Planning permission not required to house international protection applicants in tents at Thornton Hall

Spokeswoman for the Department of Integration says the site has still to be fully inspected, including assessing the level of availability or otherwise of services

The accommodation of applicants for international protection (IPAs) in military-grade tents on State-owned lands at Thornton Hall, Co Dublin, does not require planning permission, the Department of Integration has clarified.

The department has said it is examining the possibility of using “a portion” of the 160-acre site to help deal with the accommodation shortfall.“ A portion of the land at the Thornton Hall site... has been identified for utilisation for accommodation for IPAs,” the department told local public representatives on Thursday. “In the immediate term the plan is to use an area of this site for emergency accommodation.”

The department said it was engaging closely with the Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service to “bring this accommodation on stream in the near future”.

The former farm and farmhouse was purchased by the State in 2004 as part of a plan to build a new prison. However the project never went ahead and the site, in north Co Dublin, remains unused.


Helena McGann, a local woman who is acting as a spokesperson for up to 20 local residents who have formed the Thornton Hall and Environment Support Group, said the infrastructure does not exist on the site to support a large number of people.

“No one is telling us anything,” she said. “How many people are they planning to put there? There are 162 acres available. If they fill all of that, that’s an awful lot of people.”

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Friday, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said it was expected people would be moved to the north Dublin location in four to six weeks.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Integration said the intention was to provide emergency tented accommodation, and this did not require planning permission. She said that as the site was still to be fully inspected, including assessing the level of availability or otherwise of services, it was not possible at this stage to say how much of site would be used.

She said the plan was to accommodate asylum seekers in military-grade tents with access to mains water and sanitation facilities. They would be provided with meals, access to hot showers, and mental health and other services. The requirement to provide these supports would dictate the capacity of the site and the extent of the land that would be used for emergency accommodation purposes.

The spokeswoman said that as soon as it was decided that the lands might be suitable for the provision of emergency accommodation local public representatives and local authority integration teams were informed as part of a “cascading” process of information distribution, with the intention that the local community would be informed in this way.

The spokeswoman said people have a right to know what is happening in their community but do not have a right of veto over who comes to live there. “The numbers [of IPAs] coming in are very high,” she added. “There is a risk that women and children will end up on the street if we don’t move quickly.”

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent