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‘Up to 14 families’ due to be placed in Shipwright pub

Up to 14 homeless families were expected to be placed in a former pub in Dublin before it was damaged in a suspected arson attack on New Year’s Eve, the director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) has said.

A fire broke out at the former Shipwright pub in Ringsend in the early hours of Sunday morning and gardaí are treating it as suspected arson.

The building was being upgraded to provide emergency accommodation for homeless families.

Mary Hayes, Director of the DRHE, said terms had been agreed to place between 12 and 14 families in the building.

She told RTÉ’s News at One: “The week before Christmas, we had agreed terms, and I had sent the contract for execution.

“I had expected to be able to place between 12 and 14 families, again depending on family sizes…but I had been hoping to place between 12 and 14 families there from early February.”

The building suffered ‘significant fire damage’

Ms Hayes said those plans were now on hold as she did not have a replacement accommodation following the fire.

She said: “The (building) was very much part of our planning, I’m now going to have to source an alternative, which is difficult.

“You do need quite a lead in time to bring on new accommodation, so it has a huge impact on our work.

“These are families experiencing homelessness, my absolute fear is that one day a family will come to us, and we will not have enough emergency accommodation to be able to offer them shelter.

“The Shipwright was definitely part of our planning in what we would need in the coming months, so not having it is a huge issue.”

She added that she believed there was “significant fire damage” to the Shipwright property.

The building had been the focus of protests in recent weeks after false claims that it was earmarked for refugee accomodation.

Following the fire, a number of local politicians criticised the DRHE for failing to issue a statement on their plans for the building.

A member of Dublin Fire Brigade helps extinguish the blaze on Sunday

Ms Hayes said she understood the criticisms, but insisted the DRHE had informed politicians who contacted them directly over how the property would be used following the protests.

She said: “We do not generally confirm that we are using a particular hotel or guest house for emergency accommodation, we might get a chance to say why… but in this case, we did because of the protests and because there were politicians engaging on the ground.

“I accept that I did not send out any formal communication to all councillors on it. It was more individual communication.

“We had confirmed also to media reports and to residents who contacted us directly.

“A climate of mistrust, a climate of fear that is what was working against us in this case.”

The pub was due to house 12-14 families, the DRHE said

Meanwhile, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said he does not believe a different communications strategy could have prevented the Shipwright being set on fire.

He said: “Whilst I think communication with communities is extraordinarily important…I don’t believe that in and of itself would’ve made a blind bit of difference, because the people that torched the building, not prejudicing the investigation, aren’t people who wanted better communication they’re people who are spreading hatred.

“These people didn’t want to be briefed on what were the plans. They wanted to cause fear and damage and criminal damage.

“So I don’t believe you know, having a public meeting would have changed the motivations of people who torched the building.

“And so there are two important issues but they’re two different issues.”

Mr Harris added: “It’s a big leap to go from a communications issue to trying to in any way, shape or form suggest that failing to communicate has resulted in somebody wishing to torch a building, I just don’t buy into that.”

Additional reporting: Juliette Gash

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