Late State Payments Anger Hoteliers

Hoteliers hosting Ukrainian refugees who are currently owed six-figure sums by the State have warned that if payment delays are not immediately addressed, many in the sector will let contracts lapse next month when they come up for renewal.

This week, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth confirmed to RTÉ's News at One that it owes hundreds of hotels, hostels and B&Bs owners €41 million in unpaid bills.
It is close to five months since Lorraine Sweeney's Wilton Hotel in Bray, Co. Wicklow was paid. The hotel has been hosting Ukrainians since March 2022. 

Ms Sweeney and her staff have managed to effectively split her hotel in two, accommodating paying guests in one part of the building, and 140 Ukrainians in another.

"There is a considerable six-figure sum due to us since last October, so it will be close to five months since we got paid," she told RTÉ News.

"We're lucky...that we have income coming from the other side of the house that people pay as they arrive, or pay in advance, so that allows us the cash flow, but if we totally dedicated to only Ukrainian guests, there is no way this business could survive waiting five months," she said.

In Clare, Senator Martin Conway said he has been contacted by hoteliers in the county and beyond who have not been paid since September.

"There are people owed hundreds of thousands of euros, and I have one person in contact with me that is owed in excess of a million euros at this stage," Mr Conway said.

"Some of them are on the brink of going out of business," Mr Conway said. "Many of them are seriously considering not renewing their contracts to the Department."

According to the Department, more than 700 hotels, hostels and B&Bs are providing accommodation to Ukrainians, and they generate "approximately 150 invoices per week".

"We regret any delays in making payments and are affording this issue very high priority," a spokesperson said.

"In line with Minister O’Gorman’s commitment to clear the backlog at the end of 2022, (the department) temporarily re-assigned staff from other parts of the department to the payments team in December, doubling the size of the payments unit," the spokesperson said.