No air-conditioning in Gormanston accommodation tents for Ukrainian refugees, department says

Some 150 people will move into the tented village at Co Meath army camp from Citywest on Tuesday

There will be no air-conditioning in the accommodation tents at the Gormanston army camp in Co Meath housing Ukrainian refugees from Tuesday, the Department of Children has said.

The department said the facilities management company in charge of the tented village opening on Tuesday has been asked to install air-conditioning units in the facility’s recreation tent and mess tent but not in the accommodation tents.

The first 150 Ukrainians will move to the Gormanston tented village from the transit hub at the Citywest conference centre in west Dublin as the hot weather is forecast to continue.

The department said the facilities management company operating at Gormanston on behalf of the department was on-site on Monday “confirming all necessary preparations are in order”.

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“It was always the intention to open the tented village for people on Tuesday and this has not been delayed due to any weather considerations,” a spokeswoman for the department said.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, whose department oversees accommodation for Ukrainians, said the Gormanston tented village would accommodate up to 150 people initially with a capacity for 350.

The Minister said he expected the tents, each of which will provide accommodation for up to 16 people, would only be used to accommodate people for up to a week at a time.

Last week the Government ran out of space for Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers in State-provided accommodation at the Citywest conference centre in Dublin, forcing more than 300 people to stay in the old terminal building in Dublin Airport on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr O’Gorman said there were no Ukrainians sleeping at Dublin Airport on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the numbers in Citywest fell to 780 from a full capacity of more than 1,000.

He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that a second welcome centre for refugees would open in “the next two to three weeks” and the first tranche of refurbished accommodation from the Department of Housing, offering 500 spaces, would be handed over next week.

A spokeswoman for this department said suitable sites for the second welcome centre were being actively considered but that bringing any welcome centre into operation was “heavily dependent on site assessment, available services and facilities management”.

Mr O’Gorman defended the State’s response to accommodating people displaced by the Ukrainian war, saying that there had been a “surge” in arrivals over the last week.

“We are in a war time situation and in a war time situation you experience surges of refugees arriving and we have experienced a surge over the last six to eight weeks. We link it to the increase in attacks on civilian populations throughout Ukraine,” he said.

Some Ukrainian refugees at the Citywest transit hub in Dublin yesterday spoke of sleeping on chairs.

“I am lucky,” said Tatyana Yekymovar (24), who recently arrived in Ireland and was taken to Citywest with her nine-month-old son where they spent her first night in Dublin sleeping on chairs. “There is a family with two kids. They sleep on chairs for three days.” Ms Yekymovar from Kharkiv said she thought things in Ukraine were going to be okay but the number of bombs and military planes forced her to flee.

Another woman from Kharkiv, Yelyzaveta Niedova (24), arrived in Dublin with her two children, Misha (three) and Pasha (one).

“I almost died,” she said, recounting why she finally decided to leave Ukraine after she survived shelling.

She agrees that conditions at Citywest might not be very comfortable, however, she does realise she did not come to stay in a resort. “When you flee the war you don’t think about comfort and fancy hotels. All you think about is safety.”

Mr O’Gorman told RTÉ the numbers sleeping on chairs or the floor at Citywest was “probably in the low hundreds”. He noted the facility had been under “capacity constraints” in recent weeks which was why more accommodation was being added.

New statistics show that more than 43,000 people have arrived into the State from Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24th. This amounts to an increase of just under 4,500 in three weeks, the Central Statistics Office said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent