Who is Alan Hyde?

In our last post, we heard about Mount Trenchard Direct Provision centre in Foynes, Co. Limerick, widely known as the worst Direct Provision centre in the country.

The cramped living conditions, isolated location and cruel attitude of the management make it a place that many Asylum-Seekers in Ireland fear being sent to.

 

So who runs this hell-hole? The company contracted to run the centre is Baycaster Limited, run by Alan Hyde and Tadhg Murphy.

 

Other people have already given an excellent background on Alan Hyde. We won’t repeat too much of that – suffice to say that since the year 2000, the Department of Justice has paid at least €70 million to some of his companies. This is his payment for accommodating asylum seekers over the last 18 years.

Alan Hyde runs Mount Trenchard Direct Provision centre, along with Clonakilty Lodge in Cork; Birchwood House in Waterford; Ashbourne House in Glounthaune Co Cork; Glen Vera Hotel in Cork City and formerly Sarsfield Bridge Hotel in Limerick City.

 

The Birchwood centre in Waterford (run by Hyde via the company Stompool Investments Ltd) hit the headlines in 2014 when residents protested about the conditions there.

Similar protests in Mount Trenchard around the same time saw the leaders of the protests forcibly moved from the centre by armed Gardaí and transferred to other centres.

Alan Hyde made a submission to the Department of Justice regarding the Waterford protest which you can read here.

 

Warehousing people just isn’t enough to keep our Alan busy. He has a hand in a few other ventures: a dairy business; a counselling service and a whiskey brand.

The whiskey business – called, imaginatively enough, Hyde Whiskey, is run with his brother Conor. It turns out they lied about owning their own distillery – the products are bought from elsewhere – a faux pas to say the least among whiskey aficionados.

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Alan Hyde – Direct Provision residents’ stories

Some months ago we covered slumlord James Devine. He intimidated a family out of their home in Lucan, Co. Dublin, making their lives a living hell for two years until they finally left and were forced into homelessness.

A particularly galling detail was that this family had already been through Direct Provision – a system that allows businesses to profit from some of the most vulnerable in society.

Similar to the system of Emergency Accommodation, which sees hoteliers paid to house homeless families in what are usually very unsuitable conditions, Direct Provision sees contractors paid vast sums by the government to house people seeking asylum in Ireland. While in this limbo, they are not allowed to work and must abide by often very restrictive house rules, frequently sharing rooms with other adults who they do not know. This situation can last several years – 40% of asylum seekers spend at least 2 years in Direct Provision.

 

Mount Trenchard near Foynes, Co. Limerick, is known as the worst Direct Provision centre in the country – squalid living conditions are combined with emotional cruelty.

 

The centre is run by contractors Baycaster Limited, owned by Alan Hyde and Tadhg Murphy. More on them later.

The rooms are often crammed with residents having to share 5 to 6 people to a room if not more. Photographs shared on social media display a pretty grim and filthy place.

 

Lovely rooms with 10, 8 or 6 people at a time, you might say “yes people share room in hostels for an overnight or a weekend stay all the time.” But in Mount Trenchard you would usually spend around 5+ years and yes the transfer to another centre is usually denied.

 

 

A few weeks ago, the management at the centre took exception with the residents befriending some stray cats.

the residents here became attached to them, the kittens helped many here to deal with their depression… The contractors told the residents the cats can’t come inside and the residents respected it… the residents still played with the kittens outside.

The management ordered the cats to be destroyed, by planning to have them shot.

 

Mount Trenchard is also widely described as a punishment centre where any rebellious residents are sent to be taught a lesson.

One resident tweetedI have gotten a few messages on here saying “why don’t you get a transfer to a different center?!” Myself I have applied for 4 transfers since January but was denied. There’s a saying in Mount Trenchard, once you’re here it’s near impossible to get out.

 

 

 

As if all this wasn’t grim enough already, Mount Trenchard is basically in the middle of nowhere (around 8km from Foynes, a small village in Limerick). When residents have to travel to Dublin to renew their Temporary Residency Cards, they have to take the one bus to Limerick city to get on a bus that will have them in Dublin by lunchtime.

