Nobody has a veto on who should or should not live in their neighbourhood in Ireland, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has insisted.
Responding to reports of a growing number of local protests against asylum seekers and refugees from Ukraine being housed within their neighbourhoods, Mr O’Gorman said it was important to share accommodation information with communities but argued the emergency nature of the situation did not always allow that to happen.
In his strongest defence of his department’s response to find emergency accommodation during 2022 for almost 60,000 people – between Ukrainian refugees and people from other countries seeking international protection – Mr O’Gorman said the Government had a fundamental responsibility to act urgently in this matter.
“There is a need to provide information where we are opening additional accommodation, “ he said. “I think it is important to say that we have a moral and legal obligation to prove shelter for those fleeing a wartime situation.
“The alternative option is to leave people without homes. We do have to act quickly because of this crisis, because of this wartime situation.”
He said his department would move to improve its capacity to share information with communities but he added: “I think it is also important to say that in Ireland nobody has a veto at in terms of who lives within their neighbourhood or within their community.”
Mr O’Gorman was speaking, along with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, at the unveiling of a new scheme to encourage those with vacant properties – particularly holiday homes – to offer them to Ukrainian refugees for six months.
The new scheme will be State led and will be separate to the one operated by the Irish Red Cross. A new dedicated website, offerahome.ie, has been set up, and the monthly contribution from the State is being increased from €400 a month to €800 a month.
The scheme will be administered by local authorities – Mr O’Brien said they were the best placed to do so as they had “experience on the ground”.
Asked if other repurposed office buildings would be used to accommodate refugees, as happened in East Wall, Mr O’Gorman said: “In a situation where we are accommodating 60,000 people we will be making further use of office buildings around the country. Use of these buildings will be a significant part of the response.”
Mr O’Gorman said a new division had been set up within his department to deal specifically with the Ukrainian refugee crisis and there were now 150 staff working there. He said an additional 50 staff would be deployed to that division shortly.