland’s largest food and coffee companies. Aramark already had a turnover of £720 million across Europe. The historic Irish company Campbell’s name is often used alongside Aramark in Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) contracts. In 2015, Aramark paid €60 million for the Irish Avoca chain of luxury retail outlets, cafés and the ‘very successful Avoca@Home catering company’. Retail Week magazine has ranked Avoca one of the world’s ‘100 Most Inspirational Stores’.
Aramark has an approximate fifty per cent market share of the food services industry in Ireland. The income it earns from its work in DP centres forms a small part of the €237.9 million turnover it reported for the year to the end of September 2015. In 2017, Aramark Ireland Holdings posted almost 31 per cent profit growth in its last financial year, €45.8 million gross profit for the year to the end of September 2016, up from €35.1 million for the previous year, according to accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office.
Aramark Ireland Holdings Ltd manages Ireland’s second-largest DP centre in Athlone, County Westmeath. The Athlone ‘centre’ mainly consists of a caravan park with around 300 residents.
In a 2014 report, What’s Food Got to Do with It? Food Experiences of Asylum Seekers in Direct Provision, Keelin Barry reported on her research about food in DP in Cork. Aramark manages the Kinsale Road Centre, and was one of the Cork DP centres covered in the report. Barry described her findings at the launch of the report in Cork:
‘Quite a lot of people said their food was inedible or not palatable on any level. The waste, a lot of people were saying, was disgraceful, the level of it. [There was] not enough fruit and veg, high sugar content, high fat content, monotonous food. Food was culturally inappropriate, bland, inedible, too salty.’
East Coast Catering (Ireland)
The private company is wholly owned by Patrick O’Callaghan, a native of Dundalk who has built up the multinational East Coast Catering business since his move to Canada more than thirty years ago. The annual revenue for ECC in Canada in 2012 was about $50 million (CAD). O’Callaghan was the Atlantic winner of Ernst & Young’s ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in 2012 for his ‘business acumen and community stewardship‘. The Irish arm of the international group adopted unlimited status in 2006 and has not published accounts since then. The company is linked to a number of Canadian companies. Accounts filed the year before the change show a pre-tax profit of €1.5 million on revenues of €8 million. There are four board members of ECC (Ireland), one of whom, Brian Byrne, is also the General Manager for its three DP centres.
The company is involved in running DP centres at Balseskin and Hatch Hall in Dublin, as well as Carroll Village in Dundalk. East Coast Catering accommodates more than 520 asylum seekers and last year (2016) received fees from contracts of €7 million, bringing to €115 million the fees the company received from the State between 2000 and 2016. East Coast Catering Ireland was the second-biggest recipient of public funds in 2016.
Mosney Irish Holidays Ltd
Mosney Holidays operates the largest of the DP centres, for 600 asylum seekers, at Mosney in County Meath. In 2016, Mosney received the highest amount of all the providers, €7.4 million. The payment brings to €119.4 million the amount the firm received from the state from 2002-16 for its DP service.
Mosney was originally a Butlin’s holiday camp. In 1982 the camp was sold to Phelim McCloskey, a Drogheda businessman. In 2000, the Irish government contracted with Mosney Irish Holidays Plc., a company then owned by McCloskey and his wife Elizabeth, to house 800 asylum seekers (later reduced to 600), in a DP centre using parts of the site of the old holiday camp.
The company had a turnover of €8.8 million in 2009, and a pre-tax profit of €122,916. Its last published accounts, in 2009, showed accumulated profits at the end of the year of €5.4 million. The following year Mosney Holidays became an unlimited company, and so does not publish its accounts. It is owned by an Isle of Man company called Sonning Unlimited.
In 2015, Phelim McCloskey’s personal wealth was estimated at €46 million McCloskey is a donor to the political party, Fianna Fáil, the party that set up the direct provision system. Carl O’Brien of the Irish Times reported in October 2013, Mosney Holidays: ‘donations to Fianna Fáil worth €4,050 in 2009 and €5,500 in 2008. There is no suggestion that those donations had any link to the company winning the State contract.’
The Mosney DP centre regime is captured in Nicky Grogan and Paul Rowley’s 2007 documentary film Seaview, which provides a portrait of the effects on residents of a ‘suspended existence’ spent ‘killing time’.
In May 2017, reports emerged alleging that refugees in Mosney DP centre were being restricted to shopping in a segregated ‘company store’ using ‘points’ allocated by management. The store had recently been reported for allegedly selling out-of-date produce.
