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How 100,000 Ukrainians have changed Ireland: the impact of migration two years on

Some aspects of having many Ukrainians in Ireland have been judged a great success, while others such as the impact on tourism are not viewed so positively

Kostiantyn Dolynnyi (31), his wife Nataliia and their 10-year-old son Damir arrived in Ireland from Ukraine in late February 2022.

Speaking only school-level English, they had left good jobs; Kostiantyn was deputy head of Zhmerynka city council in central Vinnytsia, while Nataliia was the council’s head accountant.

They stayed first in a hotel in Ballymun where Damir started school and, since last year, they have shared a four-bedroom house in Swords, Dublin, with another Ukrainian family.

The house is the childhood home of Richard Barnwall, who lives in Co Kildare. He pledged it to the Irish Red Cross (IRC), which co-ordinates offers of accommodation to Ukrainians and Syrians in return for an €800 accommodation recognition payment every month from the State.


“The house was in probate. It is a relatively modern house and in pretty good order, but could not be sold until I get certain legal things sorted. I did not want it sitting there possibly for two winters,” said Mr Barnwall. His plan is to eventually sell the Kildare home and move to Swords.

Both Kostiantyn and Nataliia found jobs. He is a driver for a construction company, and she worked as a manicurist before taking maternity leave for their now five-month-old daughter, Elizabeth.

Getting work was “very difficult” at first.

“Nobody knows what we can do, even to get PPS number was difficult,” he says, referring to the personal public service number required for employment. “But we had to work. You cannot just sit on benefits.”

Aware they will have to move on from their current home, they have looked at rents.

“When we check something, it is maybe €2,000 a month. After bills as well, it is so expensive,” he says.

The experience of the Dolynnyi family is fairly typical of more than 100,000 Ukrainians who have arrived here since Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago this weekend, according to Liam O’Dwyer, migration services adviser with the IRC.

They have been welcomed in Ireland, have found jobs, and their son has settled well in school. Their accommodation, though secure for now, is not permanent. This could become an acute issue as they plan to stay in Ireland long term, believing their future is more secure and “better” than it would be in Ukraine.

Facing the same predicament as up to 30,000 of their compatriots who want to stay here, the couple is contending with the housing crisis.

Of the 104,870 Ukrainians who have been issued with PPS numbers since March 4th, 2022, almost 74,000 are in State-provided accommodation. Of these, 22,000 are in “pledged accommodation”, while the remainder are mainly in hotels and B&Bs. Women and men, aged 20 and over, account for 46 per cent and 23 per cent respectively of arrivals to date, while 31 per cent are aged under 20, including just over 23,000 children.

Pledged accommodation, which could be vacant homes or shared homes, operates on a rolling basis of six- or 12-month arrangements. So far, when the IRC calls pledgers towards the end of the arrangement to see if their guests can stay longer, 82 per cent agreed to accommodate Ukrainians for a further period, says O’Dwyer. In a recent survey of pledgers, to which 1,412 responded, 92 per cent said they had had a “good” experience, and 76 per cent would “recommend it to a friend”.

The presence of Ukrainians has been a “boon” to employers, says O’Dwyer. As of January, 17,702 Ukrainians were employed, mostly in wholesale, transport, retail, the food and drink industry and accommodation, though earning an average of €467 per week, substantially below the average industrial wage of about €960.

A majority (61 per cent) are highly educated, to degree and doctorate levels, and large numbers are employed in work that does not match their qualifications, he says.

O’Dwyer says accreditation has been “a huge issue”, with English-language skills a further barrier for some Ukrainian arrivals. Some 14,000 have been enrolled in – or are attending – English classes.

He describes the taking on of 18,000 Ukrainian children in Irish classrooms as a “great success”. Of these, 11,312 are in primary schools and 6,873 in secondary. Their high enrolment rate, about 90 per cent, is estimated to be the highest in Europe. While these children have faced some difficulties enrolling in secondary schools, especially in urban areas due to pressure on school spaces, some smaller primary schools in rural areas say the additional numbers have “saved” them from losing teachers.

Louise Tobin, president of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network and former principal of St Joseph’s primary school in Tipperary, describes having 12 Ukrainian children enrol as “hugely positive” for the whole school community, adding that the Department of Education provided “great support”.

The spread of Ukrainian settlement in the country over the past two years has been uneven, posing challenges to areas dependent on tourism. Ukrainians account for 0.2 per cent of the population in parts of Tipperary, but account for significant proportions in popular tourist towns such as Westport, Co Mayo (6.5 per cent); Killarney, Co Kerry (8.3 per cent) and Bundoran, Co Donegal (7.6 per cent).

These figures make Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, “very worried”.

The confederation represents the panoply of businesses involved in the tourism “product”, including restaurants, cafes, adventure centres and boat hire companies. Many of these will be “in peril” if State dependency on hotels and B&Bs to accommodate Ukrainians and asylum seekers continues, he says.

“In Co Clare, for example, over 33 per cent of tourism beds are gone from the local economy. Without beds there aren’t tourists, and if there aren’t tourists that’s a problem. If somewhere like Killarney has a problem with tourist numbers, Killarney has a major problem,” he says.

Citing calculations from Fáilte Ireland that the lost income as a result of lost beds amounted to between €700,000 to €1.1 billion last year, he says the impact is “profound” and “destabilising”.

Many businesses “didn’t have much of a tourism economy last summer” and the dwindling of tourism bed spaces was “getting worse”. Tourism business closures would damage the “fabric” of the “tourism proposition” in some areas.

“That takes years to build and once gone, take years to come back,” he says.

While the total of PPS numbers issued to Ukrainians fell to 191 last week – compared to a high of 2,953 in the week to April 21st, 2022 – arrivals are continuing. O’Mara Walsh wants to see a plan from Government to reduce dependency on tourism accommodation stock as the “war rumbles on”.

Meanwhile, O’Dwyer worries there is no “exit plan” from pledged housing and hotels for the Ukrainian community.

Sociologist Niamh Hourigan says the enormous goodwill that exists towards the Ukrainian community could fray.

“My sense on the ground is there is already intense resentment of Ukrainians in some areas, especially those dependent on tourism,” she says.

“Resentment, if it is not given a space and a response, can turn into racism.”

The Government needs to lead a “mature, rational discussion” on immigration, to give space for people’s concerns and to assert that it was “in charge” of immigration policy and to provide sufficient housing.

The housing crisis has “become interconnected” with immigration, Hourigan adds, and the Ukrainian community faced getting caught up the crossfire without a coherent plan for their future.

The Dolynnyis “hope” to find somewhere they can afford to rent, says Kostiantyn.

“But now, everything is good. I like people here – so lovely people. My wife, my son love Ireland,” he says.

“I hope to be [an] old man in Ireland. I think today the future is here.”

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