The arrival of Ukrainian refugees to Ireland a year ago led the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson to call on dioceses to pull together and "take action".

Parishes in the United Dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were asked to fundraise to set up a Ukrainian hub at the Church of St George and St Thomas just off O'Connell Street.

At the time there were 1,600 people from Ukraine accommodated in hotels and hostels in Dublin 1.

The idea of the space was to enable them to leave their accommodation and gather during the day.

Almost €40,000 was raised through the U&Ukraine appeal, but one year on, there's no hub and the donations have been transferred to another Protestant charity for Ukrainian initiatives.

This has led to disappointment among locals and political representatives in the Dublin central area.

The announcement was viewed as "really exciting news" according to Green Party Councillor Janet Horner.

She views the building as a great resource at the heart of Dublin city and believes the donated money is indicative of enthusiasm and goodwill within the area.

St George and St Thomas Church is near O'Connell St in Dublin

Cllr Horner said: "Obviously at this point it is really disappointing to hear that it isn't going ahead. We are in one of the most diverse parts of the city.

"This part of city is doing huge amounts to host not just Ukrainians, but asylum seekers and a lot of other communities and doing huge amounts of working integration, having an integration hub here would have been phenomenal for the city as a whole, and it could have done really great work."

There have been tensions around St George and St Thomas Church for several years.

In 2017, pastoral care of parishioners was taken over by a neighbouring parish.

At the closing service of the church, Archbishop Michael Jackson said: "There is every intention on the part of the diocese to find a new use within the Church of Ireland and within the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough for the very beautiful church building that is St George's and St Thomas' Church."

In 2021, parishioners expressed disquiet because the church building, which is currently used by the Indian Orthodox Church for worship, a rehearsal space by the Discovery Gospel choir and St George's Brass Band, has remained closed most of the time.

Archbishop Jackson's decision to create a Ukrainian hub was viewed as a welcome and inspired idea for the building and the Dublin 1 area.

The press statement announcing the U&Ukraine initiative on 7 April last year said the funds were needed to upgrade kitchen and restroom facilities in St George and St Thomas’s to ensure they were fit for use by members of the Ukrainian community.

Donations totalled at €37,300.95, however, the diocese felt it wasn't in a position to proceed with the proposal to locate a hub in St George and St Thomas.

A spokesperson for the Dublin and Glendalough Dioceses said that at the time of identifying the church and progressing the plan, former parishioners indicated a wish to hold an Easter General Vestry (parish AGM).

That AGM occurred in January this year and a Select Vestry (the committee which manages a parish) was elected, but it seems it was too late.

The money raised was transferred to an independent registered charity, Protestant Aid, which has already funded initiatives involving Ukrainian refugees.

According to a spokesperson for the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, the decision to pass those funds to Protestant Aid was announced at the Diocesan Synod in October last year which was then confirmed by Diocesan Councils in December.

Roisín Dexter says parishioners were 'very surprised' to hear that the money was no longer available for the Ukrainian hub

€26,000 was passed on immediately to Protestant Aid.

One individual who donated €10,000 was contacted and agreed with the decision to put the money towards the charity and its work with Ukrainian refugees.

The United Dioceses published a message of thanks on its website on 16 March to those who donated to the U&Ukraine initiative, stating publicly that it was not in a position to proceed with the Ukrainian hub.

"Diocesan Councils have agreed to donate the funds to Protestant Aid which will channel the funds to parishes and rectors working to support Ukrainian refugees in practical ways."

By publishing the message on its website, the United Dioceses sought to comply with the Charities Regulator Financial Transparency and Accountability guidelines around fundraising, specifically this section: "Where a charity is in receipt of funds restricted to certain purposes or projects and where the charity cannot realistically apply the funds within a reasonable timeframe to that purpose or project, the charity, in consultation with the Charities Regulator, must allocate those funds to a purpose as close as possible to the original intended purpose. Where practical, this change should be communicated to the specific donor(s)".

The Peoples Churchwarden for Saint George and Saint Thomas Church of Ireland Roisín Dexter says parishioners and the church's vestry were "very surprised" to hear that the money was no longer available for the Ukrainian hub.

"We are very much in support of the U&Ukraine appeal. We said that a year ago when the initiative was was launched, we haven't changed our position on that. We would love to proceed with a Ukrainian hub in Saint George St Thomas's".

Indeed, the church has a history supporting diverse communities and migrants and, for this reason, Ms Dexter and fellow parishioners believe the hub should be opened "to continue that really important work".

"It's a perfect location and we have the knowledge on the ground to work with the Ukrainian migrants and to have Ukrainians here. It's a wonderful vision. I think that we really could realise it. So we're very, very surprised to hear that the money is no longer available for this".

Ms Dexter said that "if money is still there, the vestry would be very open to having conversations and talking about how best it can be used for what it was intended for".