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Debunked: Planning files do not show that Ringsend building was to be used for asylum seekers

It was never intended that refugees or asylum seekers would be housed in the building.

A VACANT GUESTHOUSE in Ringsend, Dublin, that had been due to house families experiencing homelessness, became the target of claims that it was earmarked to house refugees and asylum seekers before it was gutted in a fire late last month

There had been several anti-immigration protests in the area in the weeks prior to the fire in response to rumours about the building’s future use.

However, it was never intended that refugees or asylum seekers would be housed in the building.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) confirmed to The Journal on 18 December that the building - formerly the location of The Shipwright pub and guesthouse – was to be used for emergency accommodation for families who were presenting as homeless.

The Department of Integration, which is responsible for housing asylum seekers and people fleeing Ukraine, said on the same date – almost two weeks before the fire -  that the International Protection Accommodation Service had “not received any proposal for this property and therefore has neither considered nor examined this property for use”.

The Department re-issued the same statement after the fire.

Some anti-immigration accounts on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, celebrated that the building had been burned down because they believed that it was due to house migrants.

There have also been online claims in the wake of the fire that the Department of Integration and DRHE are lying, and that there was evidence showing that the building was earmarked for Ukrainians or asylum seekers. 

The incident, which comes amid an increase in suspected arson attacks against premises linked to asylum seeker accommodation, is still under Garda investigation. 

Garda sources have told The Journal that investigators are hopeful of apprehending those responsible if the fire was started deliberately due to the high level of CCTV coverage in the Ringsend area.


Many of those commenting online rejected the statements by the DRHE and Department of Integration which said the building was due to house homeless families, claiming to have seen evidence that the site was in fact earmarked for asylum seekers or Ukrainians.

Some posts, mostly on X/Twitter, highlighted planning permission applications to Dublin City Council for the site. They incorrectly said new planning applications showed that the property would be used for asylum seekers.

No such application exists in the Dublin City Council planning records. 

“A building with 80 single rooms and communal facilities is clearly for male asylum seekers,” a heavily-downvoted comment on the discussion platform Reddit said. 

“They also would’ve announced it from the very start when people were protesting if it was for homeless families.”

Another video that was widely shared also made the claim that the building was earmarked for Ukrainians. This argument was based on the lack of any recent planning applications.

The video, posted by a far-right personality who calls himself The Irish Git, has been viewed on Facebook thousands of times.

“When one goes in to search for a planning application for the address in question, there’s nothing recent to be found,” he says in the video.

This is correct. A search of planning applications held by Dublin City Council does not show any recent applications for the site of the former Shipwright pub at 16-20 Thorncastle Street, since 2010.

However, he uses this fact to draw incorrect conclusions.

“You can’t bypass planning laws, can you?” he asks, citing a Business Post article from last July entitled: ‘Vacant buildings used to house refugees to be exempt from planning permission for five years.’

“You can, if the building is going to be used to house refugees,” he says.

“And we all know what refugees means, right? Single male welfare scammers that identify as refugees.”

He essentially argues that the lack of a planning application is proof that refugees would be staying in the building. However, there is a far simpler explanation: no developments were being carried out that required planning permission.

Others also made similar remarks about the planning status of the building. The website published an article on the building which claimed that “there have been no subsequent applications to alter the layout and construction of the building” since it had been in operation as a pub.

“That would suggest that the site owners, Gris Developments, have secured an exemption,” they added.

However, it is not clear that the rules on planning permission would require an exemption.

A guide by the Office of the Planning Regulator for businesses says: “You will generally need planning permission if you construct a building for business purposes or if you materially change the use [...] of an existing building”.

Was a new building being constructed?

Unlike the unfounded claims about “80 single rooms”, the building was instead expected to house “between 12 and 14 homeless families”, Mary Hayes, Director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive told RTÉ News.

All the evidence suggests that the current building was already equipped for this. Old photos of the Shipwright show that it used to have the words “14 rooms ensuite” painted on its facade.

This is further backed up by documents included in a rejected planning application from 2008 to demolish the structure and replace it with retail units and apartments. These documents show the already existent layout the building, which includes 14 guest rooms, most of which are doubles or larger.

Floor plans Old floor plans show that the building had sufficient bedrooms already

Change of Use

However, there was another scenario listed that would require planning permission: a change of use. Was there any evidence of this? 

According to correspondence between the DRHE and The Journal, the executive planned to use the building in the same way that it had previously been listed.

“The property had been used as a guesthouse for several years”, a staff officer at the DHRE said.

“The DRHE proposal was to use the guesthouse, to accommodate families who were presenting as homeless to the DRHE.”

This is backed up by a document in the previously mentioned 2008 rejected planning application, which specified that the building had an “existing use as pub and bed/breakfast accommodation”.

In other words, the building had been a guesthouse, and was still intended to be used as one. That use wasn’t changing.

It might be argued that a guesthouse predominantly for tourists is different enough from a guesthouse predominantly for homeless families. However, the case of guesthouses is specifically mentioned in the change-of-use planning regulations, and its wording does not suggest that different clientele is sufficient to require planning permission. 
S.I. No. 351/2009 – Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2009 specifically says that “a guesthouse” is considered a “guest building”, before stipulating that:

“‘Material change of use’ means— [...] a building which was not being used as [...] a hotel, hostel or guest building, becomes so used.”

As such, a guesthouse would not seem to undergo a material change of use, so long as it remains a guesthouse.

(There are other cases that also count as material change of use. However, these are quite technical and since no case has been made for these in relation to the former Shipwright pub, we will omit listing them here. The regulations can be viewed here).

As such, planning permission, or a lack thereof, is not an indication that either the Department of Integration or the DHRE was lying about the intended use for the building; evidence is consistent with the property being intended to house homeless families.

“If we cannot open facilities, there is a risk that families will not have access to basic shelter,” the DHRE said in a statement.

“The DRHE has no homeless facilities in the area.”


A lack of planning permission isn’t proof that a property in Ringsend gutted by a fire last month wasn’t intended to house homeless families.

The Department of Integration said it had considered the property for use, while the DRHE has said that it was planning to use the property to house homeless families. Available evidence is consistent with their statements.

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