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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
By Jonathan McCambridge and Cate McCurry, PA

Government ‘failed to match people’s efforts over homes for Ukrainian refugees’

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said the Government’s efforts over supplying accommodation to Ukrainian refugees had been a ‘catastrophic failure’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government has been accused of failing to match the effort of people across Ireland in finding accommodation for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

During leaders’ questions in the Dail, Taoiseach Micheal Martin was told that people would be dismayed that some refugees fleeing the war had to sleep on the floor at Dublin Airport.

However, Mr Martin responded by stating the only person who would take solace from Sinn Fein’s attacks on Government policy would be Vladimir Putin.

The exchanges came after 44 Ukrainian refugees were recently left without anywhere to live after arriving in Ireland.

It is understood that the Department of Children contacted those affected and offered accommodation on Monday.

Opposition leader Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach in the Dail why the Government was “scrambling to put together a plan” nine months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It seems your approach was to outsource the state's response, to cross your fingers and hope for the bestMary Lou McDonald

The Sinn Fein president added: “How is it that at the same time people’s offers to accommodate refugees are being ignored?

“It seems your approach was to outsource the state’s response, to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

“Not content with denying our own people the right to an affordable secure roof over their heads, you now extend your catastrophic failure to those coming to Ireland seeking humanitarian assistance.

“What are you doing to ensure that offers of accommodation for those fleeing war come onstream quickly?”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin hailed the efforts of Irish people in providing accommodation for fleeing Ukrainian refugees (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Martin responded: “I think your commentary and some of the debate around this issue in recent days has become somewhat detached from the reality that we find ourselves confronted with.

“The first thing that has to be done is to pay tribute to the extraordinary Irish national effort in response to Putin’s illegal and immoral invasion of his neighbour Ukraine.

“More than 55,000 Ukrainians have sought and received refuge in our country. It is one of the highest in the European Union.

Dublin’s City West hotel and conference centre is being used to house Ukrainian refugees (Niall Carson/PA)

“I think we need to be careful of the implications of how this gets articulated.

“The only person I see who would get solace from what you have said and the manner in which you have said it is Putin himself.

“That is what Putin wants to do. He wants to create the impression across Europe that Europe can’t cope with this.

“We have to make sure he does not succeed with that agenda.”

Ms McDonald said: “The difficulty is that you have not matched the effort by the Irish people by action from Government.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said people across Ireland were dismayed that some Ukrainian refugees had to sleep on the floor of Dublin Airport (Damien Storan/PA)

“The facts are that people arrived, fleeing from Ukraine, and there was nowhere for them to go.

“They slept in the airport.

“I think we can all agree that is not an acceptable situation. Why are you only cobbling together a plan now?”

The Taoiseach said: “We never, ever before had to deal with such numbers coming into the country.

“We have said we will do everything we can to accommodate Ukrainians and we have.”

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said: “I think it is fair to say that across Ireland, communities have been dismayed to see people fleeing the brutal war in Ukraine and having to sleep on the floor in Dublin Airport.”

Earlier, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar had said Ireland cannot guarantee accommodation for refugees arriving from Ukraine in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Varadkar said there is “no point in denying” the chronic shortage of accommodation.

“Ireland has done very well as a society – and I don’t mean as a government, I mean as a society – in responding to the Ukraine and refugee crisis,” he said.

We are experiencing a severe accommodation shortage and there is no point in denying thatTanaiste Leo Varadkar

“There are over 50,000 Ukrainians now in the country, all must have secure accommodation. There are 12,000 Ukrainian kids now in our schools, 10,000 Ukrainians working, 1,000 studying in our universities.

“In what is a very difficult situation, I think the Irish public and Irish society has responded very well. But we are experiencing a severe accommodation shortage and there is no point in denying that.

“As a country we are not in any way going to resile from our international obligations or resile from European solidarity. But we do need to say to people that if you come here we cannot guarantee you accommodation at the moment, and indeed for the few weeks we can’t guarantee it.

“Cabinet sub-committee met last night. Decisions won’t be signed off for another few days, so there will be a memo produced for Government. We should be able to sign them off formally in the next couple of days.”

Senior government ministers met on Monday night to discuss the accommodation crisis for Ukrainians and refugees arriving in Ireland and measures to address it.

Proposals included doubling the monthly payment for people taking in Ukrainian refugees to 800 euro.

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