Barlow Properties and Alan Hyde
Up to 2014, Barlow Properties was paid €40 million for operating DP centres. In 2014 the company was paid €5.15 million to operate five centres for 480 asylum seekers at Cork, Waterford and Limerick. By December 2014, Barlow Properties was reporting accumulated profits of €2.56 million. The group of companies involved in the five centres operated by Barlow Properties all name Alan Hyde, a Cork-based business man, as owner, board member or shareholder. They include Barlow Properties, Baycaster Ltd., Bideau Ltd, D and A Pizzas, and Stompool Investments. The companies, to varying degrees, are involved in contracts for three of the five DP centres in or near Cork: Ashbourne House, Glounthaune; Glenvera and Clonakilty Lodge, Clonakilty. The companies also run the Ursuline Complex (Birchwood) centre in Waterford, and the Mount Trenchard DP centre at Foynes.
Research in 2015 by the Cork branch of Anti-Deportation Ireland established that the Alan Hyde-linked companies had in the past been involved in two further DP centre contracts: for the An Poc Fada DP centre at Cobh from 2001 to 2010; and the Sarsfield Bridge Hotel DP centre, Sarsfield, Limerick, between 2008 and 2010. The Cork research estimates that the several companies co-owned by Alan Hyde, which had managed and/ or owned DP centres, had received around €70 million from the Reception and Integration Agency between 2000 and 2015.
In an email conversation with the Sunday World in 2015 Alan Hyde said that:
‘He had no political connections, is not affiliated to any party and tendered for the contracts through open competition.’
Alan Hyde and Barlow-owned centres in Limerick, Waterford and Cork have all seen protests by the residents about conditions. Mount Trenchard in Limerick has a reputation among asylum seekers and those working with them as a centre that is used by the RIA as a form of punishment, and to accommodate individuals with challenging behaviour and complex cases, the ‘ of DP centres’. It is
In August 2014, , an asylum rights charity, called for the immediate closure of Mount Trenchard, a call backed by the Irish Refugee Council. The Irish Times published video footage showing ‘cramped sleeping conditions and beds separated by curtains. There are . Despite a demonstration of three hundred people in Limerick, and a negotiation meeting with Alan Hyde, the leaders of the protests were forcibly moved from the centre by and transferred to other centres.
Bridgestock Ltd and Shay Gillen
Bridgestock Ltd is contracted for around 500 asylum seekers in Globe House, Sligo town, and Old Convent in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. The company was paid €5.8 million by the RIA in 2016. It has been paid €86 million for DP contracts since 2000.
The company is owned by Séamus (Shay) and Kathleen Gillen of Tullamore, County Offaly. In the year ending June 2008, Bridgestock recorded an annual turnover of €6 million, generating an operating profit of €1.57 million. In 2010, the company filed profits of €55,000. In 2010, Bridgestock became an ‘unlimited’ company, and in November 2011, most of its shares were transferred to a company based in the British Virgin Islands, Bridgestock (BVI) Holdings. Shay Gillen also has interests in waste disposal and energy firms.
Millstreet Equestrian Services
Owned by a parent company Millstreet Equestrian Centre, and registered in the Isle of Man, the company is run by Noel and Thomas Duggan. From 2000 to 2015, it received over €65,000,000 in contracts from the RIA to run eight different centres.
Millstreet Equestrian Services provides accommodation for 380 asylum seekers in Drishane Castle (Millstreet DP centre), in Cork (200 people), Viking House DP centre in Waterford (85 people) and Bridgewater House DP centre in County Tipperary (95 people).
The company’s Viking House in Waterford City was worth €11,448,695 in contracts between May 2001 and December 2012. Bridgewater House in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, was worth €10,862,900 in contracts between May 2003 and December 2012.
The Duggans also operated five centres which have since closed: Linden House, in Killarney, County Kerry, which closed in 2011, was worth €3,375,120 over six years; 73–75 Davis Street, Mallow in County Cork, was worth €2,212,070 between 2004 and 2010. Vee Valley Hotel, in Clegheen, County Tipperary was worth €750,193 between 2000 and 2005. Park Place Hotel, in Killarney, was worth €1,363,127 between 2000 and 2004. Island View House, in Cork city, was worth €2,155,426 and only operated for two years between May 2000 and May 2002.
Thomas Duggan was also involved with the running of Birchwood House in Waterford in the early 2000s. Birchwood was contracted to Rosetto Limited between 2001 and 2003. Rosetto was awarded contracts of €1.8 million during this time. Duggan was considered a proprietor of Birchwood in 2001, and was a director of the company from March 2001 to November 2002. Birchwood was later acquired by Alan Hyde, another DP contractor.
