The State’s response to providing accommodation to Ukrainian refugees and those seeking international protection hasn’t been perfect and can be improved, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
He was responding to Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness in the Dáil on Wednesday, who said current policy was “not working”.
“Some would say it’s not fit for purpose and there are those that would describe it as a shambles and a disgrace. Those that arrive here are not being accommodated,” Mr McGuinness said.
“Local residents and communities are not being consulted. Business people that are involved in providing accommodation are not being paid, their applications are not being processed in an efficient way and there’s no answers from the Department.
“In fact, the Department doesn’t reply to members of the Oireachtas here in an efficient way. Public consultation is represented by a one-page email to local TDs that raise questions on the matter.”
The Carlow-Kilkenny TD asked the Taoiseach what he was going to do to ensure the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth was more efficient and responsive to local communities.
In response, Mr Varadkar said he respectfully disagreed with the Fianna Fáil TD and that in the past two years 100,000 Ukrainians had fled to Ireland.
“Over 70,000 have been accommodated by the State, 14,000 Ukrainian children in our schools, 16,000 Ukrainians working in our economy, contributing, paying tax and PRSI,” he said.
“I know it hasn’t been a perfect response but I think when people look back on what we’ve done as a country in 10 or 20 years time they’ll be proud of what we’ve done as a country.”
The Fine Gael leader added that part of the improvement was the creation of community engagement teams to talk to people on the ground as well as the staffing up of the Department which had “very few staff only a few years ago”.