‘Very possible’ Ireland will take in over 20,000 refugees from Ukraine, Taoiseach says

Micheál Martin raises prospect of injured children being offered urgent surgery here

It is "very possible" that the State will accommodate more than 20,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

The Taoiseach said on Wednesday that "we will play our part" in welcoming people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as he also raised the prospect of children and other people injured in the conflict being offered urgent surgery in Ireland.

Mr Martin said the State was continuing to work with other European countries in pressing Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop all hostilities, withdraw his troops and end the invasion, which began on Thursday last.

Mr Martin said it was "very possible" that the State would take in more than the 20,000-refugees estimate provided by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in relation to the Ukraine refugee crisis, but said it was "very hard to be definitive".


Mr Martin said a UN estimate stated that 836,000 refugees had already left Ukraine, with half going to Poland.

Government departments and Ministers are drawing up plans for how the State can respond to this refugee crisis.

‘People-of-Ireland response’

The Taoiseach said: “I think it would have to be a people-of-Ireland response as well as the Government response. But it will be very challenging.”

He said the State would need to be in a position to accommodate a lot of people and it would not be fair to have other European countries dealing with the entire burden of the migration expected.

Mr Martin said people in Ireland were already responding in different ways to help Ukraine and its people, including civil society and non-governmental organisations.

He added: "Already people in the health area in the medical world are offering supports in terms of trauma care, potentially as happened in the Haiti earthquake where some of our trauma surgeons volunteered to help if necessary to repatriate children here for urgent surgery or people who may require it.

“There’s a whole range of areas that will require a societal response and Government will work to energise that and get that going.”

Host families

Earlier on Wednesday Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the Government did not have immediate plans to call on Irish families to host Ukrainian refugees.

The option is being kept open but hotels are expected to be used in the short term.

On the prospect of families hosting refugees, Mr Martin said: “Everything depends on the scale of what happens.”

Asked if the accommodation provided will be limited to hotels, he replied: “We have to explore a whole range of options because already we’re under pressure from existing migratory flows from other areas of conflict.”

He said: “The scale and the barbaric nature of the assault . . . has really accelerated the exit from Ukraine.

“It will pose challenges across the European continent. We have to be ready for a number of different scenarios that could emerge.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times