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Newbridge residents protest at site chosen for Ukrainian refugee modular housing – The Irish Times


Some residents of Newbridge, Co Kildare gathered on Saturday at the intended site for 30 modular homes to accommodate displaced Ukrainians, before marching to the town hall in peaceful protest against the planned construction.

“We will block access for the builders if they come in. We have a community watch set up morning and night now… if they try to sneak in under-handed, we’ll be able to stop it” said Noreen O’Shea, a leader of the LHD action group, which includes affected residents in the Lakeside Park, Highfield and Dara Park estates.

“We plan on stopping this, we’re not letting these modular homes come into our estates”, she said.

Tom McDonnell, another leader of the group behind the protest, pledged to continue each week until concerns are heard. “We’ll be here every Saturday until we get an answer. This is not the last, this is the first”, he said.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman came under particular attention at the protest, with locals directing their ire toward the Green Party TD, whom they feel has ignored their concerns. “It’s ironic that it’s the Green party, that Roderic O’Gorman is behind this, taking away our green areas”, said Mr McDonnell.

Mr O’Gorman and the Office of Public Works met Mr McDonnell several weeks ago to discuss his concerns, but he was left dissatisfied by their response.

Mr O’Gorman, whose department has responsibility for the housing of Ukrainian refugees, and the OPW have met local representatives, including Mr McDonnell several weeks ago. But Mr McDonnell said he was not satisfied by their response. Mr O’Gorman previously said, following that meeting, that he had informed residents’ groups that he, his department and the OPW would “look carefully” at their concerns and see if there were “ways in which we can appropriately address those concerns”.

A petition with twelve pages of signatures from locals was sent to Mr O’Gorman, outlining the reasons opposing the site. Among them was the removal of a valued green space as well as accessible routes to the town centre for disabled residents, and the lack of available GP and school spaces.

The primary concerns for many locals surround the flooding issues which have plagued residents for years, caused by a lake prone to overflowing in the chosen park. “The site is just totally unsuitable for modular homes, the people who live there already can’t get flood insurance”, said Jennifer Quinn, another resident.

Lasting around an hour, protestors invited locals to join their march along the route, which winded through the affected housing estates and spanned over a kilometre of Newbridge’s main street.

Accompanied by placards such as ‘Green party stealing our green amenity’ as well as a loudspeaker leading chants of ‘save our green’. the march was flanked both in front and behind by Garda vehicles to manage the affected traffic.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Noel Heavey spoke alongside community leaders at the town hall, emphasizing his support and empathy for Ukrainian refugees, but reinforcing the unsuitability of the site.

“I know many of the people here are pro-Ukrainian and have huge empathy for what those people have suffered… But to build modular homes in a place that has sewage coming in the doors… It’s the right idea in the wrong place”, he said. “I admire the leadership that’s come forward at this time to stand up”.

Mr O’Gorman’s department has been contacted for comment on the protest.

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