Newbridge residents will this Saturday protest against the planned construction of 30 modular homes for displaced Ukrainian refugees in the Kildare town. The opposition to the development is rooted largely in the selection of a site near long-established housing estates. Dara Park and Lakeside Park have long been prone to flooding and sewage issues, which locals claim have been ignored by the authorities.
“You’d be landing these people [the Ukrainians] in a quagmire,” said Tom McDonnell, head of the LHD Residents Group, which includes Lakeside Park and Dara Park, as well as the nearby Highfield housing estate.
The proposed site is uphill from a lake at the centre of the three estates in question, where more than 650 houses already lie within an area prone to flooding. Locals fear that the development of more homes would only exacerbate the existing issues, and have complained they were not consulted about the selection of the site.
“I want to see the evidence that this is safe, and that these extra houses won’t tip the balance,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Noel Heavey. He said that much of the opposition to the development could be quelled by transparent and thorough investigations into the eligibility of the site, which the Office of Public Works (OPW) have been asked for.
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The Government has approved 500 modular homes as part of its plans to house some of the tens of thousands of refugees who have come to Ireland fleeing the war in Ukraine. Potential sites were identified in Dublin, Cork and Cavan, as well as a further 30 in Rathangan in Co Kildare. The first modular homes are due to be installed from November in a roll-out managed by the OPW, with a two-phase construction due to be completed by the spring of next year.
Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman, whose department has responsibility for the housing of Ukrainian refugees, and the OPW have met local representatives, including Mr McDonnell. Yet the Newbridge resident expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of follow-up. “It’s been three weeks, and we haven’t gotten a satisfactory response from the Government ... we’ve been delayed long enough.”
Mr O’Gorman previously said, following that meeting, that he had informed residents’ groups that he, his department and the OPW would “look carefully” at their concerns and see if there were “ways in which we can appropriately address those concerns”.
The site’s safety is not the only local objection to the development, with an LHD Action Group letter to Mr O’Gorman outlining several other issues with the proposed construction of the modular homes in the location. These included the removal of a valued green space for locals, and the limiting of accessibility for on-foot commutes to the town centre.
At a meeting of the residents’ association last Friday, locals questioned why the contentious site was chosen to house those fleeing conflict in Ukraine rather on the Kildare County Council’s own land or the nearby Curragh.
Some members of the community also expressed resistance to the idea of any Ukrainian refugees being relocated to the locality amid concerns that GP and school spaces are already oversubscribed.
In response to the criticisms that residents are unsympathetic to the displaced Ukrainians’ plight, Cllr Heavey said “I absolutely want to see Ukrainian people housed ... people want to help; they just don’t want to see a big mistake made”.
The peaceful protest march will begin at 1pm at the basketball court near the three estates, before proceeding to Newbridge Town Hall.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has been contacted for comment on the protest.