Refugee housing plan at Clonliffe College lacks ‘concrete commitments’ one year on from initial offer

Former seminary in Drumcondra now owned by US property multinational Hines thought suitable for up to 620 Ukrainians

No “concrete commitments” have been made to house refugees at Clonliffe College in north Dublin city, almost a year after it was first offered for the purpose.

The former seminary in Drumcondra was one of the first large sites to be suggested as an accommodation centre for Ukrainian refugees – with an estimate last April that it could hold up to 620 people.

At the time, the building was owned by Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese, but it has since transferred into the ownership of US property multinational Hines, which plans to redevelop the buildings and the wider campus into housing. That project is currently stalled in judicial review.

Last April, a spokesman for the archdiocese told The Irish Times that preparatory work would take “some weeks”.

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However, a spokesman for Hines this week said that “no concrete commitments have been entered into at this point”.

Refurbishment works

The company is engaging with the Department of Integration on the use of the existing seminary buildings – which have not served as a priest-training facility since 2000 – as emergency accommodation.

However, a source with knowledge of the project warned that even if an agreement was reached, it would likely be months before it was ready for use. The source said refurbishment works would need to be scheduled and then carried out to meet health and safety requirements and fire prevention codes.

It comes amid ongoing pressure on the State to find accommodation for refugees fleeing from Ukraine and elsewhere to Ireland, with internal department projections showing there could be a shortfall of 14,000 beds by the end of March.

Meanwhile, hotels have been slow to take up a new contract which would see them continue offering beds to refugees this year. More than two-thirds of those approached with the new contract so far have yet to sign up.

Lack of progress

Minister of State at the Department of Integration Joe O’Brien has signalled that the State will move away from reliance on the private sector and instead will focus on acquiring and retrofitting properties and modular homes.

The lack of progress made on the Clonliffe site showed that the Government needed to “move from emergency, reactive mode into dealing with this on a longer-term basis”, according to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore.

Ms Whitmore, her party’s spokeswoman on integration, said the Coalition “must invest resources to ensure that long-term solutions are being provided. The time for relying on temporary measures is over. Government needs to bring a sense of urgency to this.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Integration said it was “working actively with Hines Group” to bring the Clonliffe College development “on stream”.

“This is a complex project which has involved the repurposing of older buildings. In view of the pressure to secure immediate accommodation for arrivals, particularly in the first six months of the crisis, [the department] focused on projects capable of accommodating [Ukrainians] quickly.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times