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Investigation following overcrowding claims at restaurant converted into refugee accommodation

The department said it was awaiting further information from the owner of the accommodation.

The former Tougher's Restaurant on Dublin Road, Carlow
The former Tougher's Restaurant on Dublin Road, Carlow
Image: Google Maps

THE DEPARTMENT OF Children has carried out an investigation following complaints over conditions at a building that is being used to accommodate 140 Ukrainian refugees in County Carlow. 

Allegations over overcrowding and cold conditions were made after refugees were housed in the premises on Dublin Road, some 9km outside of Carlow town. 

The building, which previously served as a venue called Tougher’s Restaurant, has been subject to an investigation after complaints were made about “cramped” conditions. 

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, which has responsibility for accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, is now engaging with the accommodation provider to ensure that “all recommendations” made by inspectors are implemented. 

It said it takes “very seriously” issues raised by residents in any accommodation centre and added that it wanted to “reiterate the scarcity” of accommodation available to cope with the influx of people fleeing war, which it said has required the “deployment of imaginative solutions” at times.

A spokesperson for the department told The Journal that, following its inspection, it received a “partial response” from the accommodation provider and was awaiting further information.  

According to the Carlow Nationalist newspaper, fire safety certificates have been secured for operation of the building as an accommodation centre.

The department spokesperson said: “An inspection has been carried out at the above residence. Such inspections typically centre around safety of residents including food, fire safety and suitability of accommodation.

“The report has been passed on to the accommodation provider to allow them to respond to the findings.

“We have received a partial response on some of the findings of the report, and are awaiting further details.”

They added: “Once a full response has been received from the accommodation provider, we will ensure that all the recommendations of the report are appropriately actioned.”

If further issues are identified, then a “follow-up inspection will be carried out” to ensure they are addressed, the spokesperson said.  

Carlow town councillor Adrienne Wallace said she had received reports that there were “quite cramped” conditions in the former restaurant, along with “mould and darkness” in some parts. 

She told this website: “I think there has been such great for some people, and I think a lot of people want to do better for the Ukrainians and meet their needs, and not just put them in an old building outside of town which is quite some distance away any amenities too.

“But I think it’s up to the Department to make sure that the standards are being matched so that people are being looked after properly.”

In its statement, the department said it has been necessary to resource accommodation under severe time constraints in response to the war in Ukraine.  

“The Department would reiterate the scarcity of accommodation available. Its response to the crisis has involved constant contingency planning, the deployment of imaginative solutions and a vast ongoing operational exercise.

“At times it has been necessary to source accommodation under severe time constraints. Where issues are raised by residents they are taken very seriously by the Department and subject to investigation.

“The Department continues to work intensively with cross-Departmental colleagues as part of the whole-of-Government response to this highly pressurised situation to bring forward further solutions.”

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office found a total of 54,771 people from Ukraine arrived in Ireland up to September 25, with more than 1,000 people arriving in the week prior.

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