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File photo: Site at Thornton Hall in North Dublin.
Emergency Accommodation

'Work underway' as goverment moves to use Thornton Hall site for asylum seeker accommodation

Sources state that assessments are being carried out as to what capacity the site could hold.


THE THORNTON HALL site in North County Dublin is expected to be utilised for large-scale tented accommodation for asylum seekers. 

It is understood that part of the land could be used for “emergency-style accommodation”. 

Sources state that the land is serviced and work is ongoing on the land at the moment to assess the site and the capacity it could hold. 

The 156-acre site in north Dublin is owned by the Department of Justice. 

Since 2005, the State has spent millions of euro on the site, where a proposed new ‘super prison’ was to be built, but never proceeded. Just last month, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the matter of a prison on the site was still under consideration. 

The Department of Integration had previously flagged a year ago that a significant portion of the Thornton Hall site could be made available if deemed suitable for the accommodation needs by the responsible bodies.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon in Dublin, Tánaiste Michéal Martin said:

I believe Thornton Hall should be used and that is under consideration.

Martin said he understands that there is work underway between Department of Children and the Department of Justice. 

Speaking in Kildare today, Taoiseach Simon Harris said Thornton Hall would be a “logical” site. 

The number of people seeking asylum in Ireland and the dysfunction in the asylum system have continued to dominate political debates in recent weeks.

It follows an increase in people setting up tents in Dublin, including along Mount Street and the Grand Canal, as the State struggles to find accommodation for them. 

Ireland has granted more than 105,000 temporary protection orders since the start of the war in Ukraine, and almost 72,000 international protection applicants are in State-provided accommodation.

Finance Minister Michael McGrath suggested last week that tents should only be given to asylum seekers to use at State-run facilities. 

McGrath said it is “not acceptable” to have tents accommodating people in public areas that “are unsafe for them, potentially, and also where the living conditions are not acceptable”. 

The minister said the situation is “not fair on the local communities, either”. 

Taoiseach Simon Harris has also said that tents with sanitation on public sites is the better option. 

Martin said today that the government is “exhausting every possible opportunity that exists in terms of sites” that could be utilised for accommodation.

A number of other sites, other than Thornton Hall, are also being considered by government, though the list of state-owned sites that could be used to accommodate asylum seekers has not been released. 

A spokesperson for government confirmed to The Journal that considerations had also been given to land used by the defence forces, however, they said the likes of the Curragh Camp in Kildare, and other camps where live ammunitions are used and arms are stored, are not deemed suitable.  

‘Bizzare focus’ 

Harris said today that there is a “bizarre” focus on accommodation for asylum seekers.

“I don’t think migrants are well served, I don’t think people of Ireland are well served by the only aspect of the conversation around immigration that we’ve been having on a loop for quite a period of time is around accommodation,” the Taoiseach said. 

He said while accommodation is “extremely important”, there was a need to examine other aspects such as the welfare system and comparisons with other EU countries.

Asked about a prediction that 30,000 asylum seekers could arrive in the country this year, Harris said: “Different people can make different predictions.

“At the moment, if you were to extrapolate the data to date you’re probably at a figure of between 20,000-22,000.

“But its a dynamic situation. Numbers go up, numbers go down. But at the moment that’s roughly what you get.”

Mr Harris defined “getting on top of it” as a situation where tented shelter is provided on State-owned land with access to sanitation.

“That’s what the short term looks like, we’ve got to be honest about that.”

However, he added: “It’s bizarre that the only part that we want to discuss is accommodation.

“We also have to discuss why are so many more people coming to our country, and discuss that in the round.

“Migration is a good thing by the way, our economy benefits, our country benefits, our society benefits.

“But we’ve had an immigration system that has been used to processing maybe 3,000-3,500 people a year, to one that is now used to seeing over 20,000 people.”

With reporting by Press Association

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