The former St Aloysius College, pictured a number of years ago when still in use as a school.

Owner of former Athlone school rules out refugee use

The owner of the St Aloysius College campus in Athlone has said that no refugees will be housed there.

He was commenting in the wake of ongoing false rumours that the former secondary school on the west side of Athlone would be used to house asylum seekers.

The owner, who asked not to be identified, confirmed he investigated the possibility last year of using the modern school building for the housing of Beneficiaries of Temporary Protection (Ukrainian refugees).

The Westmeath Independent reported last year that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth had confirmed the former school part of the site was offered for use in providing accommodation to people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

However, the owner said this week that as the months passed it became obvious that the numbers seeking refuge had dramatically decreased and therefore it was no longer a viable option.

He stated: “I made a decision late last year that it was no longer going ahead because the Ukrainians are going home so there'll be no refugees living there at all, ever.”

The owner wants to clear up the speculation surrounding the former secondary school as some threatening graffiti, which has since been cleaned, was sprayed on the exterior walls in recent days.

He said it was “disappointing that people would vandalise property”.

The owner of the former secondary school said that he doesn’t have any immediate plans for the school but hopes to develop the site at some stage in the future with a development that will benefit the community.

In relation to the recent incident, the owner said he was “outraged” by such threats and that the matter had been reported to the Gardai. He remarked that he wasn’t “shocked” by the graffiti and behaviour of the individuals involved as other sites across the country potentially earmarked for asylum seekers had been similarly targeted.

Videos of the site have also circulated on social media. One TikTok account recently posted videos both inside and outside the former school showing the canteen and classrooms to protest against international refugees moving in there.

They also falsely suggested that modular homes would be used to house refugees at the site.

Athlone Garda Station is currently investigating the incident and looking for CCTV footage or any witnesses who may have been in the area on Friday last. Anyone with any information should contact the garda station on 090 649 8550.

St Aloysius College closed in 2017 when the school amalgamated with St Joseph's College in Summerhill, leading to the creation of Coláiste Chiaráin on the Summerhill site.

Established in 1960, the school provided second-level education for boys. In 2021, the school complex, on a 5.9 acre site, was advertised for sale on behalf of the Diocese of Elphin.