Santa visiting children at the Montague this December.
Residents of The Direct Provision Centre near Portlaoise have today enjoyed a Christmas party, with Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan dropping in to meet them.
Minister Flanagan said he was delighted to again meet the residents and management at the centre which is in his home county Laois.
"In Ireland, Christmas is a traditionally a time when we gather with our families and loved ones. Applicants for international protection who avail of our accommodation centres have often lost family in tragic circumstances in their native countries, or left loved ones behind.
"Today the Montague Accommodation Centre is hosting a Christmas party and I am delighted to take this opportunity to again visit the Centre and meet the residents and the management and staff. I want to thank also the local community here in Emo and the Portlaoise area for the continuing support they give to the Montague Centre, through the Friends of the Centre structure, the local sports clubs and all the other groups and individuals who go out of their way to make the residents feel welcome," he said.
Minister Flanagan said there are continuing improvements being made to accommodation centres around the country in line with the recommendations of the McMahon report, including in relation to self-catering and communal catering.
The recommendation for self or communal catering is fully implemented in Mosney, Ballyhaunis, St Patrick’s in Monaghan and Clonakilty in Cork. That system is being extended across all accommodation under contract to RIA, starting with Athlone in early January and the expansion of the facility in Kinsale Road, Cork. The intention is that by the end of 2018 all accommodation centres will have either self or communal catering facilities.
The Minister also noted that the public tender for the procurement of further Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres for people arriving in Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme is about to be published and that a similar tender for the procurement of accommodation for those seeking protection will issue in 2018.
The Minister wished everyone at the accommodation centre, staff and residents alike, and indeed all staff and residents in all accommodation centres in Ireland a peaceful Christmas and a happy new year.
It follows another Christmas Party at the Montague Direct Provision Centre on December 12, organised by the Laois Partnership Company.
The Mountmellick Men’s Shed Choir provided entertainment and there was a great surprise for all the children when a special request to the North Pole meant a visit from Santa.
"A huge thanks to Rath NS School and Parents Council for providing funding for presents for the children and refreshments. Thanks also to the Centre Management for the super venue and funding for refreshments and prizes for the free raffle," Laois Partnership said.
Julie Scully is an Integration Support Worker with Laois Partnership Company.
"This was part of the Integration Initiative where it is hoped that some of the men from the Montague Direct Provision Centre will join the Mountmellick Men’s Shed Choir in 2018. Rath NS and the Parents Council of Rath NS gave the funding for the gifts for the children and the Centre Management provided the refreshments. It was a great success with a large number of the residents and children were in attendance for what was a very entertaining performance. It is hoped to have this as an annual event," she said.
Below: The Men's Shed performing at the party, and a happy pair of children.
The Montague centre, a former hotel now owned and run privately to house people seeking asylum in Ireland, has space for 202 residents, with figures last May showing 16 "vacancies".