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Reality of war in Ukraine for Europe and Ireland begins to hit home

Inside Politics: Inflation in Irish economy expected to surge to 8.5%, highest since 1980s

The reality of the war in Ukraine – and what it means for all of Europe, including us – is beginning to hit.

Government Ministers said yesterday the number of refugees that will come to our shores from the battle-scarred country could reach 200,000 (the equivalent of more than 4 per cent of our population).

Later in the day the Economic and Social Research Institute’s (ESRI) quarterly forecast was equally stark: inflation in the Irish economy is expected to surge to 8.5 per cent or even higher in the coming months.

As Eoin Burke-Kennedy and Pat Leahy note in today’s lead story, this is a a level not seen since the early 1980s, as the war in Ukraine has compounded existing price pressures in the global economy.

With growth forecast for a little more than 6 per cent (half the original estimate from the ESRI), it means a net fall in income could materialise in the region of 2 per cent, or €1,300 per annum for a household.

The report also points out that a Government memo circulated early this month also raised the possibility of household gas and electricity being rationed if energy supplies are disrupted by the continuing war.

It came as the authorities here ramped up efforts to try and house tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in the State. More than 10,000 have already arrived and the number is expected to reach 20,000 by the end of the month, and 40,000 by the end of April.

The upshot is that State bodies have been scrambling to locate what will in effect be emergency accommodation. Hotels are being block-booked and large arenas such as Citywest in Dublin, Millstreet Arena in Co Cork and the National Show Centre in Swords could be used as reception centres and temporary accommodation for arriving refugees.

Elsewhere, Jennifer Bray reports that councils have been asked to locate vacant buildings in their areas, such as sports halls, old Garda stations and convents, to use as accommodation.

Omicron on the double

And if that was not enough, Covid has returned with a vengeance. A total of 23,702 cases were reported yesterday, close to the highest total reported since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The latest surge, writes Jack Horgan-Jones and Paul Cullen, is caused by the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron, which is 30 per cent more transmissible than Omicron.

The high level of cases has also translated into increased hospital admissions. There were 1,338 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals yesterday and the number of people in intensive care has also risen to the highest figure since the winter – 61 in total.

The World Health Organisation said Ireland was one of a number of countries experiencing a marked surge, which could be attributed to a "brutal" lifting of restrictions.

So will the new wave mean fresh restrictions, including mask-wearing? Officials here are hoping that numbers will peak this week and then decline, as happened in Denmark earlier this month.

It has led to renewed calls for the reintroduction of restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing in certain settings. Among those who have argued for that are the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

However, as of now the Government has been “steadfast” in saying that restrictions were not being considered.


Best Reads

Miriam Lord dissects Michael Healy-Rae’s use of the phrase “airy fairy” in an attack on an angry Leo Varadkar in the Dáil yesterday, while analysing the “simple Kerryman of enormous wealth” in the process.

Pat Leahy reports that Taoiseach Micheál Martin will decide today if he will attend the European Council summit.

Cormac McQuinn reports that Labour has criticised Government support for Irish soccer’s Euro 2028 bid, saying it is a “distraction” from the needs of the organisation.

In his column Michael McDowell says he is “gobsmacked” at the reaction of Irish Marxists to Vladimir Putin.

Peter Power of Unicef reminds us of the injustice of the world, and of forgotten tragedies such as the plight of people in Afghanistan who are going hungry because of its collapsed economy.


Playbook

Dáil

The Social Democrat’s Private Members’ Bill, Ban on Sex for Rent Bill 2022, is coming before the Dáil this morning. It was tabled earlier this month by Dublin Bay North TD Cian O’Callaghan.

The Government will not oppose the Bill at second stage. Its aim is to criminalise reported practices of landlords offering accommodation in exchange for sex. There have also been reports of existing tenants in vulnerable circumstances being coerced in the same way.

The Government agrees with the aim of the Bill but is expected to say that more work is needed on it, especially in the way it interacts with other sexual offences laws.

Leaders’ Questions will be starting at noon. Taoiseach Micheál Martin is still in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

There is a raft of legislation in front of the Dáil in the afternoon. It includes a Bill on the European Arrest Warrant, the Health (Assisted Human Reproduction Bill) 2022, the Bretton Woods Agreement Bill 2022, and the Regulation of Providers of Building Works Bill 2022.

At 9pm the votes on the weekly divisions will be called, with the House adjourning at 9.30pm.

Seanad

The Seanad will debate the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in the morning and will then hear statements on humanitarian support for Ukrainian refugees.

A Labour Party Private Members’ Bill providing for a prohibition of advertising for gambling products will be debated in the afternoon.

Committee

At Committee, the aftershocks of the Ukrainian invasion are evident in the agenda.

At 9.30am the Committee on Enterprise is examining fuel cost issues and pricing practices relating to fuel.

The Committee on European Affairs has invited the Slovakian ambassador in to outline his country’s response to the refugee and humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

The Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform will begin committee-stage consideration of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2022 with Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Another discussion on fuel prices, this time at the Joint Committee on Transport and Communication. It has every imaginable transport body in before it to discuss the issue.