Plan to turn old Wexford Garda Station into refugee accommodation centre

The old Wexford Garda Station building on Roche's Road.

Pádraig ByrneWexford People

A planning application has been lodged with Wexford County Council to convert the old Wexford Garda Station building on Roche’s Road into “temporary refugee accommodation”.

The application was officially lodged with the local authority on May 10 by a newly created company called Dekeldale Ltd, which has an address listed as Glasklacken, Bunclody, Co Wexford and is under the directorship of Majella and Fintan Kelly.

Having sat idle for over five years since An Garda Síochána moved to a new headquarters in Mulgannon, the old station has been a source of great discussion. As it fell into further disrepair and even had issues with rodents, local councillors publicly debated potential uses for the building and called on the OPW to either use it or sell it off.

Eventually it was sold at auction, back in March of this year, fetching €800,000 at auction. The sale was welcomed by local representatives, many of whom had expressed a desire to see the building kitted out for everything from additional housing to a tourist hostel.

However, the new owners have now revealed plans to “alter the building to ‘fast-track’ living accommodation for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine”.

According to the application, “it is proposed to adapt the interior and services to provide accommodation in a manner which respects the architectural heritage of the building.”

It also states that the proposal for a change of use will seek a ‘Declaration under Section 5 as an exempted development”.

Externally, no major work will be carried out aside from “repairing or upgrading window sashes if required”, while internally, the majority of partitions will be created using timber stud to create living accommodation and new kitchen units and bathrooms will be installed.

While the plans don’t explicitly state the numbers of refugees that will be accommodated in the Roche’s Road building, a closer look at the site layout shows at least 17 separate rooms, as well as shower rooms etc.

Nationally, the approach of the Department of Integration to refugee centres has come in for heavy criticism, with many claiming that there’s an element of cloak and dagger about their opening with local communities and local representatives left in the dark.

When contacted for comment, Mayor of Wexford Maura Bell was unaware of the plans for the old garda station. Nor was she aware of the plans for the much bigger refugee accommodation centre just outside town at Slaney Manor.

Despite this, however, she was hopeful that Wexford wouldn’t see similar scenes to Inch, Co Clare, where residents set up a blockade to stop asylum seekers from accessing a property there.

“We are a very welcoming town,” Cllr Bell said. “We’ve welcomed so many Ukrainians already. With something like this, there’s always going to be some backlash, but I think it will be absolutely grand. We are a very welcoming people and I think that will continue.”

Inevitably, there will be some frustration expressed in relation to the old garda station building. There were several calls for Wexford County Council to turn the building into emergency accommodation for homeless people. However, local reps were told that the scale of work required to do this wasn’t feasible.

Now though, a private operator is set to transform the building into just that type of accommodation.

“I think it went outside of the council’s remit in terms of what we could afford to pay,” Cllr Bell said. “There’s only a certain amount we can spend and we can’t go beyond and I think this was just a step too far.”

Having spoken out in relation to finding a use for the empty building on several occasions in the past, Cllr Leonard Kelly was happy that it was going to be used for something.

“I’m happy that the building will be brought into some form of use, yes,” he said. “That use is completely up to the owners who have bought it. From a personal point of view, I would’ve loved to see it transformed into some kind of tourist hostel, but it’s in private ownership and its use is up to the owners.”

Cllr Kelly echoed the Mayor’s comments in relation to Wexford welcoming asylum seekers.

“Ireland is a wealthy country and more and more people will want to come here,” he said. “Be that as an economic migrant or fleeing wars. We have to learn to live with each other.

“For the most part, I believe people are sound and want to see a fair society for everybody and for that reason I do believe that the vast majority of Wexford people will be welcoming.”