Protesters block bus of asylum seekers from entering Columb Barracks

Westmeath site being used to house Ukrainian and other international refugees

A bus carrying International Protection (IP) applicants was turned away at the entrance to Columb Barracks in Co Westmeath on Monday after protestors blocked the entrance for more than two hours.

Approximately 30 protesters blocked the gates at the Mullingar site, where the Department of Integration recently announced 120 single male international protection applicants would be housed.

Since its closure in 2012, the 10-hectare (25-acre) barracks in the centre of the Westmeath town has been used by up to 30 community groups, who voiced their concerns regarding the disruption this may cause to their activities.

The plan, aided by the Department of Defence, is for both Ukrainian and other international refugees to be housed at the facility.


According to a spokesperson, 15 tents will be erected “for a limited period” of up to eight weeks to accommodate these applicants, at the former military facility. It plans to use the site “for a maximum of 12 months”.

An earlier bus carrying around 30 IP applicants had successfully entered the Barracks at around 11.35am without issue.

Following the arrival of the first bus, a group of around 30 protesters assembled and were ready and waiting for the second bus once it arrived at 1pm.

Crowds grew around the second bus with some shouting “you’re not going nowhere” and “get out of our town” – one protester chained the gates with a lock.

Gardaí arrived on the scene shortly after the bus was first blocked and clipped the lock that had been placed on the gate, as the numbers protesting grew to roughly 50.

The IP applicants who had entered the Barracks on an earlier bus looked on through the gates at the demonstration centring around the second bus.

Gardaí attempted to negotiate with some of the local protest leaders to let a caterer through the gates to deliver food for the earlier arrivals, but this was rejected.

After negotiations failed, at 3.15pm gardaí entered the bus and five minutes later the bus drove away prompting cheers from the crowd of protesters.

A statement issued on behalf of the Department of Integration condemned the ongoing protest at Columb Barracks.

“The Department is aware of an ongoing incident at Columb Barracks, and is liaising with An Garda Síochána.

“Over the past year, communities across Ireland have demonstrated great solidarity and welcome to those who have come here seeking refuge. The Department strongly condemns any attempt to promote division and hostility,” they said.

The Department have not confirmed whether they will attempt to bring the bus of IP applicants who were unable to gain entry, back to Columb Barracks, or another location.