Some residents of Newbridge, Co Kildare, gathered on Saturday at the target site for 30 modular homes to house displaced Ukrainians, before marching to the town hall in peaceful protest against the planned construction.
“We will block entry for the builders as they come in. We now have a community guard in the morning and evening…if they try to sneak in underhand, we can 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 intend to stop this. We’re not going to let these modular homes come on our estates,” she said.
Tom McDonnell, another leader of the group behind the protest, pledged to continue every week until the 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 received particular attention during the protest, with locals directing their anger at the Green Party TD, which they say has ignored their concerns. “It’s ironic that it’s the Green party, that Roderic O’Gorman is behind this and taking away our green areas,” said Mr McDonnell.
Mr. O’Gorman and the Bureau of Public Works met with Mr. McDonnell several weeks ago to discuss his concerns, but he was dissatisfied with their response.
Mr O’Gorman, whose department is responsible for housing Ukrainian refugees, and the OPW met with local representatives a few weeks ago, including Mr McDonnell. But Mr McDonnell said he was not satisfied with their response. Mr O’Gorman previously said, after that meeting, that he had informed resident groups that he, his department and the OPW would “barely look at their concerns” and see if there were “ways in which we can appropriately address those concerns.” .
A petition containing twelve pages of local residents’ signatures was sent to Mr O’Gorman, outlining the reasons against the site. One was the removal of a prized green space, as well as accessible routes to the city center for disabled residents, and the lack of available GP and school spaces.
The main concern of many local residents is the flooding problems that have plagued residents for years, caused by a lake that threatens to overflow into the chosen park. “The site is just totally unsuitable for modular housing, the people who already live there can’t get flood insurance,” said Jennifer Quinn, another resident.
The protesters, which lasted about an hour, invited locals to join their march along the route, which meandered through the affected residential areas and stretched for a kilometer from Newbridge’s main street.
Accompanied by placards such as ‘Green party steals our green facility’ and a loudspeaker with chants of ‘save us green’. the march was flanked both front and rear by Garda vehicles to manage the traffic affected.
Fianna Fáil Councilor Noel Heavey spoke with community leaders at the town hall, emphasizing his support and empathy for Ukrainian refugees, but reinforcing the inappropriateness of the location.
“I know a lot of the people here are pro-Ukrainian and have a huge amount of empathy for what those people have suffered… But to build modular homes in a place where sewage gets in the doors… It’s the right idea in the wrong place,” he said. “I admire the leadership that has come forward at this time to stand up.”
Mr O’Gorman’s office has been contacted for comment on the protest.