Stacey Wrenn, a student at Trinity and member of United Against Racism, recently visited the Direct Provision centre at Mosney. This is her report.
I went to Mosney to visit ‘Naomi’. I cannot give her real name, the Direct Provision (DP) centre in Mosney has a habit of starving people who dare to question their methods, which was made clear when a young mother was banned from the canteen for asking for more food for her two children.
Naomi is 20 and has been in the DP system for five years now. She cannot get a grant for Third Level till her application is accepted. Her application is ‘pending’.
The duration of this process is but one of many problems with the DP system in this country, many of which I encountered during my recent visit.
My journey to the centre began with being dropped at the side of a road in heavy rain, I walked down the road passing mansion after mansion for about twenty minutes before I reached the centre. I was reminded how wide the gap between the haves and the have-nots is in this country.
At the end of the driveway lay a field of caravans meticulously lined up. They were caged in by a high metal fence with a security desk checking everyone who came and went. When I signed in I wasn’t asked who I was visiting, I was told to give the apartment number. The message was I was not visiting a person but a storage unit..
After the manager took Naomi’s mother to the side to announce the staff would meet with the residents in half an hour, I told her that I was feeling uncomfortable – like I was being watched. She whispered, “You are.”
Naomi was waiting for us in the sitting room, which consisted of a square foot for walking space, a couch, and an armchair. When I first saw her I assumed she was younger than me with her small frame, but the system appears to keep one young by restricting the nutrition in the diet.
In the interview the injustice of the system is laid bare. She sat her Leaving Cert in Killarney two years ago. For these two years she has been continuously accepted into courses ranging from Process and Chemical Engineering in UCC to Computer Applications in DCU. However, with her application still pending she cannot access third level without paying Non-EU fees, an impossibility.
When Naomi and her mother arrived in Mosney two years ago it was called the best centre in Ireland. The residents’ committee believes otherwise. The centre has recently taken on new management, the children of multi-millionaire owner, Phelim McCloskey. Naomi says they are very arrogant and enter people’s accommodation without consent.
One of Naomi’s ways to pass the time is to go to the library in Drogheda, but the last bus is back for 4.30pm, and only runs three times a day. There is no choice but to spend time wandering aimlessly around the lot. I went with Naomi to the launderette. Its like an abandoned warehouse with washing machines on top of each other.. She led me to a machine with a blue post-it note on it. Again there was no name, just the apartment number with two times on it, 9.30am and 12.30pm, her allotted time.
Everything is timed in Mosney. They make no effort to hide the fact that it is nearer to a prison than the holiday destination it used to be. She poured the cup of Lidl detergent into the machine, all they are given to clean their clothes. It’s common for young children in DP to develop rashes and eczema as there are only 40 washing machines for over 600 people .
A woman in a blue apron crept up behind us as I discreetly took photos — all forms of media are prohibited on the premises — and proceeded to instruct Naomi on how to use a washing machine. This is a girl that found Higher Level Maths an easy subject!
Naomi’s mother joined us. She had returned from witnessing management refuse entry to three visitors who were known anti-racism activists. The owner, McCloskey, was there and he was shaken. In an attempt to appeal to him she said “We are your customers, and you are treating us badly,” His cynical reply, “I know, and I don’t want to lose this business”.
Pheilim McClusky currently has a net-worth of €46 million, and has received over €101 million in support from the government