The sign outside the gates of Castlesaunderson.

Sign erected outside Castlesaunderson gates

A community group that holds concern over the use of the Castlesaunderson International Scout Centre to house refugees has expressed disappointment at what it says has been a lack of engagement from the authorities to date.

The ‘Castlesaunderson Community and Friends’ group held its third meeting last weekend and it coincided with the erection of a sign outside the gates. It states: ‘As a community who use the facility for (exercise, dog walking, wildlife studies, family days out); As friends of the facility. We wish to continue these activities for many years to come. Unfortunately we have been told [the] Scouting Ireland premises is to become a refugee centre. This is fine as the group would welcome women and children from war-torn countries but would oppose young men of military age! As housing unknown men would make the facility unusable to the wider community.’

Another public meeting has been organised for this Sunday, February 11, at 1pm Castlesaunderson main gates.

Members of the group are furious with the Department of Integration and Scouting Ireland for failing first to engage with locals on the matter.

There will be a public meeting this Sunday 11/2/24 at 1pm Castlesaunderson main gates regarding the unwanted housing of refugees in the nearby Scoutcentre which is situated within the grounds of Castlesaunderson. Everyone that is concerned or has a common interest about this or wants to make there feelings herd is welcome to attend. The Castlesaunderson Community & Friends are a non political group of local people who have come together in protest at this action. We are looking for your support the good people of Cavan, Fermanagh and Monaghan and everybody else that uses the facilities so please come and support us at the Castle gates 1pm Sunday thankyou

Posted by Castlesaunderson Community & Friends on Tuesday, 6 February 2024

Before Christmas the Celt reported that the Department was engaged in “negotiations with Scouting Ireland for the use of Castlesaunderson Scout Centre for accommodation for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine”.

The centre can provide sleeping accommodation for 66 people with bedrooms upstairs and an 18-bed dorm downstairs. The €3.7M European-funded Castle Saunderson International Scout Centre was officially opened by President Michael D. Higgins in August 2012.

Indoor guests also have full access to toilet and shower facilities, an industrial kitchen, dining hall, and a common room.

In 2021 the HSE secured use of the property as a Covid test centre. That arrangement extended beyond an initial nine-month contract and the HSE paid over €14,000 a month in rent to Scouting Ireland at the time. With regard to plans to use it to house refugees, a spokesperson for the youth organisation said ‘other’ scout centres around the country have been ‘successfully used’ to provide refuge to people fleeing the war in Ukraine ‘without any negative impact on local communities’.

In a statement issued to the Celt, the newly formed ‘Castlesaunderson Community and Friends’ group described the scout centre as a “vital asset”.

Aware of reports the scout facility could be used to house Ukrainians fleeing the war, the group claims: “Unfortunately there has been no consultation with the local communities.”


The group has a list of questions it wants answered including who is the accommodation being earmarked for; are these people already in the country and have they been documented and vetted; how long will the centre be used for or is this a ‘once off’ measure; the time-frame for the arrival of the refugees; what alternative facilities have been put in place for the community; and what safety measures are being put in place, including transportation of residents.

The group further asks if additional community supports such as health services will be provided in nearby Belturbet if the centre is put to use; and query what schools children will attend.

In a statement, the group says: “It is likely that few or none will object to genuine Ukrainian women, children and families fleeing the war being housed temporarily in the Scouts Centre as long as adequate services are first put in place.

“In the absence of clear and timely communication from government officials and consultation with the neighbouring communities of Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh, it is only guaranteed that speculation will arise and ‘worst case scenarios’ imagined.

“Belturbet has already taken in its share of Ukrainian refugees and they have all largely assimilated into the community without any issues.

“We hope that government officials will act in good faith regarding one of the few facilities available to Belturbet and surrounding communities and that the spirit of peace and reconciliation remains to the fore at Castle Saunderson.”