Hundreds offer empty holiday homes to house Ukrainian refugees

Cabinet committee on country to meet as projections show up to 75,000 could have arrived by end of year

Ministers will be told today that hundreds of families have offered empty holiday homes as accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, with the Government now set to fast-track assessment of the properties.

The Cabinet committee on Ukraine will meet this afternoon with several key decisions due to be made, including increased funding to communities dealing with the large numbers of refugees, as well as the potential establishment of new reception centres.

It comes as Government sources said that the latest projections show that up to 75,000 refugees from the country could have arrived in the Republic by the end of the year. The situation in relation to accommodation will remain “very challenging,” the source said, pointing towards increased attacks on infrastructure in Ukraine.

Civilian infrastructure

Last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin admitted that Moscow is targeting Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure.


Ministers will meet today to discuss a call made after the last Cabinet committee on Ukraine for vacant holiday homes. A senior source said that well over 500 such properties have now been offered. The call for the properties was led by local authorities, who have told the homeowners that they can state exactly how long they are willing to offer the property for.

The Government is now pushing to have all these properties assessed by the end of the year.

It is also understood that there will be a proposal at the meeting to set up more reception centres to ease the pressure on the Citywest facility in Dublin, although the locations of these extra centres have not yet been disclosed.

Ministers will also discuss how to distribute some €50 million in community funding. It is likely there will be agreement that the distribution of funding will be based on counties and local electoral areas that have the largest numbers of refugees per head of population, with areas such as inner city Dublin, Clare, Kerry and Donegal mentioned.

Ministers will also be updated on the impact of charges for meals in hotels. It was agreed in late October that all new hotel contracts for refugees would exclude the provision of free meals. The Department of Children has contracted more than 37,000 beds to accommodate those seeking temporary protection across more than 650 settings including hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, hostels and commercial self-catering accommodation.

By the start of December, nearly 6,000 refugees had been matched to some 2,200 privately pledged homes with more than €8.5 million paid out as part of the accommodation recognition payment.

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Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman told TDs last week that the Irish Red Cross has now made efforts to contact all people who have offered accommodation through the register of pledges. He said some pledges have remained uncontactable, despite numerous attempts made by the Red Cross and local authorities.

To date, more than 66,000 refugees have arrived in Ireland and more than 48,000 of those have been referred to the Department of Children seeking accommodation from the State.

Crisis response

Much of the speculation around the looming Cabinet reshuffle this coming weekend has focused on the workload on the Department of Children and Integration in dealing with the response to the crisis in Ukraine.

Government sources would not be drawn last night on whether there would be a redistribution of responsibilities or perhaps extra Ministers of State to assist Mr O’Gorman in dealing with the humanitarian response. Substantive talks on the Cabinet reshuffle — which accompanies the changeover of the Office of Taoiseach from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar — are not expected to begin until tonight when the three party leaders hold their weekly meeting.

It is expected that all Green Party Ministers will retain their current portfolios while Michael McGrath and Paschal Donohoe will switch roles, becoming Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure respectively. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has also been told he will remain in his role. The Government this weekend dismissed a People Before Profit motion of no-confidence in Mr O’Brien as a “pre-Christmas stunt”. The motion is expected to come before the Dáil on Tuesday evening. The Government will table a countermotion of confidence in Mr O’Brien.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times