The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has confirmed to Gript that no residents will be moved into the proposed IPAS centre in Rosslare Harbour until planning issues are addressed.
The development comes on the heels of a 1000-strong protest in the small village at the weekend – in opposition to the introduction of the immigration centre, which was set to house 400 men, at the site of the former Great Southern Hotel in the Wexford village.
The village, a tourism hotspot, has already seen three of its hotels utilised for those fleeing the war in Ukraine, and the setting up of a separate refugee centre there in 2020. The plans for the housing of up to 400 migrants, confirmed earlier this month, have resulted in “a lot of anger” locally, with people saying the area is already overwhelmed.
Protestors have maintained a presence at the entrance points to the Great Southern Hotel site since last week. In addition, protestors were seen outside Wexford County Council this afternoon, continuing their demonstrations against the plans. The same was seen last night outside the Council buildings, with locals vowing to not give up until politicians in Dublin take notice.
In a statement provided this afternoon, a representative for the Department referred to a remote meeting held between Ministers Roderic O’Gorman and Darragh O’Brien and public representatives from Wexford Municipal District on last Wednesday, 15th November, to discuss the issues concerning the offer of accommodation at the former Great Southern Hotel in Rosslare Harbour.
Following the inconclusive meeting, community representatives in the coastal village met again at the end last week – and decided to escalate their protests against the use of the site to set up a second Direct Provision Centre. That came in response to a perceived unwillingness on the part of Minister O’Gorman to refuse any offer of accommodation in the area.
Now, the Department has confirmed that planning matters referred to An Bord Pleanála by Wexford County Council, require resolution before the centre can be used.
“The International Protection Procurement Service (IPPS) is still considering the offer of accommodation made in respect of the former Great Southern Hotel. A full assessment of the offer made was undertaken by IPPS, and, as discussed at the meeting, there are planning matters referred to An Bord Pleanála by Wexford County Council, requiring resolution,” a statement provided by the Department stated.
Minister O’Gorman has confirmed that until these matters have been concluded, the Department will not enter into a contract for the property.
The statement continued: “However, as also outlined in the meeting, and, given the State’s legal obligation in this regard, the Minister is not in a position to discount any offer of accommodation, given the acute shortage of availability, and the continued high demand for accommodation for those seeking International Protection.
“Minister O’ Gorman has given an undertaking to advise public representatives of any developments in relation to the potential opening date for this property as it arises.
The Community Engagement Team (CET) is working with local officials and the local development company to ensure the local community have the correct and factual information.”
The statement provided to Gript also acknowledged “a very high level of demand on accommodation and services” at present, stating:
“As outlined at the meeting, the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) is providing accommodation to 25,200 people seeking International Protection in Ireland, and since January 2022 have brought over 190 properties, nationwide, into use to ensure that all those who arrive in Ireland seeking shelter can be accommodated.
“It was acknowledged that this, coupled with the large influx of those fleeing the war in Ukraine since 2022 seeking assistance from this Department, has place a very high level of demand on accommodation and services, in the whole of government approach to this humanitarian crisis.”
The Save Our Nursing Home protest, held on Saturday, saw participants hold signs which read, “Listen to the People” and “Show some respect for Rosslare Harbour.”
“We can not take any more,” was another message emblazoned on purple and yellow signs held by children in the protest, which drew a large attendance from families, along with the message, “Rosslare Harbour is at Saturation.”
Local Independent Councillor Ger Carthy, who was at the head of the march, told Pádraig Byrne of the Wexford People and Irish Independent that “ The people of Rosslare have decided to take a hard stand against the government proposal to facilitate another IPAS centre in Rosslare.”
Cllr Carthy said the march was a show of “people power” and that the area was “fortunate to have such a strong community in Rosslare Harbour and the wider area” as he highlighted local anger and frustration over how the move to turn the building into another IPAS centre would conflict with plans for a nursing home on the site.
“This is not just going to affect Rosslare Harbour it’s going to have an impact right across south Wexford,” he said of the plans. “Let’s be fair, the deal was for a 90-bed nursing home and 24 independent living units and the government have given us something totally different.
“It looks like the government is backed into a corner in relation to IPAS accommodation. That’s down to the diktat coming from Europe, but it’s time it stood on it own two feet and looked at this on a national level because the people of Rosslare can’t be expected to pick up the tab of the government of Ireland.”
“If it has to be escalated, it has to be escalated, but today has been a great success, the amount of support we’ve received from the general public, from the truck drivers coming in and out has been incredible. The people here mean business, and, if needs be, they will do it again. There’s a great resilience in the people here and they simply can’t take any more,” Cllr Carthy told The Independent.
In a statement tonight, local TD in the area, Verona Murphy, who has been involved in the Save Our Nursing Home campaign, said that today’s confirmation from the department was welcome.
“Be under no illusion, it is the tenacity and determination of the people of Rosslare Harbour that achieved this, particularly in the last 3 days,” the Independent Wexford politician said.
“Well done all,” she added. Deputy Murphy went on to say that a letter from Minister O’Gorman, addressed to TD James Browne confirming that the plans were on pause “does not solve the issue” in Rosslare.
“It gives breathing space but that’s all,” she said. She went on to describe it as “a classic ‘kick the can down the road’ letter which you would not have received without turning up the pressure in the last 3 days.”
“The planning issue still remains outstanding & the approach to the planning issues with Wexford Co Co is where the battle lies,” she added.
“We must maintain the pressure & persevere,” she said, adding: “Ultimately, we will bring this matter the whole way to the Supreme Court if we have to.”
In a press statement, Wexford County Council also released an update this evening on the proposed direct provision centre at Rosslare Harbour.
“Wexford County Council wishes to provide clarification and an update in relation to the proposal to develop a Direct Provision Centre at the former Great Southern Hotel on St. Martin’s Road in Rosslare Harbour,” they said.
“The Council carried out inspections of the work being carried out at the site and identified a number of modifications to the building which were not consistent with the planning permission granted.
“The Council then issued a Warning Letter to the developer pursuant to Section 152 of the Planning and Development Act. The Council’s legal advisors advised that this was the appropriate response, and that the Council had an obligation to act reasonably and proportionately and on the basis of the evidence available to it. The Council fully intends following through the enforcement process underway.
“A second and more involved issue has arisen in relation to whether the proposal to convert the building into accommodation for persons seeking international protection is classed as exempted development.
PRESS RELEASE – PROPOSED DIRECT PROVISION CENTRE ROSSLARE
— Wexford County Council (@wexfordcoco) November 21, 2023
“This is a complex issue and Wexford County Council on 10th November made an application to An Bord Pleanála under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 requesting a determination by An Bord Pleanála in relation to exempted development status and the proposed intensification and increased occupancy of the building.
“A decision from the referral to An Bord Pleanála is awaited,” the Council added.
“In these circumstances the Council has been advised that there is currently no reasonable basis upon which it could commence injunction proceedings against the developer under the Planning legislation,” the statement continued.
“Separately, Wexford County Council received a Section 5 application from Deputy Verona Murphy on 15th November quoting similar grounds on which Wexford County Council made its application to An Bord Pleanála,” it added.
“The Council has a statutory role to ensure compliance with Planning and Building Control legislation and wishes to make it clear that it intends to use its powers to ensure compliance with the above legislation where non-compliances are identified.
“The Council also has a duty to follow due process and to act in a manner that is fair, appropriate and proportionate and failure to do so could undermine the Council’s ability to perform its statutory enforcement role,” the statement concluded.