Fire safety facilities at the Eyre Powell Asylum Accommodation Centre in Newbridge came in for sharp critisim at the Newbridge Town Council meeting recently.
Councillor Willie Hamilton raised concern over the adequacy of the fire arlarms after a fire broke out at the Eyre Powell over the May bank holiday weekend.
“The worrying aspect of it is that there was a fire there and no fire alarms went off,” he said. “That could be very worrying given the number of residents there and the number of children. I’d appreciate it if we could follow up with the fire service.”
Cllr Damian Molyneaux said he belived that one resident “nearly slept through the fire”.
Andrew Kelly, Press Officer with the Department of Justice and Equality, who are responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers, confirmed that the fire broke out after midnight on May 3 in one of the bedrooms of the Eyre Powell on Newbridge’s Main Street. However he reassured the Leinster Leader that the centre is compliant with fire safety regulations. “The premises were completely and successfully evacuated and no one was hurt,” he said.
“The Reception and Integration Agency, understands that the building evacuation of all residents took place exactly as it should and this was helped by the fact that an evacuation drill had taken place only two weeks prior to the fire. The proprietor has informed RIA that his fire consultant confirmed that the building did what it was supposed to do in the event of a fire i.e. contain the fire in the room where it started. Staff from the RIA maintained contact with the centre throughout the night of the incident.”
Newbridge Gardaí, who undertook a forensic examination of the centre on the morning after the fire was extinguished, said the fire is still under investigation.
Sergeant Mary Keane could not yet say if the fire was started deliberately but confirmed that there was substantial damage done to the room.
“All of the residents were back in the Eyre Powell within an hour of the fire,” she said.
“The matter is still under investigation.”
Chief Fire Officer for Kildare, Niall O’Riordan said that two fire tenders from Naas and Newbridge were sent in to deal with the fire.
“One person was removed from the building by the fire brigade,” he said.
Meanwhile the spokesperson for the Department added that an independent company also conducted an inspection of the premises following the fire.
“The RIA also arranged for its independent company (QTS Ltd) which has particular expertise in the area of fire safety, to conduct an inspection of the premises following the fire,” added Mr Kelly.
“The RIA greatly appreciates the work of the Fire Service in dealing with the fire and the staff of the centre in ensuring the safe and efficient evacuation of all residents and staff from the centre. The RIA also appreciates the engagement of the Gardaí in the matter.
“The RIA is not in a position to provide details of any reports into the fire but is satisfied, following the QTS inspection, that the centre continues to operate in compliance with fire safety regulations.”
Cllr Murty Aspell, at the meeting, said some serious questions need to be answered’ about the centre.
“How many families are living there?” he said. “How long more will it be paid for? Can they not be properly housed by now? Nothing can be done with that place (Eyre Powell) once those unfortunates are living there. We need to develop that side of the town. A town of this size needs another hotel.”
Cllr Damian Molyneaux agreed adding that there is “no room outside for the children to play”. “These people need proper housing,” he said.
Mr Kelly in his statement to the Leader reiterated that the RIA provides ‘humane and cost efficient housing’ at the Eyre Powell Hotel.
“The RIA is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal,” he responded.
“The Eyre Powell accommodation centre is a direct provision centre and operates under contract to the RIA. The direct provision system is designed to deliver humane and cost efficient housing for persons who are awaiting determination of their asylum claim.
Any complaints about the accommodation provided are thoroughly investigated by the RIA once they have been formally presented. The RIA is satisfied that the accommodation at Eyre Powell is in compliance with contractual requirements.”