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Four buildings in Tullamore town centre to be used for new direct provision centre

Local representatives and government officials met this afternoon to discuss the plans.

The Marian Hostel which has been acquired as direct provision centre in Tullamore.
The Marian Hostel which has been acquired as direct provision centre in Tullamore.

THREE MORE PROPERTIES in Tullamore town centre will be used to accommodate asylum seekers under direct provision, it has emerged following a meeting between officials from the Department of Justice and local councillors.

The Department announced on Tuesday that a 168-bed direct provision centre at the former Marian Hostel building would open in early March, with asylum seekers moving in on a phased basis. 

Councillors sought clarity on the plans after locals made representations about being “blindsided” by the news, prompting a meeting with officials from the Department of Justice, the Department of Education and the HSE, this afternoon.

During that meeting, it was revealed that along with the Marian Hostel building itself, an adjoining house, and two separate houses on the opposite side of the street are also being used for accommodation in “the Marian Hostel Centre for Asylum Seekers”.

“So there’s a property adjoined to the Marian hostel which is empty, the [last residents] moved out five or six year ago,” councillor Tony McCormack explained.

“Then there’s a property across the road which was formally [a doctor's property] and then there’s a building in between – the round house which isn’t part of it – and then there’s one beside that and it’s also being used for the centre.”

Councillors were only made aware that the additional properties would be included in the plans during this afternoon’s meeting. 

TheJournal.ie contacted the Department of Justice for clarification in relation to the additional properties. In a statement, a spokesperson said: 

“The accommodation centre comprises the old Marian hostel, which has been extensively renovated and upgraded, and three adjacent properties that were already under the ownership of Bridgestock Care for a number of years and will be used to accommodate families.”

“We’re not happy that it’s both sides of the street,” McCormack said. “I would have been happier if it was in just one area. And I don’t know how the residents who own the house in between the properties are going to feel.”

“But the bottom line is: at this end of the day, we will welcome these poor asylum seekers. They’re obviously coming from bad situations wherever they are coming from.” 

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The accommodation buildings are all located on High Street, a narrow town centre street, surrounded by a number of local restaurants and retail outlets. 

Many local residents declined to publicly comment on the issue which has sparked heavy criticism in recent days. 

One local, who owns a business on High Street, and who asked not to be named, said the main issue concerned the lack of public consultation before the announcement was made. 

“We have no problem with it but we at least expected that they would come and discuss with the local businesses. Nobody came and asked what it’s like in the area, how we feel. No consultation at all,” he told TheJournal.ie.

The property had not been in use for several years before being procured by the Department. Today, contractors were seen entering and leaving the building with locals expecting it to be up and running within the first week in March. 

“It was lying empty for seven or eight years, maybe more, and all of a sudden in the last few weeks there has been people coming and going from it.

“As a businessman, I wouldn’t like it to be used as a direct provision centre in the middle of the town. We’ve been affected enough, we’re struggling away and we’re paying taxes and rates, and this is the last thing we wanted. 

“It’s not going to bring any business to the town. Tullamore needs a good shopping centre, a good buzz, like Port Laoise and Mullingar.”

Another local resident suggested a location further out of the town centre would have been a more suitable option. 

“To pick a property in the dead centre of the town that’s literally dying on its feet and decide lets park 160 something people. Why didn’t they pick a site within the vicinity but not the dead centre.”

“They’re using that property instead of a purpose-built property on the outskirts,” he added.  

Local councillor Sean O’Brien said the communication between the Department and the local council was unsatisfactory and said the Department officials recognised this during the meeting today.

“All of us said it to them that the communication was dreadful and even our CEO, she wasn’t informed so the communications was dreadful and we now find, it’s not just the Marian Hostel involved but three other properties,” he said. 

“We suspected it and now we have confirmation… it’s a done deal and it was signed by the Department and now that’s it.

“We just have to be honest with [residents] and tell them this is what it is.”

Councillors are visiting the centre next week to discuss capacity concerns in the buildings. 

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