Lismore House Hotel is set to become a direct provision centre from next month.
The building, which was Ireland's first purpose-built hotel, closed down a number of years ago but was purchased by Cork-based company, MCHT, in 2021.
After the purchase, they announced on the hotel's social media that it would once again be opening as a hotel within months. However, a planning application to make the necessary alterations was on hold for more than a year before being deemed withdrawn just last week.
"Initially, [the direct provision centre is] going to open in the first or second week of February," Tallow councillor John Pratt has told WLR News.
"Women and families is what we're told is going to be the make-up of the people that are coming there and that there's going to be 12 staff employed.
"... Starting with 60 [people] coming, and my understanding is with the possibility of that going up to either 107 or 112."
A small number of councillors in the west of the county, including Councillor Pratt, met with Superintendent Lacey of Dungarvan on Friday of last week, who made them aware of the plans.
The hotel has been closed since 2016 and when it was purchased in the summer of 2021, hopes were high that it would reopen as a hotel again.
"I suppose, it's the fact that it's the hotel that is actually being taken out of use," Councillor Pratt continued, addressing the fact that local business people in particular may be disappointed with news of a direct provision centre in that building.
"I think that Lismore will be welcoming but it's the fact that the hotel is not going to be in use for the foreseeable future, for however long that is.
"Because, with Lismore being a heritage town, - even for the greater West Waterford area, west of Dungarvan - it would have been good to see it reopening and for anything really; whether it's the Immrama Festival or the Blackwater Opera Festival, or even just something that might be on in any of the small local towns.
"It would have provided accommodation."
While hopeful there won't be any need for them, Councillor Pratt is now calling for more Gardaí in Lismore to deal with any incidents that may possibly arise.
It comes as a handful of people gathered in Lismore on Saturday, bearing signs that he says were anti-refugee.
"There was a small gathering there - I think about four or five people - but there were about 15 people who were on the opposite side," the Labour councillor explained.
"The four or five that were there didn't necessarily say that it was regarding the hotel, but the timing is very strange!
"They had more signs than people, to be honest with you, but I just went over there [to Lismore] to show that the people of Lismore are welcoming, they are not against what's happening.
"There is disappointment that the hotel is going to be out of action though. There's no doubt about that."
A new sergeant was recently appointed to Lismore Garda Station but it's feared that more Garda manpower may be needed.
Councillor Pratt says this isn't to say that the people coming into the hotel building are going to cause any problems, but he thinks it would be no harm to have more Gardaí present just for the first few months.
"Some people are nervous," he said, "There is a nervousness around because it's a change, it's a big number, it's in the centre of the town, and even though more than likely there will be no issues, I think just for peace of mind there could be the need for having a Garda presence."
WLR has contacted the building's owners for comment on the matter.
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