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Preparations ramped up to welcome thousands of Ukrainian refugees

Inside Politics: Taoiseach said to be ‘crystal clear’ Ireland would not be found wanting

As the State prepares to provide refuge for thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war, Government departments are ramping up preparations to ensure that accommodation, access to healthcare and other financial supports are ready to go.

Ministers were told during Tuesday's Cabinet meeting that around 6,000 refugees could be brought to Ireland while the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the figure could technically go anywhere as high as 20,000 if the usual allocation procedures were followed.

Most Ministers, speaking privately, believe that the figure will ultimately be far higher than 6,000. Taoiseach Micheál Martin was said to be "crystal clear" during the meeting that Ireland would not be found wanting when it comes to supporting Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war imposed on them by Russia.

There are a huge number of moving cogs to make all of this happen quickly given the situation is rapidly evolving.

Firstly, something called a "Temporary Protection Directive" will likely be implemented, which is basically a simplified protection route to process the numbers of people who could come to Ireland. Officials in the Department of Justice are already working on this, while Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will attend a Justice and Home Affairs Council in the EU on Thursday to work through the details.

Rather than being required to apply for international protection those arriving could receive temporary residency permission for one year at first but this could be extended to three years.

This will give those seeking refuge an immediate right of access to the labour market, housing, social welfare, healthcare, education, training and other supports.

A huge number of departments will feed into this including the Departments of Housing, Social Protection, Education, Higher Education, Justice and Health. To oversee all of this, and look at the wider resource implications, the Department of the Taoiseach will now convene interdepartmental meetings in the coming days.

Since the Visa waiver was announced last Friday, 143 Ukrainians have arrived in the State but many of them were already residents and had travelled back for reasons other than escaping the conflict.

Ministers are keeping a close eye, too, on the impact of the crisis on energy supplies and costs.

Last night the Department of Environment released a statement detailing how 60 million barrels will be released from oil reserves to show solidarity with Ukraine and to help maintain stability in global oil supplies.

This came on foot of an agreement between Ministers belonging to International Energy Agency (IEA) member states, including Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan. The Department said that Ireland holds 90 days demand of stocks of oil in line with its international commitments.

Talks are also ongoing at a European level to look at what member states might do to temper expected increases in energy costs although no concrete proposals have yet emerged. While Russian gas accounts for only 2 per cent of Irish supply, there are still concerns about the long-term impact that would be felt if Russia decided to shut off supplies.

Read about the full preparations here.

On the ground in Ukraine

In Ukraine, the situation continues to be desperate.

Satellite pictures captured images of a Russian armoured column which was an estimated 64km-long less than 30km from Kyiv. US officials said it appeared to have stalled, however, due to fierce resistance and logistical problems.

Here is our print lead as Russians warned residents of Kyiv to flee their homes.

And as Daniel McLaughlin reports here Ukraine accused Russia on Tuesday of carrying out a "barbaric" rocket attack on a Kyiv TV tower that killed five civilians near Babyn Yar, a memorial site to one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

Two rockets struck the tower, killing five people who were walking nearby, said Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, urging residents to stay off the streets due to the threat of attack.

In the European Parliament, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy received a standing ovation after a speech in which he urged the European Union to prove that it sided with Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, one day after signing an official request to join the bloc.

There will be much focus in the coming days on that request. For his part, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he favours an accelerated process but is does not know if it can be done immediately.

Meanwhile US president Joe Biden last night delivered a State of Union address in which he vow to make Vladimir Putin "pay a price". "Throughout our history we've learned this lesson — when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos."

“They keep moving. And, the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising.”

Here's the full details of that speech.

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A leading mental health charity bought gifts, alcohol, flowers, staff celebratory meals and vouchers from public and charitable funding, Paul Cullen reports.

A Ukrainian mother has spoken of her relief after arriving in Ireland with her five-year-old son who has leukaemia and needs a bone marrow transplant, Olivia Kelleher and Simon Carswell report.

UCD moves to clarify its position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine after a professor resigned one of his posts in the university in protest at UCD's "underwhelming" response to the invasion.

Playbook

Dáil Eireann
Topical Issues are up first shortly after 9am followed by a motion from the Independent Group at 10am about the National Driver Licence Service.

Leaders’ Questions are scheduled for noon followed by Questions on Promised Legislation. Taoiseach Micheál Martin will take questions just after lunch.

In the afternoon, long-awaited legislation comes before the Dáil to allow for the excavation of sites such as the site at the Tuam Mother and Baby institution.

At 5.10pm there will statements on the Irish language to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Electricity costs will be discussed at 7pm when the legislation to give homes an energy credit comes back before the Dáil. At 9pm there will be statements on the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Dáil adjourns at 10.50pm.

The full and more detailed schedule can be found here.

Seanad
Commencement Matters are pencilled in for 10.30am followed by the Order of Business an hour later. At 12.45 the Sea Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 will be debated. This will allow for a new points system for Irish citizen masters of sea-fishing boats.

At 2.30pm there will be statements on the credit union sector. There will be a motion on housing at 4.30pm courtesy of Senators Lynn Ruane, Eileen, Flynn, Frances Black and Alice Mary Higgins.

The Seanad adjourns at 6.30pm.

The full schedule is here.

Committees
First up is the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment which meets at 9.30am to discuss the Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2022. Representatives from Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) and representatives from Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) will attend.

An important meeting of the Joint Committee on Health is scheduled for the same time to discuss the governance and clinical oversight of Camhs Services in Kerry. Representatives from the Health Service Executive (HSE) will attend.

At 5.30pm, the Select Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth will meet to consider legislation to give adopted people access to their full records. That legislation is the Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022. The Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman will attend along with officials.

The rest of the schedule is here.