Refugees moved from Red Cow Hotel due to ‘severe’ accommodation pressure

Families distressed by overnight move from hotel in Clondalkin to disused former seminary in Milltown

The government department responsible for housing refugees said it had no choice but to have 123 asylum seekers moved at short notice from a Dublin hotel to a former seminary.

The refugees were told on Wednesday evening they would be moving out of the Red Cow Hotel in Clondalkin to be rehoused temporarily in Mount St Mary’s in Milltown, south Dublin, and they were told to pack their bags.

The Department of Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth acknowledged that the sudden move may have caused some “distress” to the families involved, but added: Between those fleeing Ukraine and international protection applicants, the State is now accommodating more than 73,000 people, compared to 8,000 at the beginning of 2022. As a result, there is now severe pressure on the State’s accommodation capacity.”

Mount St Mary’s was the former seminary for the Marist Fathers in Ireland and was sold to a developer in 2020. The whole complex is almost four acres in size.


The refugees are from countries other than Ukraine - most notably Georgia, Algeria, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. They are currently seeking international protection in Ireland.

Of the 123 refugees, 34 are schoolchildren in St James’s Primary School in Basin Lane in Dublin 8 which is near the Luas Red Line. The children accessed the school by Luas and then by a chartered bus every day.

Home school liaison officer Niamh Dodrill said the families involved were “absolutely shocked” as they believed that they would be staying in the Red Cow Hotel until the end of the school year.

“If they had a couple of weeks notice, they could have prepared the kids and themselves. Their stability and the bit of comfort they have has been ripped from them,” she said.

“When the principal went down on Thursday morning, the kids and the parents were crying. They didn’t know where they were going.

“These families were brought into Ireland and were in the country for several months before Tusla became aware that they needed to be schooled and there was no schools in the area. We had capacity.

“Everybody seemed happy. The children had integrated, they had made great friends. They were so appreciative of all the help and support they got.

“These people have fled. These are not people sponging off the State. They have moved from traumatic circumstances. They are so appreciative of the help and support they were getting from the Government and the Irish people.”

Ms Dodrill said a bus is being provided by the Department of Education to allow the 34 children to travel to school from Milltown to St James’s every morning, but there is no guarantee that the service will remain.

She added that the lights in Mount St Mary’s go off at 10pm every night centrally, and a Georgian woman had no light to find medicine for her sick child last night.

The Department said International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) inspectors visited Mount St Mary’s on foot of a report on RTÉ News that there is no heating in the building, with just one toilet, one working shower and one small kitchenette

The accommodation consists of 10 en-suite rooms upstairs, with three beds in each; and downstairs are pods to cater for different family sizes.

Inspectors found there were radiators in all rooms, timed to come on from 6am to 9am, and then from 1pm-4pm and finally from 7pm-10pm. There were 24 toilets which are either private to a single family, or segregated between men and women, along with seven showers.

Catering is provided by a professional catering company. The Department said a pot shown on screen in the RTÉ report belongs to one of the residents, as food is not served by the catering company in this fashion.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times