Up to 10,000 Ukrainian refugees could live in vacant homes

Emergency accommodation may be offered in arenas, conference centres and even tents

The Irish Red Cross says it is hopeful that 10,000 Ukrainian refugees can be accommodated in vacant homes in the next three to four weeks.

The organisation is working with the Government to respond to the needs of potentially tens of thousands of people fleeing to Ireland from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

By Saturday, a total of 13,214 people had arrived in Ireland from the war-torn country. While many are staying with family and friends, 7,183 have needed help with accommodation.

They are being housed initially in hotels but contingency plans are being put in place to offer emergency accommodation in arenas, conference centres and even tents should the alternatives be exhausted.


The Defence Forces is to provide heated tents – of the kind used for pandemic testing centres – for 320 people at Gormanston Camp, Co Meath, which may be needed within weeks depending on how many refugees arrive.

Another 400 people could be accommodated at the Green Glens Arena at Millstreet, Co Cork, and this is expected to come on stream by mid-April.

More long-term solutions are being sought through the use of vacant homes, offers of shared accommodation in Irish households and also properties that may be offered by religious organisations or local authorities.

An Irish Red Cross spokesman said 23,000 offers of accommodation from the public have been registered with them of which between 5,000 and 6,000 are vacant properties.

Vetting procedures

Bringing these homes into use is expected to be faster than taking up offers of shared accommodation due to the vetting procedures involving the host families that must be followed.

Inspections of vacant homes are being carried out and the Irish Red Cross estimate that 10,000 people can be housed in this way is based on an assumption that 70 per cent of the properties will be suitable.

The spokesman sought to temper expectations about the prospect of shared accommodation with Irish families offering an early solution for housing refugees due to the vetting process involved.

He asked people who have offered to open their homes to refugees to “please bear with us” adding: “It’s a long process but we will get around to everybody.”

The Defence Forces said work on preparing the site began on the weekend of March 19th and 20th following a request from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. “The accommodation at Gormanston is being prepared as a contingency due to the unprecedented nature of the situation,” a statement said.

The emergency facility at Gormanston will use military tents and camp beds. Fresh water and food will be available, along with toilet and washing facilities. It will likely not be suitable for children or families, tents will be shared, and it is understood the facility is intended to house single adults for a short period of time before alternative arrangements are found. “The hope is we won’t have to use it all but you need to have the option ready to go in case,” said one official.

VAT on fuel

Separately, a decision on allowing EU member states more freedom to reduce VAT on fuel to help ease cost of living increases caused by the war is not expected to be imminent. Ireland already has a special derogation which allows it to operate at a lower rate of VAT at 13.5 per cent.

Unless the EU changes the rules, a temporary reduction in VAT in response to recent inflation would see the State revert to the standard rate of 23 per cent.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been in talks with his EU counterparts about easing this rule, so Ireland could return to the special rate if further cuts were required.

A source said the European Commission is studying the matter but it is not yet a "done deal" and "there's still a bit of road to travel".

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times