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Electric Picnic festival site to house refugees

Crowd at Electric Picnic
Ukrainian refugees are to be housed in tented accommodation at the festival site

As thousands of music lovers depart the Electric Picnic festival in County Laois, work is set to get under way to transform the site into tented accommodation for refugees.

The Irish government has signed a contract for the use of the site at Stradbally, effective from Tuesday.

The site will house 750 people for the duration of the six-week contract, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) has said.

The department plans to operate the site at full capacity by Thursday.

Electric Picnic site
The Irish government has signed a six-week lease for Stradbally Hall Estate

Electric Picnic is Ireland's biggest music festival, with about 70,000 people attending the site over the weekend to see acts such as Billie Eilish, Niall Horan and The Killers.

However the site will get a second life over the next several weeks as the Irish government looks for alternative means to house refugees.

Since February 2021, the Irish government has accommodated more than 92,400 people seeking refuge.

This consists of 69,518 people who have fled the war in Ukraine and 22,700 people seeking international protection.

"The summer months have seen an increase in the number of arrivals from Ukraine, with more than 10,000 people fleeing here since 1 May, an average of around 650 people per week," a department spokesperson said.

"It is estimated that up to 500 people could continue to arrive over the next weeks from Ukraine."

Croke Park, the Aviva Stadium, Dublin Airport and ex-military camps have all been used to house refugees who have arrived in Ireland over the past 12 months.

The government has also sourced accommodation from the tourism sector and student housing, but they say those options are at capacity.

"Due to this significant shortfall, it is expected that, from next week, tented accommodation will be the primary source of accommodation for new arrivals from Ukraine," the department said.

"A small number of new arrivals have already been placed in tents, and this will increase as new locations for tented facilities come on stream. Vulnerable arrivals will be prioritised for any non-tented accommodation available."

The site at Stradbally will include provisions for hot meals, on-site access to a paramedic and first aid, hot water and shower and toilet facilities.

Electric Picnic is an arts and music festival held in Stradbally Hall Estate, County Laois.

Fred Again at Electric Picnic
Electronic artist Fred Again headlined the festival on Saturday evening

It was established as an annual event in 2004 but it could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.