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Councillors concerned over future of Augusta Lodge


CONTROVERSIAL Augusta Lodge in Westport was recently purchased by the Peter McVerry Trust.

Anton McNulty

WESTPORT councillors have demanded that representatives of the Peter McVerry Trust outline their long-term intentions for Augusta Lodge amid fears it will become a home to drug addicts.
Augusta Lodge, a former B&B located on the Golf Course Road in Westport, was recently purchased by the Peter McVerry Trust and is currently home to approximately 30 Ukrainian refugees.
Westport councillor Peter Flynn raised concerns at the monthly meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District that the house will become accommodation for homeless people with addiction issues.
“We saw the terrible situation in Kevin Barry House in Dublin, which was under the care of Peter McVerry, where a man was dead for a week. Employees of Peter McVerry and other users were coming and going and it just seemed to be completely out of control. From my research Peter McVerry is going to put the same type model into Augusta Lodge in Westport,” he claimed.

‘Not right’
Cllr Flynn said that Westport already has a housing and rental crisis and it did not have the services to deal with people with addiction issues.
“The Housing First policy is all about taking people off the street. People who have drug issues and alcoholics and all sorts of problems off our streets and into houses like Augusta Lodge.
“We certainly have alcohol and drugs issues in our county, but we don’t have what constitutes what goes on in the likes of Kevin Barry House. I certainly don’t want to see an import of 30 plus of these individuals into Westport town with no real rehabilitation clinics or support services. There is nothing. It is simply not right.
“The Golf Course Road is a very good place to live and the people down there do not need 30 people of various backgrounds with no support services. We are going to end up with another Kevin Barry House. It is the last thing anyone in this room wants.
“I am making it loud and clear here and I am demanding that Peter McVerry are in this room next month,” he said.

Saints and sinners
The Fine Gael councillor was supported by Independent councillor John O’Malley who said he lives down the Golf Course Road and he demanded to know what was happening.
“We want to know what is happening and what is planned and what type of people will be using it. We don’t want every different member of society in it who might not be any addition to the area,” he said.
Director of Services for housing Tom Gilligan confirmed that Augusta Lodge is owned by the housing agency run by the Peter McVerry Trust, which he said has a very good track record running centres. He said Ukrainian refugees are currently housed there and that he does not know how long they will be staying.
Both Cllrs Flynn and O’Malley reiterated that they both had no problem with the Ukrainian refugees and found them a welcome addition to the community.
“I want to make it clear we have no problem with the Ukrainian people, but it is the undesirables we don’t want and nobody else wants,” said Cllr O’Malley.
Cathaoirleach of the municipal district Cllr Christy Hyland said he understood where the two councillors were coming from but added: “There is no saint who doesn’t have a past and no sinner who doesn’t have a future, and we need to send out that message.”