After waiting to get the card and getting the bus back they won’t arrive back In Limerick city until 5.30 or 6pm after the bus back to Mount Trenchard has already left, leaving them stranded.

A resident tweetedmany here including myself have not been able to renew our cards for more than 8 months now due to not being able to get back…

In 2014, residents in Mount Trenchard protested against their living conditions. The leaders of the protests were forcibly moved from the centre by armed Gardaí and transferred to other centres.

Senator Padraig Ó Céidigh

“You need to have a certain amount of money to get through life at a reasonable standard but, above that, it won’t make you happy. I know a lot of people who made a lot of money and are very sad people. Money can and does change most people and not necessarily for the better. “

-Padraig Ó Céidigh, The Sunday Times 03/05/15

 

 

Slumlords come in all shapes and sizes, from businessmen to tabloid darlings to freemen. However, Slumleaks are delighted to finally claim our first politician.

 

On the 9th of September 2018 a discussion of the housing crisis on the Marian Finucane show provoked an emotional and passionate intervention from Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh on behalf of the ‘ordinary Joe Soap’.  (Listen from 33.00 minutes on here).

However, rather than railing against high rents, economic evictions or skyrocketing homelessness figures the gallant Senator set out to defend a lesser known victim of the housing crisis… those poor souls renting out their spare gaffs on Airbnb.

Ó Céidigh refused to blame AirBnb for driving homelessness and constricting the housing supply – for him, efforts to regulate are just an example of Big Government oppressing the little guy.

 

I think that’s actually pushing the problem over to the private sector, to the ordinary Joe Soap who’s out there working on a PAYE basis, barely making ends meet and if they do rent out something I’d say fair play to them. That to me… that to me is enterprise quite frankly.

 

Unfortunately, Mr Ó Céidigh’s “Man of the people” credentials are up there with Peter Casey and Sean Gallagher’s. When not defending hotelification, he’s a major player in the tourism business in Galway, having served on the board of Bord Fáilte before going into business in his own right.

He owns Aer Arann, a nursing home in Kinnegad and is listed as a director of at least 20 companies. His portfolio ranges from transport firms to investment firms to Irish language publishing companies.

 

Coincidentally, he also has two properties on AirBnb on the Long Walk and in Salthill. Slumleaks can only wonder why he’s so opposed to the idea of regulating it.

 

 

Slumleaks were first lead there in our investigations on Eugene Burke, who manages the Long Walk property. Far from being simply the working man doing his best to cover expenses, the paper trail for these properties leads right to Leinster House.

He’s declined to declare any of his property interests in the Seanad’s register of interests, despite mentioning it in the newspapers on several occasions.

 

vs

 

He hasn’t been modest about his wealth. He boasted about Aer Arann to The Sunday Times in 2015:

I had no money and grew it from zero to €130m turnover in four years. The growth was phenomenal because I started from nothing

He’s being a touch liberal with the truth here – for all of his complaints about regulation consisting of an attack on the entrepreneurs, his own businesses have relied heavily on subsidies down the years and Aer Arann has been in examinership before. It was also far from a solo triumph – those who worked alongside him have voiced their anger at being whitewashed from his version of history.

 

It can only be assumed from the rest of his CV, and from his one-time net worth of 40 million euro that he is far from “barely making ends meet”, despite his great empathy for those less fortunate than himself.

A thin skin, a feigned “man of the people” persona, mythomania and self-aggrandizement, all wrapped up in the guise of a property tycoon who dabbles in politics…

Could Slumleaks have stumbled on the Gaeilgeoir Donald Trump?

 

Who is Eugene Burke?

As we mentioned in our last post, Eugene Burke is Galway’s biggest Airbnb “host”. Here he is pictured, in what we hope is his Tinder photo.

 

 

However, his business would appear to be a family affair.

 

Eugene mentions in his profile that his family have been letting properties for over 30 years.

His father the late Christopher Burke and mother Attracta Burke (née Hannelly) were directors of a company called C.G Construction Ltd.

Christopher, originally from Athenry, was a builder and died in 1998 in a horse riding accident. Eugene has a brother Leo Burke and a sister Michelle Burke. Uncle Eamon Burke is director of a E.T Construction Ltd with his wife Marie Burke (née O’Malley).

