Emergency powers may be used to house Ukrainian refugees

Measures last used during pandemic to build temporary hospitals and testing centres

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien: ‘It is likely that these powers may have to be availed of again.’ File photograph: The Irish Times

Emergency powers to bypass planning rules last used during the Covid-19 pandemic to build temporary hospitals and testing centres will likely be used to help find accommodation for refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien last week wrote to the chief executives of local authorities telling them that emergency provisions in the planning and development act mean there can be non-application for certain developments.

“It is likely that these powers may have to be availed of again to address the accommodation and other requirements associated with managing the needs of those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine,” he wrote.

During the pandemic, he wrote, the powers were used to build “temporary hospitals, step-down facilities, healthcare facilities, vaccination and testing facilities, ancillary infrastructure and other works”.


Up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees may make their way to Ireland, with the putting in place of immediate access to social protection and financial supports for them expected to be considered by Cabinet when it meets on Tuesday.

Ministers are expected at the Cabinet meeting to discuss plans to provide PPS numbers to Ukrainians upon arrival in Ireland and it is proposed that they will be able to access income supports like the Supplementary Allowance and Child Benefit.

Under the plans , there will be Department of Social Protection officials posted at Dublin Airport alongside staff from the Department of Justice to assist refugees with the process of accessing supports.

Minister for Further Education Simon Harris has said Ukrainian people arriving in Ireland will have the same entitlements as Irish people under a temporary European Union directive.

He said Ukrainians are fleeing an “illegal brutal invasion” and the approach will be to do everything it can “to make people welcome here but also to make it as seamless as possible”.

Each week, Cabinet Ministers are to get an updated memo on the Irish response to the crisis with decisions to take. Mr Harris suggested the Government will also consider how the process at ports and airports can be made as easy as possible for people arriving from Ukraine.

“We need to work through the detail of this with . . . Minister for Social Protection [Heather Humphreys] but it will be the same entitlements that Irish citizens will have,” he told Today FM. “But we need to look through a number of things in terms of habitual residency clauses and the like.”

Food prices

Ministers have been meeting their European counterparts on the crisis, which is also expected to put fuel, energy and food prices, as well as commodities and products used in the agriculture sector.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will on Tuesday evening meet farm groups to brief them that the impact of the war will last for many months, disrupting grain, fertiliser and other markets.

Mr McConalogue has also signalled that there will be help from Europe for food producers in the shape of payments, with Brussels committed to designing a package of measures and market interventions – with more detail on that expected next week.

Meanwhile, work continues at Government level on measures to assist with the cost of living.

It is understood that measures are of a sufficiently significant scale to require changes to the finance Bill, now working its way through the Oireachtas.

Consumers and businesses are facing the prospect of significant energy price hikes as gas prices soar and oil prices increase further.

In a statement, the ESB noted that the wholesale gas prices it faces had increased 16-fold over the past year, based on Monday prices.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor is an Irish Times writer and Managing Editor