The Duggans were listed as owning Millstreet to 2010. The company then adopted unlimited status, after which it did not have to file public accounts. Its shareholders are Isle of Man-based firms, Arabella Unlimited, which owns most of the company, and Tolosa Ltd. The 2008 accounts said Millstreet was primarily engaged in the provision of equestrian services, overseas equestrian tourism activities, the staging of the Millstreet International Horse Show and the provision of emergency accommodation to asylum seekers. In that year, it made a pre-tax profit of just over €450,000, bringing accumulated profits to €910,000.
Millstreet Equestrian Services is listed as having been paid a total of €4,449,690 in 2013 and €4,085,200 in 2014 to run its three remaining centres. In 2016, Millstreet Equestrian Services received €4.1 million in contract payments. Since 2000, Millstreet has received a total of €73 million from the state.
Drishane Castle or the ‘Millstreet Accommodation Centre’ as it is known to the RIA, was worth €24,848,289 in contracts from October 2000 to the end of 2012.
Fazyard Ltd and Sean Lyons
Property company Fazyard Ltd, and its linked company, Old George Ltd, were paid €6 million, in 2016, for RIA contracts for around 500 asylum seekers in two Dublin DP centres, and in the Montague Hotel centre in Emo, County Laois.
Old George Ltd runs the Georgian Court hostel, with seventy residents, on Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, which at times acts as a reception centre for newly arrived asylum seekers. In 2013, two children staying there with their mother, suffered severe bites from bedbugs. In April 2017, a Circuit Civil Court awarded the children €8,000 in damages. Fazyard, owned by property developer Sean Lyons, currently (2017) runs the Towers Hostel DP centre in the Clondalkin district, the largest of the Dublin centres, with 230 places. With a previous Lyons company, Rowtes Limited, Fazyard was paid €19,761,000 between 2006 and 2012 for DP contracts at the Towers.
Sean Lyons has a long history of DP contracts. He owned The Old Rectory (New Ross) Ltd, which delivered RIA contracts for The Old Rectory, New Cross, County Wexford, for thirty-five to fifty-eight asylum seekers from 2001 to 2011. The RIA paid the company around €5.7 million for the contracts.
Fazyard made a profit of more than €795,000 in the year to the end of November 2014, bringing its accumulated profits to €10.8 million. Old George Ltd reported a loss of just over €1,300. In 2016, Fazyard Ltd reported accumulated profits of €4.3 million, though profits now appeared to be distributed across a number of Lyons group companies.
Sean Lyons has an interest in new DP centres, contracted since 2015. He is one of the owners of Mint Horizon Ltd, incorporated in May 2015, which runs the Richmond Court DP centre in Longford, County Longford on a contract for up to eighty residents. Richmond Court had operated as a DP centre between 2001 and 2011, but more recently as a guest house, and has been ‘re-engaged for the accommodation of asylum seekers’, according to the Department of Justice.
Fazyard directors Sean Lyons Jr and Graham Carry are listed as a director and company secretary respectively of Oscar Dawn Ltd, contracted to provide the first of the government’s three EROCs (Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres), the Hazel Hotel, Monasterevin, County Kildare. The Hazel Hotel is contracted for 143 family places for Syrian refugee families to be resettled in Ireland, at any one time, and 520 places in all.
Since 2000, the owners of unprofitable or vacant holiday hotels have sought contracts from the RIA for DP centres. Examples are:
Hi-Tech Dry Cleaners Ltd and recently Birch Rentals have run Hanratty’s Hotel DP centre in Limerick since 2009. The companies are owned by J.P. Ryan, a County Limerick businessman, who is a director of a number of construction and hotel businesses. Hi-Tech had accumulated profits, at the end of 2013, of just over €360,000; and during the year had paid rent of €87,700 to one of its directors. The companies delivered RIA contracts for 118 asylum seekers, worth €6.3 million, between 2009 and 2014.
Maplestar Ltd has run the Eglington Hotel DP centre, for between 200 and 250 asylum seekers, in Salthill, County Galway, continuously since 2001. The company has been paid around €32 million by the RIA for the contracts. The company is owned by the Flannery family, and is part of the Foxfield Inns group. Maplestar made a net profit of €271,000 in 2013, and the company paid rent of €500,000 to its parent, Foxfield Inns Ltd.
Atlantic Blue Ltd has run Atlantic House, Tramore, a sixty-five bed DP facility, since May 2000, and was paid around €7 million by the RIA, to 2014. The company is owned by its two directors, Trish Mulcahy and Jonathan Moore, of Tramore, County Waterford. The company was incorporated in 2008, and had more than €600,000 in accumulated profits by the end of 2013.