It’s mostly his mother Attracta who’s involved with the business. Here’s a photo of her.

 

 

No comment.

 

Attracta is originally from Northampton and is a qualified nurse.

She is listed as the company secretary for Eugene’s company Nestegg Property Services. In addition to this she owns at least five of the properties Eugene lets out on AirBnb – a convenient little leg-up for her son.

 

From what Slumleaks hears on the dickiebird from Galway, Eugene keeps a relatively low profile of it these days- whereas once he was very publicly the face of AirBnb in Galway and heavily involved with the local Pride parade. To be fair, he’s had a stormy time of it recently.

 

 

Eugene was in a relationship with a Canadian, Bruce Henry. Our snooping on social media give us the notion they’re currently not together. This is an awful shame, because they were partners in business as well as in love.

Bruce is registered director (with Eugene as the other director) for  LOL Entertainment Ltd and Galway Pride Festival Company Ltd.

It’s something to do with the latter that tells us why Eugene’s been keeping quiet recently – running a gay pride parade as if it were Nest Egg could only end in tears.

 

Bruce was chair of Galway Pride in 2016, while Eugene was vice-chair. That year, they were accused of misconduct after they changed the venue for the festival. The only official LGBT bar in Galway was spurned, as well as a controversial €5000 loan from a member of  Eugene’s family (wonder who that was?).

Bruce explained their decision to desert those businesses who had supported the local LGBT community for years so as to maximise profits:

Decisions were made out of need and a duty of care to our sponsors and to the festival. We had secured 14 sponsors who donated €17,000 in cash and services. We had to protect what we had worked so hard to achieve.

 

The rest of Galway Pride held an EGM where they were voted out of their position – this resulted in a split in Galway Pride wherein a seperate group was formed and a court case taken between the committee members and Eugene to resolve the money question. You can read all about it here.

Rival events were set up in the West Side of Galway city where the festival traditionally took place – in what could well have been Ireland’s first “gay shame” event.

The conflict was eventually settled with the dissolution of Burke and Henry’s Galway Pride Festival, but not before a rival Galway Community Pride event was set up.

 

So there you have it – for a brief period, Galway boasted two LGBT Pride festivals. It’s not often Slumleaks stumbles upon a little piece of LGBT history amidst the chaos and madness of the housing crisis, but landlords can be full of surprises.

Eugene ‘serial entrepreneur’ Burke

Average Galway City Rent 2011: €560 for a 1 bed

Average Galway City Rent 2018: €848 for a 1 bed

An increase of 51%

Might there be a link?

 

The housing crisis, sadly, isn’t just a Dublin problem. There isn’t a single county in Ireland where nobody spent Christmas Day in emergency accomodation last year. Galway is no exception –  in the last year, the number of people homeless has soared, with the number of homeless children increasing by 50%.

A less easily-documented aspect of the crisis is students who come to Galway to study but are unable to find a place to live. Many Galway hostels have capitalised on this, specifically advertising beds at extortionate rates to students.

 

We did a search of daft.ie on 08/10/2018 for Galway, and saw listings for 51 residential properties available to let in the Galway city area. But when we searched for ‘entire place’ on Airbnb, we saw anything up to 206 listings which were largely concentrated in Galway city.

 

Despite what some landlords might say to the folks in Take Back The City, moving out of Dublin won’t make life any easier.

 

This is part of a much bigger problem in Ireland, as landlords come to favour short-term lets over the troublesome, more heavily regulated business of actual tenancies. Slumleaks aren’t crazy about AirBnb, and we don’t think our readers are – especially those in Galway city, where AirBnb use grew by 73% last year .

 

However, some landlords are even more avaricious than others- none more than Slumleaks’ latest target, Eugene Burke – just your average young entrepreneur hiding in plain sight behind companies, contractors and even his own family.

 

 

Eugene Burke is listed as an Airbnb host for at least 24 properties as of 08/10/2018 – the busiest host in Galway City.

 

He rents out apartments and houses on behalf of their owner(s) through his company Nest Egg Property Services Ltd.

