The tents may be cleared but Government still a long way off clearing migration challenges

Discussions at Government level about further reducing the supports to newly arrived Ukrainian refugees

Tents are removed from Mount Street, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

So, yesterday morning at around 7am it started. The lorries and officials moved in to clear the illegal encampment from Mount Street. In an operation that took most of the day, the authorities managed to get rid of one of the many, many headaches it faces politically in relation to immigration.

We in The Irish Times covered the events of the day with Fiachra Gallagher, Jack White and Jade Wilson reporting on the scene and our political team teasing out the political implications and new angles.

Some 285 single men were offered accommodation; 186 applicants at Citywest and a further 99 at Crooksling.

But we reported last night that at least 30 men were left with no accommodation, with some having to go and seek shelter in a nearby park.


Mount Street does not seem to be blocked off permanently. Barriers were put up. Gardaí will patrol constantly. The comments of Taoiseach Simon Harris and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee have been uncompromising. The scene on Mount Street cannot be repeated.

In a sense they are looking for a blank canvas, or in this case no canvas, to redraw its policies on migration.

But as we have seen with the Coalition’s attempt to grapple with the large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Ireland since 2022 – exacerbating an already serious housing and accommodation crisis – many of the solutions have unintended consequences, and some have a habit of coming back to haunt the decision-makers.

The Government’s failure to hammer out a post-Brexit agreement with the British government to provide for a Dublin III type of arrangement now seems shortsighted, given that the UK government is now saying there is no obligation on it to take anybody back.

And was the generous offer of accommodation and weekly allowances extended to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war retained for a little too long? There was evidence of secondary movement of Ukrainian refugees for quite some time before the Government responded.

As Jennifer Bray reports in our main lead, Ministers are set to consider a further cut in payments to Ukrainian refugees.

She reports that officials have, in recent weeks, been further considering the level of financial support offered to Ukrainians.

Three Government sources said the topic will most likely be broached in the next meeting of the Cabinet committee, but that it was a live discussion within the Coalition.

The issue could create tensions within the Government as Green Party sources have expressed reservations about any plan to further cut supports to Ukrainian refugees. The Green Party is understood to be sceptical about further cuts to benefits given the increasing number of Ukrainians who are leaving Ireland to return home.

In addition to seeing their accommodation time-limited to 90 days, new arrivals from Ukraine are entitled to a reduced weekly allowance of €38.80 per adult and €29.80 per child for daily expenses while resident in designated accommodation centres.

The other interesting aspect of the report is a tacit admission by the Government that its communication plan on this issue is not working. It has struggled to explain its strategy. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has had a torrid week. First she was wrong footed by questions at a meeting of the Justice Committee. Then her assertion that 80 per cent of asylum applicants were entering Ireland across the land Border with the North was met with scepticism, including doubt being expressed by Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

Irrespective of the figure, no politician to whom this reporter has spoken to this week believes that the UK will be willing to take anybody back.

The men should not be blamed. Nobody should be forced to live on the streets in tents without access to basic commodities. Many of these men (and they are all men – but nobody ever really feels any pity for them) have endured hardship in their countries, in the dangerous and precarious journeys they took to get to Europe, and now face hardship when they finally arrive.

The problem is the system. It is slow, bureaucratic, legalistic, with endless avenues of appeals. It takes years for final outcomes to be made. By that stage it is inequitable to ask people to leave. The costs of accommodation and running this ramshackle system runs into billions of euros every year. The Government is talking about an accelerated process. But it should be honest. That’s only the first phase. It still takes years.

The delays and monumental costs are the causes of the scandal, not the poor guys living on the streets.

Still, politically it will rumble on. Cormac McQuinn reported that there was some discontent at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting about how Helen McEntee and Roderic O’Gorman have handled the issue.

Micheál Martin told the meeting it was “challenging”. That is the understatement of the year.

No talk of ghost buses on the Bus Connects routes

Cormac McQuinn got his hands on the opening statements from the National Transport Authority (NTA) ahead of its appearance at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow and it makes for interesting – and for once, positive – reading.

The subject is BusConnects, the grand new master plan for bus transport in the capital. Some of the proposed new routes have been met with fierce resistance from residents and businesses in different areas of the city.

But the NTA will tell the PAC in the morning that there has been a much more substantial growth of passenger numbers on redesigned bus services related to the BusConnects project in Dublin.

It is “far higher” than on services where no change has been made.

For some of the new routes the growth has been a whopping 26 per cent, compared to a growth of only 2 per cent for ‘traditional routes’.

In Dublin, the NTA has sought permission for 12 dedicated bus lanes as part of the programme to overhaul the capital’s bus system.

Best Reads

Happy birthday Mary Lou, is the first theme in Miriam Lord’s excellent column.

Jennifer Bray has a great inside story on how the decision to move the tents was arrived at by the Government.

Another kind of offbeat moment in the Seanad. Marie O’Halloran reports the Greens want us to have a Minister for Loneliness.

Marie also reports on the Seanad passing a Bill to prevent anti-abortion protests outside health facilities.

Best Podcast

Don’t forget to listen to our extended (and unmissable) Inside Politics podcast where Pat Leahy and all of the political team give their tuppence worth on how the local and European elections might pan out, the trends to look for, the issues which will dominate.


Dáil Éireann

09.00: Parliamentary Questions: Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly

10.30: Parliamentary Question: Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe

12.00: Leaders’ Questions

13.44: Defence (Amendment) Bill 2024 – Second Stage (Department of Defence)

18.12: Private Members’ business looking at “Report on Offshore Renewable Energy”

19:27: Dáil adjourns

Seanad Éireann

9.30: Commencement Matters

11.45: Employment (Collective Redundancies and Miscellaneous Provisions) and Companies (Amendment) Bill 2023 – Committee and Remaining Stages


09.30: PAC: Financial Statements 2022 – National Transport Authority

Areas of particular interest include: BusConnects, the purchase of buses for companies that are providing public transport services, the provision of bus stops and bus shelters and Active Travel Investment Programme

09.30: Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

A lively session is expected as Prof John FitzGerald and Edgar Morgenroth discuss their recent report on the cost of Unity

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