Independent TDs propose cap on number of Ukrainian refugees

Immigration policy ‘reckless’ given pressure on housing, health and education sectors, say two TDs in southwest

Two Independent TDs in the southwest have suggested a cap should be put on the number of Ukrainian refugees coming to Ireland amid concerns over the strain on health services and tourist accommodation.

In separate but almost identically worded statements, Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae and Cork South-West TD Michael Collins said the open-door policy on immigration and refusal to debate the issue was “reckless” given the pressure on the already strained health, education and housing sectors.

With so much capacity gone from the tourist sector in accommodating refugees, the key industry for the southwest was suffering, the TDs added.

Kerry is hosting at least 3,000 Ukrainian refugees, mainly in commercial accommodation. Several hotels on the Ring of Kerry and in Killarney are now closed to tourists.

“Does anyone seriously think that we can go on to accommodate and provide decent services if the number of those fleeing Ukraine and arriving here rises to 100,000?” the TDs asked.

There was “a major impact on tourism” , and “buying up vast swathes of hotel capacity is already yielding profoundly negative economic impacts,” they said.

Both are part of the rural Independents group that includes, among others, Mattie McGrath and Carol Nolan, two TDs who clashed with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in the Dáil recently over suggestions of a cap on refugee numbers.

Mr O’Brien said the housing crisis would be addressed in Ireland “while rising to the challenge of doing the right thing by supporting people who need safe harbour fleeing a brutal war”.

Meanwhile, Killarney GP Dr Gary Stack, medical director of the South Doc out-of-hours service, said his practice of three GPs had reached its maximum number having accepted 150 patients, or 50 per doctor.

Kerry County Council councillor Norma Moriarty of Fianna Fáil said Iveragh had for years been “screaming” for an increase in population and the new arrivals were very welcome. However, the more than 600 Ukrainians in the Cahersiveen, Waterville, Valentia and Ballinskelligs areas were now having to endure the same lack of services, with healthcare particularly under strain. One of Cahersiveen’s two GPs was set to retire and more health resources, including in the area of mental health, were urgently needed, she said.