 

Nestegg Property Services describes itself on its website as

an Airbnb management and consultancy service that removes the hassle of renting out your property on the Airbnb platform.

 

And they also kindly clarify that

Working with NestEgg can provide you with a greater return on your property investment than through traditional property investment.”

But every pyramid scheme says that. How does Mr Burke manage to maximise profit whilst wrecking the rental market for students, locals whose rent has risen by 13.6% in the last year?

Burke makes his money in two ways: by charging the owner of the property a 15% service fee, or by renting the property himself from the owner and letting it out short-term to others for a substantially higher fee.

 

In true entrepreneurial – middle man – style he uses contractors to clean the places, judging from a  Facebook review for the company Zelwork.The prices listed on Eugene’s Airbnb profile range from €60-€290 a night depending on the size and location of the property. With 1556 reviews left on his page there must be a substantial turnover.

Many of the properties he rents out are listed as being owned by his family members including one on Grattan Terrace which is owned by his mother. This previously operated as a B & B and is now rented out as an ‘artistic’ Airbnb for up to 10 people. From what Slumleaks can gather this means it’s been redecorated recently and has a better coffee maker.

 

 

 

He also operates at least one property in the Drom Ard Apartment block, also belonging to his mother Attracta Burke.

 

 

This apartment block was once a residential complex of locals, students and families who lived and worked in the city. It now appears to be almost entirely short-term lets.

 

 

Any Slumleaks reader worth their salt will know AirBnb has never been about people letting out their spare room. Galway’s housing market has been destroyed by landlords buying out entire blocks of apartments, much as Dublin’s city center has been turned into an open-air hotel where tourists sleep in apartments while families sleep in hotels.

One former tenant who rented one of the other apartments in the block told us they were forced to move out due to the inadequate heating and out of control mould which neither the owner nor the property management company saw fit to address.

 

we had to constantly use the dehumidifier… I had to have a hot water bottle, electric blanket and a hoodie on to sleep during the winter… I arrived back after Christmas, after maybe 10-14 days away, there was mould growing covering the floor walls and roof as well as wardrobe.”

 

This same flat is currently advertised on multiple short letting sites by another ‘host’ (strangely enough, also with the first name Eugene – but that, dear reader, is a story for another day). It’s looking a lot less mouldy these days.

Another property on Eugene’s page – 21 The Long Walk – appears to be owned by Pádraig Ó Céidigh – a Senator, businessman, wannabe Presidental candidate and another self described ‘entrepreneur’ who made an impassioned defence of Airbnb on the Marian Finucane show on the 9/9/2018.

 

Admittedly, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

 

Join us soon, when Slumleaks gets to the humans behind the story of skyrocketing rents, vacant properties and bullied tenants beyond the Pale.

Pat O’Donnell and RFC Security

 

Following a mass eviction of approximately 120 tenants from Summerhill Parade in May of this year, various housing activists occupied one of the vacated houses, number 35 Summerhill Parade.

 

The house was held for 10 days. Initially, Pat O’Donnell & Co denied any connection to the houses, however they were forced to reveal themselves when they served a Court Summons on the occupants of the house.

 

This house is owned by Pat O’Donnell & Co Ltd Retirement and Death Benefit Plan, which is connected to Pat O’Donnell & Co – who we met back in May.

 

On 16th of August the O’Donnell family took an injunction against the occupants. This would allow the occupants to be removed by force from the property if necessary.

 

Slumleaks have reason to believe that RFC Security have been hired by the O’Donnells to forcibly remove the occupants from 35 Summerhill Parade.

 

RFC have been monitoring the buildings on Summerhill Parade and it is expected that they will move in on the occupants early tomorrow morning.

 

 

RFC Security’s Managing Director is one Richie Flood. According to a close source, he was arrested in possession of large amount of cocaine while driving an RFC company van several years ago. Richie was held for questioning before being released.

 

 

In addition to Mr Flood’s shady, potentially criminal background it is common knowledge that RFC is a highly exploitative employer. The use of bogus contracts is a common complaint made about RFC’s business practices.

