The head of The Grand Hotel’s management company has hit out at the “negative noise” surrounding the decision to turn the premises into a direct provision centre.
Last week, it was reported that The Grand Hotel would be used as accommodation for asylum seekers — a decision which was described by Sinn Féin TD John Brady as “a retrograde step”.
On Thursday night, local residents held a protest outside county council buildings during a meeting between Wicklow representatives and officials from the Department of Justice, with some of the demonstrators claiming concerns relating to the effects that the move would have on tourism in the area, as well as living conditions of the asylum seekers.
In a letter-to-the-editor sent to WicklowNews, director of Fire_break — the company which assumed control of The Grand Hotel in 2017 — Adrian Shanagher acknowledged those concerns, before claiming that they were in the minority.
“Whilst I must acknowledge the very good kind people of the town who have contacted us, they are by far in the minority and their message of positivity is lost in the wave of negative noise,” he said.
“That noise comes for example from:
- Self-proclaimed Irish nationalists with Irish Spelled names from border counties.
- Racist and bigoted “Ireland is for the Irish”, lock up your daughters, mathematically illiterate YouTubers
- Sons of local business owners with a sense of entitlement who have a self-interest and verbal diarrhoea.
“It is also clear that the matter has been hijacked by national media and local politicians’ own rhetoric for their own goals.
“Social media has a huge amount to answer for! It is akin to thinking out loud and much more dangerous.
“In any event, this loss of business will affect local jobs/our staff and local suppliers we buy from. God knows Wicklow Town needs both jobs and “local business supporting local business”. It also needs a more joined up approach to attracting business and enterprise and suffers from significant dereliction. Local politicians have reportedly said that they couldn’t care less about the jobs or that they couldn’t care less that the non-bedroom portion of the hotel remaining open to serve the community,” Shanagher added.
Mr. Shanagher said that the year-on-year loss of revenue at the hotel forced his hand towards agreeing to turn the hotel into direct provision, citing prior incidents of the premises going into liquidation.
“The financial history of this hotel is interesting but turbulent,” he said.
“In 2010, the hotel operator entered examinership, a financial cleansing process. In 2017, a previous operator went into liquidation owning taxes, employees, 4 years rates and suppliers. Since then we have invested about 800,000 euro, sales have dropped 15% in 2018 and the business has lost over 200,000 euro at an operating level whilst all the time paying rates, taxes, employees etc.
“Much of our business is attracted from outside the county by us directly. If that is what passes as support from the local community, I would hate to offend the locals, although it appears that I have.
“I personally am not prepared to invest further sums, invest management time and continue to lose money relying on the local community to any great extent. Hence our interest in serving the Department of Justice.
“All customers choosing to continue using our non-bedroom services will be welcomed with open arms. However, in the alternative, the hotel will close with the resultant loss of amenity, jobs and contribution to the locality. That is the simple practical position given the reaction of the past week and cancellation of business by local patrons.
“Stripping the noise out of the equation, there is an opportunity here for the people of Wickow to grasp and embrace. To demonstrate that they are the kind of town that welcomes “outsiders”, Irish or not. If the local community want to demonstrate that they wish to support the hotel, now is their chance unfettered by outside media and political interests,” Shanagher said.