Drone shot of the damage cause by a fire last night at Kill Equestrian Centre.

Fire at Kildare facility at centre of proposal to house Ukrainian refugees is extinguished

The scene is preserved for examination.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 7th 2022, 3:01 PM

GARDA ENQUIRIES ARE ongoing into a fire at a premises in Co Kildare that is at the centre of plans to be used as an accommodation centre for Ukrainian refugees.

Gardaí and local fire services were alerted to a fire at the rear of the Kill Equestrian Centre shortly before 8pm last night.

Kildare Fire Service says the first received alert was to reports of a shed on fire.

Upon arrival, assistance was requested from Newbridge fire brigade and the presence of the senior fire officer on-call was also requested.

A spokesperson for Kildare Fire Service said the fire was located in a storage warehouse on the Kill Equestrian site.

It added that the warehouse contained a large quantity of scaffolding steels and planks.

No injuries have been reported and the fire is now largely extinguished, though Kildare Fire Service remain on site, involved in dampening operations.

The scene is currently preserved for examination.

In a statement to The Journal, a garda spokesperson said: “A protest / demonstration held by a group of people outside the same premises earlier in the day, passed off without incident.”

Residents of Kill village have raised concerns in recent weeks over proposals to convert the equestrian centre into accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, citing a lack of resources locally.

Fine Gael councillor Fintan Brett, who is the mayor of Kildare, said the premises “was being prepared for housing refugees”.

Speaking to The Journal, Brett said: “About a month ago, the Department of Equality and Integration contacted Kildare County Council about using the equestrian centre a step down centre for refugees.

“Kildare County Council told them the site was totally unsuitable, do not use it, it is not fit for purpose. But it seems that the department decided to go ahead on it.”

“Three weeks ago, I told the department that if they were going to go ahead, please keep me and the community leaders in the village informed so that there’s nothing being done in secret.”

However, Brett claims that locals last week “discovered that a huge amount of work was done in it”.

He said this “started the rumour mill going” and led to “fear and hysteria” and a meeting being called last Friday over the issue.

Brett added: “It’s absolutely unforgivable that people weren’t told and that an attempt wasn’t made to bring them along with the proposal for the village and this is the consequence of that.”

Speaking to The Journal, the Kilare mayor noted that Kill lacks a community hall and added that the school is full.

He expressed concern that the village of around 4,000 would be unable to accommodate up to 300 more people.

“There is a whole fear-factor that should have been dealt with, local people should have been informed about it and the community leaders in the village should have been involved in this,” said Brett.

He added: “This would have allowed them to take the lead in ensuring that Kill did its piece to help the Ukrainian refugees, which an awful lot of people want to do in the village, and yet here we are with the village name blackened forever with this fire.”

Brett also described previous protests outside the equestrian centre as “peaceful”.

“I understand that there is serious pressure on the department to house people,” said Brett, “and I have a lot of sympathy for Minister Roderic O’Gorman who is trying to deal with it.

“But landing people into a village without engagement is a recipe for disaster, and I think this proves it.”

Brett also described the incident as a “relatively small fire”.

In a statement to The Journal, a Department of Equality and Integration spokesperson said: “More than 54,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Ukraine and have sought refuge here in Ireland.

“Approximately 43,000 of those are being provided with accommodation from the State. This is by some distance the largest humanitarian operation ever undertaken by the Irish State.”

“In the context of this crisis, the State is availing of all offers of accommodation made, including the temporary use of non-residential buildings, in order to address the urgent accommodation need.”

The spokesperson added that the Department “ensures independent inspections are carried out at all properties used by Ukrainians” and that “no person can be placed in the accommodation until all inspections are carried out satisfactorily”.

Regarding proposals to use the equestrian centre to house Ukrainian refugees, the spokesperson said: “Discussions are ongoing at this stage between the Department and the provider about the potential use of the Kill Equestrian Centre to house Ukrainian Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection, which, should the contract be agreed, will be comprised of families and single females.”

They added that the Department has responded to queries from local representatives, including Councillor Brett, “with a detailed brief in response to their questions”.