The general manager of Ashford Castle has spoken about the unprecedented level of mental distress he is seeing among workers in the hospitality industry as the country awaits news of the latest restrictions.
Niall Rochford, who runs the five-star hotel on the Galway-Mayo border, said staff are experiencing sleepless nights, the looming prospect of job losses and the fear of not being able to pay their mortgage or bills “with no end in sight”.
The hotel boss was speaking after he received widespread support for a post on his personal social media page yesterday that read: “In all my years of management Ashford Castle and Dromoland Castle I have never experienced the level of mental health issues that I am seeing now among staff.”
He warned: “This must be a consideration when Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin make their difficult decisions over the coming days.”
Speaking to the Sunday Independent he explained: “I am finding – and from speaking with colleagues as well – they are finding that people who don’t normally struggle with these things are certainly finding the uncertainty and the prospect of going into this winter period really, really difficult. People who have families, who have mortgages,” he said.
“We are doing everything we can to stay open as a business [but] if it goes to Level 4 we have to close and then we have to make some really difficult and hard decisions around our people.”
Describing staff as the hospitality industry’s “greatest resource”, he said: “We are trying to do everything we can to hold onto them – but if that is not the case, then what becomes of the person who has a mortgage who has bills to pay on a weekly basis?”
Mr Rochford was keen to commend Nphet for its “fantastic job” and stressed that “public health has to be a priority”, but he said: “There are other things that we need to be conscious of as well, particularly going into a dark winter season, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight – I think that’s the issue here.
“It’s the basics of survival and being able to pay bills, and the impact that this is having on them not being able to sleep at night.
“We have been through recessions before and it has been very difficult to run a business – but this is very different. This is a whole new level of concern that I am personally seeing from a mental health perspective.”
Meanwhile, on the feedback he received for his post he said: “Obviously it struck a chord, which I didn’t expect.
“It’s good that we’ve been able to highlight this, because it has to be part of the narrative. It has to be part of the conversation in any decision we make now.”