Friday 29 March 2024

Waterford treatment centre for recovering female drug addicts gets green light

An all-female centre for recovering drug addicts in West Waterford run by a South American religious order has been given the green light by An Bord Pleanála.

The Refuge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary received planning from Waterford City and County Council in 2022 to develop a 1.9 hectare site at Claddagh, a secluded site some 5.5km east of Clashmore.

The plans involve converting a dormer bungalow into a residential care centre for up to nine residents, along with construction of a three-bed dwelling to house nuns/carers who will manage the centre. 

Established in April 2019, the refuge is a collective comprising individuals from several Catholic organisations across Ireland.

The facility, to be known as Pobail Mhuire, will be managed by nuns from the Argentine-founded Our Lord and Our Lady of Matara and funded by charitable donations.

The proposed centre is endorsed by Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Alphonsus Cullinan, who advised parishioners to “reach out to fellow human beings who have fallen into addiction”.

Some 11 submissions by local residents were made to An Bord Pleanála following the council's granting of the application, raising concerns around housing laws, environment, non-involvement of the HSE, traffic movements, and drug dealers possibly visiting the location. 

There was also concern expressed that “physically, psychologically and emotionally troubled persons” could pose a threat.

The venture coordinator during the planning application stage, John Carlin, said: “Residents will be here on their own volition. They will work through their recovery in a place of serenity, peace and by using the power of prayer and contact with the outside world will be almost non-existent. Visitors and mobile phones will be forbidden.”

Mr Carlin described himself as a former director of the Cenacolo drug rehabilitation centre in Knock, on which the Clashmore centre would be modelled.

The planning board's inspector’s report notes those availing of the service will arrive post-detoxification and will remain at the facility for 26 weeks.

They would also be offered educational programmes, including life skills, prior to returning to general society.

The report adds the facility will not be a medical centre or clinic and there would be no drug-based medical interventions.

It is further observed the secluded setting is conducive to the treatment’s effectiveness.

An Bord Pleanála upheld planning with 11 conditions.