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Questions remain over Augusta Lodge - Flynn

News

UNCERTAINTY The Peter McVerry Trust issued a statement last week after councillors made comments over future plans for the Augusta Lodge in Westport.

Cllr Peter Flynn believes questions remain over Augusta Lodge future

Anton McNulty

A WESTPORT councillor believes the Peter McVerry Trust still needs to clarify the long-term plan for the Augusta Lodge house in Westport, despite the trust denying it has any plans for the property.
Augusta Lodge, a former B&B located on the Golf Course Road in Westport was recently purchased by The Housing Agency, a government agency get up to support local authorities and approved housing bodies.
The building was leased to the Peter McVerry Trust and is currently home to approximately 30 Ukrainian refugees.
At a recent meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District, councillors Peter Flynn and John O’Malley demanded that the Peter McVerry Trust outline their long-term plans for the house. The councillors expressed concern it will become a residence for homeless people with alcohol and drug addictions.
Last week, the Peter McVerry Trust issued a statement stating that the comments made in the meeting were ‘baseless and uninformed’ and that they made the accommodation available just to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.
The Trust also accused that the councillors who made the comments as being intent on ‘stoking fear in the community’.
“We have agreed to work with the Department of Children at this property for six months. We have no interest in, nor plans for the property, any future plans would be a matter solely for the Department of Children.
“We would like to stress that we have been active in Mayo providing social housing since late 2021 and enjoy an excellent working relationship with Mayo County Council and its staff as we work in partnership to provide specialist social housing that meet local needs of people impacted by or at risk of homelessness in Mayo.
“Finally, we would like to note that we have on a number of occasions reached out to one of the councillors involved in making these baseless and uninformed claims, seemingly intent on stoking fear. The councillor has not responded to our contact nor sought any information from us.”

Questions remain unanswered
In response to the statement, Cllr Flynn said that Augusta Lodge was acquired for close to €1 million before the Ukrainian War and he believes there are questions which remain unanswered.
“We still don’t know what exactly is the long term use for Augusta Lodge. It seems like such an unusual decision for a government department to pick a house out of the blue in the west of Ireland, it just doesn’t add up. I am still of the belief that Peter McVerry or some other agency were involved in the discussions pre the Ukrainian war,” he told The Mayo News.
Cllr Flynn said that bar one missed call from the Peter McVerry Trust he has had no contact from them and said he was annoyed by the idea he was trying to ‘stoke fear’.
“It is very disingenuous to suggest that me or any other councillor did not answer their calls or emails from anyone else because we simply didn’t receive any. I am the one who formally invited them to come to the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District meeting and we are the ones opening doors for them.
“So for them to be getting very defensive is a strange approach when we are inviting them to Westport to explain what is happening. Overall it is a very strange statement and gives no long term plans for Augusta Lodge and we are none the wiser on that. Their communication process has been abysmal and there has been no contact with any of the councillors.
“I am very annoyed because people can read the papers and they have seen what happened in Dublin with Kevin Barry House. People are aware that Peter McVerry is involved with Augusta Lodge and will come to their own conclusions. I understand completely their fears. You have a school and a playground just over 100 metres away, you have an old residential part of Westport and I understand completely where people are nervous of what the plans are for Augusta Lodge,” he said.

No communication
Cllr John O’Malley also confirmed he received no communication from Peter McVerry Trust and was adamant that people with drug or alcohol issues should not be housed in Augusta Lodge.
“I have no problem with Ukrainian refugees or people who have become homeless through no fault of their own being housed there. But it is the riff-raff who we do not want there. There are no services for people with alcohol or drug problems in Westport and we have enough of those problems without adding to it,” he told The Mayo News.
It is also understood the representatives from The Peter McVerry Trust will address the next meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District on October 24.