Ireland ‘is not full’, Eamon Ryan says, as Cabinet discusses accommodation for Ukrainian refugees

Ministers approved plans to limit accommodation and welfare payments for those fleeing Russian invasion

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said Ireland cannot turn its back on Ukrainian refugees, saying that Ireland is “not full”.

Arriving to Cabinet on Tuesday, where Ministers approved plans to limit the accommodation offering to those fleeing the Russian invasion and to cut their welfare payments, Mr Ryan said the State could rise to the challenge of accommodating increasing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers.

The Minister for the Environment said he “absolutely” backed comments by Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who argued that the Government had not done a u-turn on the plan to put single men who are seeking International Protection into a disused hotel in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo.

He said the situation was “very challenging” but “we can and will manage that, as a Government, and as a country – we’re not full”.


He said “we can’t turn our back” on the Ukrainian people and that shelter and refuge would be provided but “in a way we can manage”.

It had to be done in a way that wasn’t a “chaotic system”.

Mr Ryan said burning accommodation down when the number of beds were tight hinders the problem, arguing that solutions had to “work for everyone”, including local people and those arriving in.

He said there would be an effort in the coming weeks to explain “basic mechanics” of what happens in the migration process and “why we have to play our part”.

“We cannot isolate, shut our country off, say we’re not going to play our part in providing refuge where refuge is needed.”

He said the Government’s job was to “address and to clarify” fears of communities. He said blockading, burning buildings and the idea that communities had a veto would not work for the country.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that roughly 100,000 Ukrainians have come to Ireland, and about 80,000 are still here.

“And we’ve been able to provide them with accommodation, education, healthcare, in many cases employment too. I think in 10 or 20 years-time we’ll look back on this and be very proud of what we’ve done as a country in welcoming so many people who have been fleeing war in Ukraine,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Government expected that the numbers arriving from Ukraine will start to reduce.

“It’s our expectation that because we’ve brought what we offer more into line with what’s the case in other western European countries that the numbers coming in will fall. But it’s not just about that. Let’s not forget why people are here. They’re fleeing a really brutal war in Ukraine and when we survey them and ask them why they come to Ireland’s they say there’s two main reasons: that it’s English speaking and very far away from Russia. Those things are not going to change.”

“What I hope will change is the course of the war in Ukraine so that Ukraine can be successful in the war and the war will come to an end and then we can start to talk to people here in Ukraine about the possibility of going home but we’re not at that point at this stage,” he added.

Separately Eamon Ryan said that increased policing and new laws would help reduce the number of road deaths, following a surge in fatalities on the roads in 2023, along with the deployment of more cameras in what he said was a “multilayered response”. He added that the fatalities recorded in the first few days of the new year was “deeply worrying”.

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Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times