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Ukraine replaces Covid as top of the agenda for foreseeable future

Inside Politics: Housing and financial supports most pressing needs for refugees

Just a short time ago the business of Government was dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic with weekly updates and decision-making at Cabinet.

Today's meeting of Ministers is expected to be dominated by one thing, Russia's war in Ukraine and how Ireland will prepare for an influx of refugees that could amount to 100,000 people.

And, like Covid was, it is expected to be a rolling agenda item for Cabinet for the foreseeable future.

As Daniel McLaughlin reports in our lead talks between Russia and Ukraine have made little headway and Kyiv is braced for an onslaught.

No ceasefire was agreed and Moscow bombarded Ukrainian cities as it appears to continue to mass for a major assault on the capital.

As things stand 1.7 million people have so far fled the fighting to European Union states and the Irish Government has vowed to play its part in helping to accommodate them.

Housing and financial supports are the most pressing needs for refugees arriving to Ireland.

As we report here emergency powers to bypass planning rules last used during the pandemic to build temporary hospitals and testing centres will likely be used to help find accommodation.

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.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will be bringing the memo on the Ukraine crisis to Cabinet amid an intention to have a "whole of Government" response to the crisis.

The Cabinet is today expected to consider proposals to put in place immediate access to social protection and financial supports.

Ministers are set 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.

Ministers have also 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.

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.

The humanitarian disaster in Ukraine and its impact on Ireland will feature heavily on the business of Government for some time.

Pandemic fallout continues

More than 20 healthcare workers lost their lives in Ireland due to Covid-19.

As Jack Horgan-Jones reports here, the Cabinet will discuss plans to pay €100,000 to each of their families.

According to latest figures compiled by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there were 21 deaths related to the disease among healthcare workers in the State. They include HSE staff, locum, agency and contract workers, those in private nursing homes and cleaning staff.

Their families or estates are to benefit from the tax-free payment, which will be paid on a flat rate and on an ex-gratia basis, unrelated to the salary of the person who died.

Best reads

Minister Simon Coveney tells an audience in New York that Ireland is likely to be much more open in future to collective defence following the invasion of Ukraine. But he does not think Ireland is "in the space of Nato membership". Our US correspondent Martin Wall has the report here.

Our columnist Fintan O'Toole says the West needs to think carefully about the endgame in Ukraine .

Stop saying you don't like condoms (and 29 other ways men can make women's lives easier) Amy O'Connor suggests ways men can make things better for women to mark International Women's Day.

Ivana Bacik, who is expected to be the next leader of the Labour Party, defends its record in Government in a report by Jack Horgan-Jones here.

Our Environment & Science Editor Kevin O'Sullivan reports on how scientists have warned of a "tipping point" for the Amazon rainforest.

Playbook

The Cabinet meets this morning.

Dáil proceedings begin at 2pm with Leaders’ Questions followed by Taoiseach’s Questions.

Government business in the afternoon is statements on International Women’s Day.

Sinn Féin have a motion on the assessment of needs for children with special requirements which will be debated from 6.15pm.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris takes parliamentary questions from 8.15pm.

Topical issues is at 9.45pm.

The Committee on the Environment hears from the renewables industry and Government officials on energy challenges from 10am.

Also at 10am the Sub-Committee on Mental Health conducts pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2021.

At 11am the Committee on Transport discuss the proposed Western Rail Corridor.

Minister Eamon Ryan will be before the Committee on Environment at 12.30 to answer questions on the funding of his Department.

At 3pm the Committee on Justice will quiz gambling companies as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Gambling Regulation Bill.

The full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedule can be found here, here and here.