200 Ukrainian refugees to be housed in modular units at Columb Barracks in Mullingar - Department

Bus carrying asylum seekers to former army barracks was blocked by protesters in March

Protesters gathered outside Columb Barracks in Mullingar earlier this year.

The Department of Integration has confirmed that up to 200 Ukrainian refugees will be housed at Columb Barracks in Mullingar “in the weeks ahead” as modular homes near completion at the site.

A statement confirmed that 50 four-person units will be delivered in total.

The 25 acre facility is currently accommodating 53 International Protection applicants and has the capacity to house up to 150 across 15 tents located on the parade square.

Tented accommodation at Columb Barracks is currently operating under capacity since a bus of asylum seekers attempting to enter the barracks on March 24th were blocked by protesters and forced to turn away.

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No further attempts to bring asylum seekers into the facility have been made.

It is believed that these tents will no longer be used and are to be replaced by modular housing units.

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Columb Barracks closed its doors for military purposes in 2012 and has been used as a hub by up to 30 local community groups.

A 24/7 security presence has been in operation at the site since March allowing only users of community groups, such as a local boxing club and a Youth Work Ireland Midlands hub, to enter for their activities.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Integration said that Columb Barracks will be the Government’s first “proof of concept” modular housing project.

“In March the Government agreed a proposal from the Humanitarian Accommodation Working Group established under the Department of the Taoiseach to take forward a ‘proof of concept’ project for the provision of modular/pod buildings,” they said.

“Columb Barracks, Mullingar, Co Westmeath was chosen as appropriate to deliver the first proof of concept project, which will deliver 50 four-person modular units, with a total capacity of 200, at the site.”

The Department said preparatory works on the units are already under way. “Following completion in the weeks ahead, the modular units will accommodate Ukrainian families,” they said.

Construction works for the installation of modular homes at Columb Barracks have been under way since April, including the felling of trees on the campus to make room for homes and the installation of underground plumbing.

The movement of asylum seekers into Columb Barracks has resulted in recurring protests outside of the facility since January when plans were first announced.

This included a march through Mullingar town on February 2nd, and the blocking of a bus of asylum seekers on March 24th which resulted in the arrest of one man for an assault on a member of An Garda Síochána.

Columb Barracks use by the Department of Integration means the site will now be unavailable for car parking during Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2023, according to Westmeath County Council.

Last year the site had a capacity for hundreds of car parking spaces, including disabled parking, and was a drop-off point for shuttle buses.