‘The rug has been pulled’: Ukrainians in Drumshanbo scramble for accommodation after notice to vacate

For those who have settled, work and study in the town, leaving Lough Allen hotel has been a heavy blow

A short-notice scramble is under way to find alternative accommodation for around 170 Ukrainians who must vacate the Lough Allen Hotel in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim by May 31st.

Many of those affected are now rooted in the community, working or studying in the town or nearby. One local employer, the founder of the Shed Distillery, described the two weeks’ notice given to residents as “not acceptable out of common humanity”.

The hotel has been providing accommodation for Ukrainians arriving under the EU Temporary Protection Directive since early 2022, but on May 16th the residents got letters from the Department of Integration telling them that they will be moved to new accommodation “on or before May 31st″.

The short notice has created a “crisis”, according to Chris Gonley, chief executive of Leitrim Development Company (LDC), the agency charged with integration in the county, while a local school principal said it was “horrendous” for families who had secured jobs and school places locally.


Pat Rigney has 17 Ukrainians among the 100-strong workforce at the distillery, where Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin is the flagship product.

“Our Ukrainian employees are much valued members of our team,” he said.

“They are hard-working and contribute positively to the local community.” Mr Rigney said that while many of his Ukrainian staff now have their own accommodation, “for those who are less fortunate, just two weeks’ notice to move is not acceptable out of common humanity and creates a crisis for individuals and families with children in local schools”.

Martin Fallon, principal of Drumshanbo vocational school, said Ukrainian students who had already chosen their subjects for Leaving Cert might not now be returning to the school.

The school has over 20 Ukrainian students enrolled, about half of whom are living in the hotel.

“It is horrendous for them,” said Mr Fallon who said some students were in tears on the day the news broke while some were too upset to come in that day. “And I heard a number of mothers were crying down in the hotel. If they had done it some months ago they would have had a chance to find another school and pick their subjects.”

He said that the school had got extra resources, like extra hours for teaching English as a foreign language and extra hours for the extra numbers “but now the rug has been pulled from under them”.

“They are very much part of the school. They mix very well,” said the principal. “The whole school community is shocked and saddened at this news.”

Mr Fallon said given the number of protests against accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers taking place around the country “it is a shame because the Ukrainians have been so welcome here”.

As Leitrim County Council and the LDC continue to try to source alternative accommodation for those living in the hotel, Mr Gonley said a lot of work had been put into finding jobs and school places and upskilling those who had fled the war, “and after all that work they are being uprooted and brought somewhere else”.

He added: “Possibly because they came here at the start of the war, they were welcomed with open arms. The (Ukrainian) ambassador came here twice to thank the people”.

Makxym Sharii (23) from Odessa, who has been living at the hotel for five months, said some of the residents have been there for two years.

“This has crushed our minds. The hotel was very wonderful,” he said. “There are people crying every day, they do not understand what is going on.” The 23-year-old said his home in Odesa had been destroyed and his family are scattered all over Europe with no prospect of returning to Ukraine for now.

Another hotel resident, Viktoria Kolesnichenko (41), who works as a cleaner in Leitrim, said she had no idea where she will be living next week. “I have a lot of friends here, both Irish and Ukrainian. It is my second home,” she said of Drumshanbo.

She is a native of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, where a Russian missile attack killed 17 last month and where an estimated 80 per cent of the buildings were destroyed during a month-long siege in the early stages of the war.

One of those helping to source accommodation for the Ukrainians is Erika Yushchenko, also a native of Chernihiv, who is a liaison worker with LDC and who lived in the hotel with her husband and three children for nine months. “I felt safe there after the war,” she said. “Viktoria is from the same city in Ukraine but I met her in Leitrim. The world is a small place.”

A local business consortium is understood to be interested in buying the hotel from a financial institution, with locals expecting it to operate as a hotel if the deal is finalised.

Meanwhile it is understood that the Department has told local politicians that given the new policy of only offering 90 days accommodation to temporary protection applicants, and because numbers arriving from Ukraine have reduced, it is consolidating its accommodation portfolio. The department is understood to have also pointed to the increase in the number of Ukrainians leaving State accommodation as a factor in increased vacancies in some centres.

A spokesman told The Irish Times that alternative offers of accommodation will be made to the Drumshanbo residents who are also entitled to make their own private arrangements including availing of pledged accommodation.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland