‘Ukraine is not the only war on our planet’: Minister defends asylum accommodation process

Roderic O’Gorman says Ireland offers protection to men as well as to women and children who suffer ‘torture and persecution’

Ireland does not make decisions on the protection of victims of war and torture based on gender, Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman has said, amid protests and continuing criticism of the placement of lone men in accommodation in the East Wall area of Dublin.

Mr O’Gorman said there are wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as in Ukraine.

“Just as much as Ireland offers protection to women and children, we also offer protection to men because men are victims of torture and persecution as well.”

The Minister was responding in the Dáil on Tuesday as Rural Independent Mattie McGrath criticised the “busloads of young men arriving in an area in the dead of night and being put into industrial buildings”.


It comes as Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe called for limits to the number of Ukrainians coming into his constituency of Clare, with the quality of services now slipping and capacity “exceeded”. Such a move would run contrary to government policy.

“We’ve done everything we can to date to help, the arms have been wide open. But I think you get to a point where the capacity to help is reached, in fact it can be exceeded and I now believe we are at that stage in Co Clare,” he told Clare FM.

Asked if he thought there should be a cap, he told the broadcaster: “I would think so and I’ve said this I suppose to colleagues in government as well.”

“There are other countries not pulling their weight, we want to do a lot more in Ireland, but at this moment there is no shame whatsoever in us as a county and in us as a country saying we have done everything we can - and we want to do more - but right now capacity in terms of healthcare, transport, accommodation has not just been reached but has been exceeded,” he said.

Earlier, Independent Senator Sharon Keogan was accused of “taking a dog-whistle approach” when she said Ireland “does not have the structural capacity to take in tens of thousands of migrants annually”.

She claimed that “large crowds of migrants” were bussed into mainly working-class areas and then “left to wander around the towns and engage in antisocial behaviour such as fighting or harassment.”

Ms Keogan criticised Government policy as “devoid of reason” and said “something has to change”, calling for an “adult conversation”, a calm debate where everyone could have their say.

Mr McGrath also said the transfer of young men was happening in different parts of the country and he called for a review of how the dispersal of refugees and asylum seekers across the State is handled.

The Tipperary TD said the authorities had to listen to communities and warned against local people being told “how to behave”.

But Mr O’Gorman told him that 64,000 people had been provided with accommodation, including many who were fleeing war in Ukraine. He stressed, however, that more than 17,000 of them “are men, women and children who are fleeing wars elsewhere. Ukraine is not the only war on our planet right now.”

He said the State provided protection to men as well as women because men too faced torture and persecution, and decisions are made after people have gone through an international protection application process.

Ms Keogan, who was heckled as she made her comments in the Upper House, said “the Government will not refuse migrants for fear of being called racist, xenophobic or uncaring”.

The Government had to spend millions “renting hotels and converting office blocks in the Greater Dublin Area and surrounding counties, almost exclusively in areas that have historically been working class and/or commuter or satellite towns”.

She said “large crowds of migrants” were then transferred to these areas with little or no warning or communication with local communities.

The Meath Senator added that “the migrants are provided with a few paltry meals per day and left to their own devices.

“It seems in many cases they are left to wander around the towns and engage in antisocial behaviour such as fighting or harassment.”

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne accused her of “taking a dog-whistle approach” while Seanad leader Regina Doherty said Ms Keogan was “making unfounded allegations against people who have come here to seek refuge from war-torn countries. They have nowhere else to go.”

But Ms Keogan said “we do not have the houses or healthcare system” or the transport infrastructure to cope with the numbers of migrants.

Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile accused Ms Keogan of “quite dangerous” rhetoric that was “normally used by the far right”.

Insisting that “Ireland is by no means full”, the Belfast-based Senator said Ms Keogan needed to understand the difference between a migrant and an asylum seeker or refugee.

“People come here fleeing conflict, war and climate devastation in their countries and communities certainly need to be prepared and enabled for that.

“The vast majority of communities are open to that and prepared to open their arms to refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.

Migrants come to work in the health service and hospitality sector, he added. He said he was “well up for an adult conversation but I want it to be rooted in reality and facts”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times