Kerry councillors to write to Taoiseach over lack of services to support Ukrainian refugees

Council meeting heard pressure on scarce services combined with the cost-of-living crisis was causing resentment among locals
Kerry councillors to write to Taoiseach over lack of services to support Ukrainian refugees

Lack of transport from Valentia Island and other places was a problem and the refugees were 'as good as begging for drives' on the roads. Kerry Country Council was told. Picture: Cian O'Regan

Providing thousands of beds for refugees but with scarce health, education or transport amenities for refugees and residents alike is causing difficulties in South Kerry, a council meeting heard on Friday morning.

Councillors voted to write to Taoiseach Micheál Martin to express their concerns.

Fears were also expressed that the pressure on already scarce services combined with the cost-of-living crisis was causing resentment among the local population.

There are an estimated 5,000 Ukrainian refugees in Kerry under the Government’s Ukraine Crisis Temporary Accommodation Team  accommodation programme. 

Officially, the figures for south Kerry — which includes Kenmare, Killorglin, Cahersiveen and Waterville — are 853 but those figures do not include the significant numbers who arrived before April 11 to Caherciveen, manager of the Kenmare Municipal District Martin O'Donoghue said.

Nor do the figures include those who have sourced accommodation independently .

Mr O'Donoghue was responding to questions raised at the meeting by a number of councillors.

“Very much in south Kerry, it is felt the very most they are doing is providing a bed for them,” said independent councillor Johnny Healy-Rae.

Lack of transport

Lack of transport from Valentia Island and other places was a problem and the refugees were “as good as begging for drives” on the roads, he said.

“Some accommodation owners are going to pull back because they hadn’t bargained for that" [having to drive refugees], he said.

Local doctors do not have adequate room on their books for the local population, Mr Healy-Rae said, moving a motion to write to the Department of An Taoiseach and tell him the feeling in the Kenmare Municipal District was all that they were doing was providing a bed and nothing more.

There was ”no point in the world“ placing people where there were no services, he said.

Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Cahill, whose family guesthouse has been housing Ukrainian refugees since March, said a lot of services were stretched to their limit. He had seen both sides and from speaking with those in his own home that services had deteriorated since last March when the first Ukrainians arrived.

Health and education were under huge strain.

“I too believe accommodation should not be the deciding factor on where people are located,” he said.

In the context of the cost-of-living crisis, people were asking questions, he said.

There’s a bit of the blame game going on already and I’d hate to see a stand-off between the local and Ukrainian community.” 

He had seen Ukrainian refugees whose homes were destroyed arrive with nothing but their clothing, and measures must be taken to prevent resentment, he said.

Separately, in his chairperson’s address to the South Kerry Development Partnership, the lead agency for Ukrainian refugees in south Kerry, Mr Cahill highlighted "the major challenge" to all agencies when significant numbers of Ukrainian refugees are placed in very remote and rural communities, as in South Kerry.

He called for services to help with integration.

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