Placement of over 300 refugees in city office block will be ‘detrimental’ for businesses

River House. Photo: Google Maps.

THE POTENTIAL placement of over 300 refugees in a former city centre office block would be “detrimental” to businesses in the city, a local business owner told the Limerick Post.

The Limerick Post understands that up to 340 people may be accommodated on a phased basis in River House, the former Revenue offices on Charlotte’s Quay in the city centre.

And while currently there are no official plans signed off on by the government as yet to move refugees onto the site, relevant planning applications have been put in place by the building’s owner.

It is understood that discussions between the property owner and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth are at an early stage, but that over 300 people would be accommodated in the office block, if it is deemed suitable after a full assessment and inspections.

Speaking to the Limerick Post, a local business owner in the area, who did not wish to be named, said that the placement of refugees in the area would be “detrimental” to their business.

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The business owner claimed that they had witnessed furniture and items such as dishwashers and fridges being brought into River House in the last number of days, and that works have been ongoing towards the rear of the building.

The business owner questioned a perceived lack of communication from the Department and the building’s owner – Tony O’Neill and Peppard Investments – saying it was the unknown factor that concerned them the most.

“It’s the unknown that puts fear of God in people,” she said.

Peppard Investments was contacted for comment but none was received at the time of publication.

The Limerick Post understands that a second unit earmarked for refugee accommodation, the former Roadbridge office on the Ballysimon Road, may be used to hold up to 133 people in six ground floor residential units in the former warehouse building, again pending full assessment and inspections of the property to deem it suitable.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, a spokesman for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that “at this time, the Department does not have arrangements in place in relation to these locations, but property owners have applied for change of use in order to be eligible for provision of services in contract with the Department”.

Local Aontú councillor Sarah Beasley said that while she feels for people fleeing war-torn countries, no consultation has taken place with the people of Limerick.

“This decision has been made without the consultation of the Limerick people. It has been unilaterally decided that Limerick will have to dig deeper and suffer the consequences as already bugling health systems and public services are pushed to their limits,” Cllr Beasley said.

Calling on Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman to visit Limerick and hold consultations with the people, Cllr Beasley said that “the generosity, patience, and accommodation that everyone in the city and county have shown so far is immense. People have changed their lives to literally house refugees in their own homes and make them part of their family”.