Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Despite widespread opposition locally, construction has commenced on 28 modular homes to accommodate Ukrainian refugees in Claremorris.

Diggers and machinery arrived at a 2.7-acre site on the Ballyhaunis Road on Wednesday last. The site is owned by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

A special meeting of Mayo County Council was held on the issue in October at which councillors voted against the proposed €3 million development. Independent Cllr Richard Finn claimed the council was proposing to invest millions of euros in a ‘shanty town’.

Under the new European Union (Planning and Development) (Displaced Persons From Ukraine Temporary Protection) Regulations 2022, planning permission is not needed to build these modular homes for people fleeing the war in Ukraine, which means the councillors cannot halt the project.

Claremorris-based Fine Gael Cllr Tom Connolly said he is very disappointed the works have started, despite two alternative locations being offered in a meeting with representatives from International Protection Accommodation Services and the OPW.

“We offered a site belonged to CLÁR ICH, where we could swap them, and we also had the big site that is located behind the McWilliam Park Hotel, which is owned by Mayo County Council. They could have leased it to the OPW and made money but it wasn’t accepted,” Cllr Connolly said. “We were promised meetings with Director of Services, Tom Gilligan and Chief Executive, Kevin Kelly but none of that happened and everything fell on deaf ears.”

The OPW has identified up to eight sites throughout the country to house Ukrainians in over 160 modular homes, but Cllr Connolly has questioned why these sites were not used during the housing crisis.

“We have no legislation for people who are being housed in hotels for a number of years or in emergency accommodation. Why weren’t these OPW sites, before the war broke out in Ukraine, used to provide housing for people that are homeless or people who have to stay in hotels?

“Why didn’t the Government introduce emergency legislation to build on those sites? These are prime sites, the one in Claremorris is 500 yards from the town centre.

“I have nothing against Ukrainians coming to Ireland for safety and accommodation but that site is not suitable for modular homes,” Cllr Connolly added.

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