Ukranian refugees in the tented village at Stradbally Hall in Co Laois were safe and warm as Storm Agnes battered the country on Wednesday, residents of the camp have said.
Met Éireann placed counties Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow, Kilkenny and Carlow under an orange wind warning for most of the day as trees fell and roads were blocked by floods. ESB Networks said “numbers in the low thousands” had suffered power outages.
But on Thursday the tented village of emergency accommodation was said to be “in remarkably good condition after the storm”, with no serious incidents were reported as Storm Agnes passed over the country.
Ukranian woman Natalia Budianska told The Irish Times she had researched Stradbally Hall and was under the mistaken impression she was to have been housed in a castle. However, she said the camp was clean and comfortable, and people were well treated.
She said the campsite had tents, bio-toilets and showers and that families were placed in a separate tent, with singles being grouped together in groups of four.
Camp residents were fed “delicious” food three times a day, she said, with boiling water available all day for tea or coffee and wifi in the dining room.
“The nights are cold. We sleep in pyjamas, in a sleeping bag and a blanket on top. The bed is clean, everything is new. Even the interior of the tent was beautifully decorated,” she said.
Ms Budianska said twice a week Intreo (the public employment service) representatives come directly there and help with questionnaires.
She said there has not been a day when more people were not brought to the campsite. “I conclude that Ireland continues to accept Ukrainians.” .
Tom Cosby, owner of the 500-acre Stradbally Estate said the tented village where up to 450 Ukranian refugees are housed “is in remarkably good condition after the storm”.
Mr Cosby said “people think terrible things about a mud field – but it is actually not like that. There are wide tracks up to the tents and the dining hall has rigid sides so it is warm and dry and people have access to communications and food.”
He said while not ideal many people lived in the tents for eight weeks, including in some bad weather, preceding the Electric Picnic festival from September 1st to September 3rd.
“I know it is not ideal but it is only a reception centre. All the people who came here two weeks ago are gone”.
Mr Cosby said “nobody wants to be in the situation the Ukranians are in, but I was down there at lunchtime and people are okay. They are using computers and we have got them adaptors for their phones. The canteen lady said it was too warm, if anything, and there is a clothes donation area where clothes are available. They have water, electricity and heat, and are cheerful and safe.”