‘Only natural’ Ireland would respond differently to refugees from Ukraine, Tánaiste says

Varadkar responds to claim two-tier system is in place for those seeking State’s protection

It is "only natural" that the State would respond differently to refugees coming from Ukraine than to those seeking asylum from other countries, as Ukraine is in Ireland's "neighbourhood", Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The Fine Gael leader has also said it won't be possible to provide own-door accommodation to everyone seeking the State's protection from abroad as he sought to temper expectations on the possible use of new modular homes on State land to house refugees arriving here from Ukraine.

At a press conference on Wednesday it was put to Mr Varadkar that there was now a two-tier system for those arriving here seeking the State’s protection, with refugees from Ukraine fleeing the Russian invasion getting preferential treatment.

Mr Varadkar said: "The situation is different. This is [a] crisis that's happening in Europe. Europe is our neighbourhood.


"This is a state that wants to join the European Union.

“One of the reasons why it’s being attacked is that it wants to join the European Union.

“When something happens in your neighbourhood, in your parish, on your estate, I think it’s only natural that you’re going to want to respond in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t if something was happening in a different part of the world.”

He also said the legal situation was that Ukrainians had temporary protection in the EU and “they’re coming here legally”.

Emergency powers

In the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said consideration was being given to using emergency powers in planning legislation to provide accommodation for refugees amid the crisis in Ukraine, while saying modular housing had been tried before and “it was not the solution people make it out to be”.

He said again on Wednesday he wanted to temper expectations in relation to the use of modular housing and said modular homes had previously proved not much quicker to deliver.

According to Mr Varadkar, building the residences does not take long but servicing the sites with utilities takes time.

“I really want to dampen down the idea that somehow the State is clicking into action and people are going to see, you know, 50/60,000 new houses and apartments built this side of August or September.

“That’s not going to happen. This is going to be really difficult.”

He said tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees would be coming to Ireland and they would have the right to education and work.

“We’re going to provide them with the best accommodation that we can possibly provide for them.

“But it’s not going to be possible to provide own-door self-catering accommodation for everyone who comes into the State from abroad.

“We’ve never been able to do that and will not be able to do that this year.

“I wish we could but it isn’t possible.

“We won’t be able to do it.

“No country in Europe or the world is going to do it.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times