One instance of this is security staff being employed as cleaners, on a significantly lower rate of pay than normal security staff. Besides being an example of odious exploitation, this constitutes a breach of PSA standards, rules and regulations.

 

Some of the sites in Dublin RFC operates on:

 

The Mercantile Pub

 

Stag’s Head

 

Oliver StJohnGogarty’s

 

Trinity Bar

 

Club M

 

Turks Head

 

Whelans

 

The Temple Bar

 

The Village Camden St

 

Flannery’s

 

Fitzsimons

 

Hickey’s Pharmacies Dublin City Centre

 

Fatface Henry St

 

McDonalds Grafton St

 

Liverpool FC shop ILAC centre

 

Regatta ILAC

 

Centra Temple Bar

 

Centra Dame St

 

Spar Dame St

 

The Button Factory

 

Westland Sq. Car Park

Who is James Devine?

Last month we heard about James Devine, a landlord who terrorised a family out of their home in Lucan – despite the fact that they always paid their rent on time. He launched a campaign of harassment and intimidation when they asked him to carry out basic repairs on the house.

 

The Dublin Inquirer have also covered this case, revealing that Devine did something similar to a previous tenant in 2016-17.

 

So who exactly is the delightful James Devine, and why does he bully perfectly decent, well-behaved tenants out of their home in such a blatant manner? Why doesn’t he just do what many landlords are doing these days, and say they need to leave due to renovations? By all accounts, the house needed some work.

 

Slumleaks has done some digging on James Devine, and what we found was that this aggressive, bullying behaviour seems to be the norm for him.

 

Originally from a farming background in Treenlaur near Swinford, Co. Mayo, his main line of work for some years has been in plant hire – most recently he registered J Devine Civils Ltd in April 2018, at his address in Knappagh, near Westport, Co Mayo.

However, he has a string of convictions, mostly traffic-related. These convictions are documented in various newspaper reports over the years, and demonstrate that the man has what can be politely described as a short temper.

 

His first traffic-related offence was in 1992, when he was just 18. He was fined £200 for making false declarations to a car insurance broker, as was his father, Michael J Devine.

 

In 1993, he was charged with vandalising his neighbour’s hay bales while drunk. He was 20 at the time.

 

In July 2003, he was fined for dangerous driving in Dublin. He had been stopped by a Garda after doing an illegal U-turn on a busy road. He told the Garda he wouldn’t go to court, drove his 4×4 towards him, nearly hitting him. Afterwards he told the Garda “you’ve made a very big mistake today”. Devine pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.

 

In July 2005, James Devine was fined €2000 and given a 6-month suspended sentence for road offences & road rage. This time, he overtook another motorist on the M50, and then obstructed a Garda.

 

In May 2008 James Devine was fined €1500 & disqualified from driving for 2 yrs in a Longford court. He was charged with speeding and crossing a white line, causing danger to other drivers. The judge described him as “a maniac on the roads” and noted that he had a number of previous convictions.

 

 

It appears that the unfortunate Lukadi family are just the most recent victims of James Devine’s temper.

 

So he mightn’t be a great driver or neighbour, but what of his other hobbies?

In 2006, he took out shares in a Maltese-registered company, Canada Square (Malta) Ltd. He was one of many – there were 81 shareholders in total, all Irish, most small or medium-sized business people involved in either construction or real estate, with a few retailers and farm-related businesses thrown in for good measure.

It’s unclear why so many Irish business people invested in a Maltese-registered company, but this wasn’t that strange during the Celtic Tiger – just think about how many people bought property in Bulgaria.

Canada Square (Malta) Ltd was liquidated in February 2012 – it’s unclear if all the shareholders got a good return on their investment.

 

However, in 2009, James Devine was brought to court by Caterpillar Financial Services (Ireland) Public Limited Company, regarding unpaid loans that he took out in 2006 to buy the house on Foxborough Road.

The three years between 2006 and 2009 were a long three years in the Irish property market – it’s reasonably safe to assume that, while Devine has managed to keep possession of the house on Foxborough Road, he maybe didn’t get the best return on his Maltese investment.

Somehow, we can’t really feel sorry for him though.