Ukrainian families ordered to vacate Portlaoise accommodation

Group was given less than two days’ notice about relocation to Kilkenny

A group of 15 Ukrainian families feel “destroyed and sad” after being given less than two days’ notice to vacate the homes they made in Portlaoise over the past six months.

The families, including older people and children with special needs, were notified on Tuesday afternoon in hand-delivered letters from the Department of Children and Equality that “it is no longer possible to accommodate you at this location”.

They were told transport would be provided at 11am on Thursday to bring them to their new accommodation at holiday cottages in rural Co Kilkenny. The affected children will have to change schools and adults who found jobs will have to leave them. Some families will also be split as the placements involve the 15 families moving into eight large cottages.

The letter warns: “Should you refuse an offer of relocation to alternative suitable accommodation you will not receive any further offers from this department.


“You should note that at present almost all accommodation on offer is temporary accommodation and a further move may take place over the next weeks.”

In a statement the department said the Ukrainian families were beneficiaries of “temporary protection” in Ireland. Their accommodation in Portlaoise, however, had become available to the department to provide accommodation to longer-term international protection applicants, ie asylum seekers.

“In view of the severe shortage of accommodation for international protection applicants, it is necessary for any beneficiary of temporary protection to be moved to alternative accommodation if temporarily accommodated in international protection accommodation, which is now needed for international protection applicants,” a spokesman said.

“The department ... is now working with our implementing partners and accommodation providers to make this move as easy as possible for those affected,” he said.

Asked why the asylum seekers could not be placed in the Kilkenny housing, leaving the Ukrainian families in Portlaoise, he said the Kilkenny cottages were not designated suitable for asylum seekers.

Among those affected are Yulia Kupets, her husband Dmytro Popov and their sons aged nine and five. Mr Popov travelled with his family on March 14th as their older son has special needs. They were relocated to Portlaoise on March 28th.

“We like Portlaoise. We are successful in integrating here,” said Ms Kupets on Wednesday. “My sons go to school and my husband has work as a bike mechanic. Yesterday we got this letter which will set the life we have back to zero. We feel very sad. We feel destroyed and lost.

“It feels like the first day of the war. We don’t know anything about where we will be tomorrow.”

Her husband would have to leave his job, while her older son would not now benefit from the special needs assistant allocated to his Portlaoise school to support him from next month. In addition, he said, the family would be split as she and the older son are to be placed in one cottage with a family, and Mr Popov with their younger son in another cottage with another family.

“We tried to find a house for ourselves in Portlaoise to rent but it is impossible,” says Ms Kupets. “I don’t know how I will cope without the support of my husband. We will not be able to sit at the table together in the evening to ask about the day. It is very painful and stressful.”

Karen McHugh, chairwoman of support group Laois Integration Network (LIN), described the situation as “crazy”.

“A lot of these families are mothers with newborn babies and families with medical needs. We in LIN appeal to our local politicians and to Laois County Council to ensure that this does not happen,she said.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times