Modular housing for Ukrainians to be delayed until next spring

Organisers of protest in Co Kildare town raise concerns about removal of green area and say flooding issues mean site not suitable

Modular housing for 2,000 Ukrainian refugees expected to be ready by the start of next year is now likely to be delayed until the spring of 2023, the Department of Equality and Integration has said.

On Saturday locals in Newbridge, Co Kildare, protested over plans to build 34 modular homes in the area, with residents in Rathangan, Co Kildare also objecting to plans for 30 modular homes in the locality.

A department spokesman said officials were currently considering the complaints made by the Co Kildare residents’ groups.

Minister for Equality and Integration Roderic O’Gorman met with residents from both areas to discuss the proposed modular housing plans in recent weeks.


“The Minister listened to the concerns expressed by those at the meeting and outlined the emergency context under which the Government had approved the use of modular units,” the spokesman said. “Officials are considering the matters raised and engagement continues with respect to both sites,” he said.

The department said it was likely the 500 modular homes, spread across 20 locations, would not be built until next spring.

Alongside Newbridge and Rathangan sites in west Dublin, Cork city and Cavan town were among the first to be identified as locations for the modular homes.

It was initially hoped that the first of the modular homes would be ready by November, with the remainder built by February next year.

“The Government has approved the development of up to 500 units of modular accommodation in different configurations over two phases. Final configuration of sites will be informed by further site evaluation and engagement,” the spokesman said. “Both phases of the project are expected to be delivered by the spring of 2023,” he said.

On Saturday, residents of Newbridge, Co Kildare held a protest at the intended site for 30 modular homes to accommodate displaced Ukrainians, before marching to the town hall in peaceful protest against the planned construction.

“We will block access for the builders if they come in. We have a community watch set up morning and night now… if they try to sneak in underhanded, we’ll be able to stop it,” said Noreen O’Shea, a leader of the LHD action group, which includes affected residents in the Lakeside Park, Highfield and Dara Park estates.

“We plan on stopping this, we’re not letting these modular homes come into our estates”, she said.

Tom McDonnell, another leader of the group behind the protest, pledged to continue each week until concerns are heard. “We’ll be here every Saturday until we get an answer. This is not the last [protest], this is the first”, he said.

Mr O’Gorman came in for particular attention at the protest, with locals directing their ire toward the Green Party TD, whom they feel has ignored their concerns.

“It’s ironic that it’s the Green Party, that Roderic O’Gorman is behind this, taking away our green areas”, said Mr McDonnell.

Mr O’Gorman and the Office of Public Works met local representatives including Mr McDonnell several weeks ago to discuss his concerns, but Mr McDonnell said he was not satisfied by their response.

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”.

A petition with 12 pages of signatures from locals was sent to Mr O’Gorman, outlining the reasons opposing the site. Among them was the removal of a valued green space as well as accessible routes to the town centre for disabled residents, and the lack of available GP and school spaces.

The primary concerns for many locals surround the flooding issues which have plagued residents for years, caused by a lake prone to overflowing in the chosen park.

“The site is just totally unsuitable for modular homes, the people who live there already can’t get flood insurance”, said Jennifer Quinn, another resident.

The protest lasted about an hour, protesters invited locals to join their march along the route, which winded through the affected housing estates and spanned over a kilometre of Newbridge’s main street.

Accompanied by placards bearing messages such as ‘Green party stealing our green amenity’ as well as a loudspeaker leading chants of ‘save our green’. the march was flanked both in front and behind by Garda vehicles to manage the affected traffic.

Fianna Fáil councillor Noel Heavey spoke alongside community leaders at the town hall, emphasising his support and empathy for Ukrainian refugees, but reinforcing the message about the unsuitability of the site.

“I know many of the people here are pro-Ukrainian and have huge empathy for what those people have suffered . . . But to build modular homes in a place that has sewage coming in the doors . . . It’s the right idea in the wrong place”, he said.

“I admire the leadership that’s come forward at this time to stand up”.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times