The Government can do better in securing additional emergency accommodation for Ukrainians, the Taoiseach said, as senior ministers meet to discuss the crisis in housing.
Micheal Martin also said there have been proposals around the reconfiguration of properties that could potentially provide accommodation for a significant number of people.
Government ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss emergency accommodation for Ukrainians and refugees arriving in Ireland.
Mr Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien are among those taking part in the Cabinet sub-committee meeting.
It comes as about 43 Ukrainian refugees were left without state accommodation in recent days after they arrived in Ireland.
The numbers that have arrived in such a very short space of time have been unprecedentedTaoiseach Micheal Martin
Speaking in Co Cavan ahead of the meeting, Mr Martin said there has been an “extraordinary response” by the Irish people.
He said the war in Ukraine has brought about an unprecedented level of migration to the country.
“The country has never had to deal with so many people fleeing war in its history,” Mr Martin added.
“The numbers that have arrived in such a very short space of time have been unprecedented.
“We are looking at 58,000 Ukrainians have come into the country now. Well over the mid-40s getting accommodated by the state. Others finding accommodation.
“We now have 15,000 in direct provision.
“This is not a normal domestic policy where you can say we’ll do X, Y and Z in a planned way. This is very much a consequence of war.
“If you look at where we were last week. We were at an EU Council meeting in Brussels. What was the issue? Energy. Why? Because (Russian president Vladimir) Putin has weaponised energy, and he is weaponising migration.
“The bombing of energy infrastructure is about that. He wants to make life so miserable for Ukrainians throughout this winter that he wants to create a further wave of migration out of Ukraine. That is what is at issue here.
“It is important that Europe stands together. Ireland continues to show its solidarity against Putin’s war.
“That means we have to double down and do better again in terms of what we are doing to accommodate people fleeing war from Ukraine.
“It is very difficult for Ukrainians, it is very difficult for people generally.
“It is not just an Irish phenomenon, it is a phenomenon across Europe. Other countries and cities are facing similar situations.”
Mr Martin acknowledged that the system to cater for refugees could be better.
“We can do things better in terms of some of our systems in respect of payments and so on but also securing additional accommodation,” he added.
He said the cabinet sub-committee meeting will go through all of the options.
“There had been proposals around reconfigurating a whole range of properties that had been identified already, which if brought to realisation quickly could provide very significant numbers of places,” he added.
Mr Martin also said there is a legal and moral obligation on Ireland to take in refugees.
“This is part of a European-wide protection collective,” he said.
“I believe the moral one is the strong one, but it is also a legal one and we are working with other European member states.
“We are all in this together across Europe. There is not the facility for one country to opt out. That challenges ourselves to be part of that European solidarity.”
Speaking to reporters in Belfast, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the emergency accommodation crisis is a “huge failure” of government policy.
Ms McDonald said there has been a failure to plan and a failure to provide adequate accommodation.
“It is quite disgraceful that it has come to this,” she added.
“I mean, the Government knew, and in fact predicted that we would have far greater numbers of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Ireland, and yet they have failed comprehensively to prepare and to provide for those people.
“And just remember, this is part and parcel of a wider failure to provide housing and accommodation for the wider population.”