Ocean View Accommodation Ltd run Ocean View and Boathouse DP centre in Tramore, County Wexford, a DP centre since 2000. The firm is owned by the Moore family, with youthful directors Andrew, 21, and Alison, 16. The company was incorporated in 2009, and had, in April 2014, accumulated profits of almost €593,000. The Moore family delivered RIA contracts for between sixty and eighty-five asylum seekers between July 2009 and January 2014, totalling around €3.2 million.
Clonea Strand Hotel Ltd was contracted to run the Clonea Strand Hotel EROC, in Dungarvan, County Waterford, with 100 places for resettled refugee families, from 2016. The McGrath family company was set up in 1980 to own and manage the hotel.
Individuals with their own personal investment companies also profit from the Irish asylum market:
The Phil Monaghan & Finian McDonnell business has run the Watergate House DP centre in Dublin, with sixty-five residents, since April 2003, recently through Maison Builders Ltd, a company headed by Phil Monaghan. The two owners are partners in a number of building and property companies. The business is not incorporated and does not have to publish accounts. From 2003 to 2014, the firm delivered contracts for the RIA of around €6.5 million.
Shaun Hennelly is a company director and registered owner of the Great Western House, Galway. The business is not incorporated, and does not have to publish accounts. He has run the Great Western House DP centre since September 2000, with contracts for 130-200 places from the RIA, worth around €26 million.
Tattonward Ltd, currently (2016) owned by Hugh McGivern, and Ian Skeffington, delivered RIA contracts worth more than €21 million for the St. Patrick’s Accommodation Centre, Drumgoask, Monaghan, from 2001 to 2014, varying from 140 to 220 places. The latest accounts available show accumulated losses of €33,061 at the end of 2012. McGovern and Skeffington were paid €79,986, between them, for their work as the company’s directors during that year.
Peachport Ltd, now Joseph Germaine, is owned by the County Wicklow Germaine family. It was incorporated in 2014, and has yet to file any financial accounts. The company runs the Eyre Powell DP centre in Newbridge, County Kildare. In 2015, Joseph Germaine took over the centre contract in his own name. The centre has grown from fifty-seven residents in mid-2016 to eighty-seven people, contracted by July 2017.
Property investment company Next Week and Co. Ltd, is contracted by the RIA to run the Abbeyfield Hotel EROC, near Ballaghadereen, County Roscommon, for around 200 Syrian refugees over two years. Next Week & Co. Limited was set up on 16 December 2016. The company’s current directors, Laurent Salmon and John Crean, have been directors of ten other Irish companies between them, five of which are now closed.
Westbourne Holiday Hostel Ltd, Ireland’s ‘bad bank’ and one of the world’s richest investment funds: Westbourne Holiday Hostel Ltd ran the Westbourne DP centre in Limerick from 2001 to 2014, delivering contracts for around 100 asylum seekers, for the RIA, at a total value of €12,741,279. The company was founded in 1995 to run the holiday hostel, and was owned by Kenny Commercial Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Kenny Investment Holdings. The financial crash left Kenny Commercial Holdings company, along with hundreds of other property developers in Ireland, with loans which could not be repaid. The company, still a going concern, in December 2010 entered NAMA (National Asset Management Agency), Ireland’s ‘bad bank’. Remarkably, the RIA continued giving contracts for the Westbourne centre, effectively to Kenny Commercial Holdings. One contract for €884,520 was given in June 2011 for ninety asylum seekers, and another one for the same amount and number of places, in June 2012. There was a final contract, for €544,320 for ninety asylum places in June 2013, through to June 2014. Westbourne reported a loss of €1.37 million in 2014. The RIA has not released information on contracts after 2013, but the Westbourne Holiday Hostel Ltd was still delivering contracts for ninety asylum seekers through to January 2017.
The Kenny loans were sold on by NAMA in July 2016 to OCM EmRu Debtco DAC, a subsidiary of Oaktree Capital Management Limited. a so-called ‘vulture’ fund, effectively handing over financial control of the Westbourne centre to one of the world’s richest investment funds, Oaktree Capital had management funds of $101 billion as of 31 December 2016.
But it was the asylum seeker residents of Westbourne who were put at real physical risk. Amidst the financial chaos, essential repairs and fire safety measures were simply not carried out, and the DP centre was closed in January 2017 by the RIA because ‘essential maintenance’ had not been carried out.
Read John Grayson’s first article on Direct Provision: Direct Provision in Ireland: the holding pen for asylum seekers
Read John Grayson’s secoond article on Direct Provision: Making profits in Ireland’s asylum market