Tourist areas take majority of Ukrainian refugees as 34 State contracts go to Kerry alone

CIARA PHELAN catalogues the State's deals with hotels to house thousands of Ukrainian refugees, and CONOR CAPPLIS speaks with some of the people fleeing Russia's war on their country
Tourist areas take majority of Ukrainian refugees as 34 State contracts go to Kerry alone

One of the tourist facilities contracted by the State to accommodate refugees from Ukraine is the Eviston Hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry, which has a contract worth €5.7m. Image credit: evistonhouse.com

Hotels, B&Bs, apartments, and holiday homes in tourist hotspots are accommodating the majority of Ukrainians, with 34 hotels in Kerry alone awarded contracts by the State.

Deals agreed with B&Bs and hotels range from €20,000 up to €12.5m as the Government struggles to deal with the tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have fled the war.

Old convents and student accommodation in Cork and Dublin are also the subject of contracts with the Government.

The Irish Examiner has obtained data showing the deals the State made with hotels between April and September this year, at a time when millions of Ukrainians were fleeing the war in their country.

Deals made in the final quarter of 2022 will be released in January.

The figures show that in the third quarter there was a significant increase in the number of family-run B&Bs that offered their premises to support Ukrainians.

The housing crisis which existed prior to the war is a contributing factor to the challenge of housing Ukrainians. There is also a disparity in numbers being accommodated in various areas across the country.

Coastal areas such as Kerry, Donegal, Clare, Cork, and Galway have a significant number of hotels and B&Bs in use by the State as concerns grow for the availability of rooms for refugees ahead of the tourism season next year.

Tourist destinations housing refugees 

The price agreed between a hotel and the State in documentation provided by the Department of Integration outlines the amount awarded, on condition the provider upholds their part of the contract.

Bunratty Castle Hotel in Co Clare has a €4.2m deal to house Ukrainian refugees. File Picture: Facebook
Bunratty Castle Hotel in Co Clare has a €4.2m deal to house Ukrainian refugees. File Picture: Facebook

  • In Kerry, Dannymann Company Ltd received a contract worth €5.7m for the Eviston Hotel in Killarney;
  • Crimmins Hotels & Leisure Limited agreed a payment for the Innisfallen Hotel worth €2.4m. It was also paid €1,250,640 for the Three Lakes Hotel;
  • The Earl of Desmond Hotel outside Tralee agreed payment of €2.1m and Hotel Killarney signed a deal worth €1.7m;
  • Banna Holiday Villas Ltd signed a contract worth €1.4m for holiday homes at Banna Beach Resort;
  • TD Michael Healy Rae is offering accommodation to Ukrainians at Rosemount Bed and Breakfast in Kerry and the cost agreed with the State is €21,840;

Hotel Killarney in Co Kerry has a deal worth €1.7m to accommodate refugees from Ukraine. File picture: hotelkillarney.ie
Hotel Killarney in Co Kerry has a deal worth €1.7m to accommodate refugees from Ukraine. File picture: hotelkillarney.ie

  • In Co Clare, Bunratty Shopping Village Ltd is in receipt of a deal worth €4.2m for Bunratty Castle Hotel;
  • Sunset Breeze Limited, which owns Ballybunion Golf Hotel, was awarded €3.5m and Wild Way Hotels Limited, which owns the Burren Atlantic Hotel and Homes, received €1.7m;
  • Three hotels in Clare received deals worth €1.5m;
  • The second-biggest deal in Cork, after the €12.5m contract for the Quality Hotel in Youghal, was worth €4.4m for Trabolgan holiday centre;
  • TV presenter and wedding organiser Peter ‘Franc’ Kelly who in 2020 purchased an old convent, also has a contract to accommodate Ukrainians in the building in Rosscarbery. Documents show the contract for Weddings by Franc Limited at €622,440;
  • A nursing home in Co Galway, Brampton Care, signed a deal worth €1.7m to house Ukrainians, the largest contract awarded in the county;
  • In Donegal, the largest contracts have been awarded to McGettigan Hotel in
    Letterkenny at an estimated price of €3.7m;
  • Grand Central Hotel in Bundoran received €2.4m and Nesbitt Arms Hotel received €1.1m from the State.

 Peter Kelly whose Weddings By Franc business has a contract for €622,000 to accommodate refugees from Ukraine in Rosscarbery, Co Cork. File picture: Dan Linehan
Peter Kelly whose Weddings By Franc business has a contract for €622,000 to accommodate refugees from Ukraine in Rosscarbery, Co Cork. File picture: Dan Linehan

Concern is growing over capacity to shelter Ukrainians if some hotels decide to return to normal business for the tourism period next year. 

The Government has relaunched a campaign asking the public to offer up vacant homes and buildings for use by refugees

Around 5,500 refugees are staying in rooms or houses pledged by private individuals so far.

The Government is hoping to target 20,000 holiday homes across the country to help with the crisis.

The recognition payment for those providing a property or a room is to double to €800 a month in December.

A Government source has said they will depend on hotels to help with the accommodation crisis in the medium term until enough modular homes come on stream, which is expected early in 2023.

A Government source said the number of contracts required with hotels and B&Bs lays bare the pressures on securing suitable housing for refugees coming here and the challenges facing the State in the future.

Windward Management Limited secured €12.5m in contracts to house refugees, including €8.5m at Tallaght Cross Hotel, €1.2m at Anner hotel in Tipperary (pictured), and €955,500 at Park Inn hotel, Co Clare. Picture: annerhotel.ie
Windward Management Limited secured €12.5m in contracts to house refugees, including €8.5m at Tallaght Cross Hotel, €1.2m at Anner hotel in Tipperary (pictured), and €955,500 at Park Inn hotel, Co Clare. Picture: annerhotel.ie

Speaking at an Oireachtas committee in recent days, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman said there has been a “heavy reliance” on hotels and “when we lose an accommodation provider, it is significant” both for the department in having to find alternative accommodation and for those people who are moved having settled in an area”.

Mr O’Gorman said it is hoped the bed-only offer of accommodation will encourage moves to “independent accommodation, reducing also the reliance on the tourism sector for accommodation”.

However, TDs have expressed concern about the phasing-in of a bed-only policy, questioning where those stuck in hotels will be able to cook meals if they cannot find alternative accommodation.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner in Paris yesterday, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said the Government is “testing every option and looking for every eventuality” to secure more space.

He said given that there is no sign of the war ending soon, the Government has to consider the immediate emergency response and look to see how that can be changed to make it more sustainable.

  •  The figures provided are for deals agreed between the State and providers for the period April to September 2022. The documentation does not state the length of the contracts.

Details of deals signed off in the final quarter of 2022 will be published next January.

The Department of Integration is obliged to publish a list of contracts formally signed off each quarter that have been awarded under a special EU derogation that permits the department to enter into contracts in the context of the Ukraine accommodation crisis without going to formal tender.

The values of the contracts shown are estimates; the actual value materialises upon occupancy and actual usage.

The Quality Hotel in Youghal, East Cork, secured a €12.5m contract from the State to shelter Ukrainian refugees. File picture: Christy Parker
The Quality Hotel in Youghal, East Cork, secured a €12.5m contract from the State to shelter Ukrainian refugees. File picture: Christy Parker

Standard contracts have no-fault break clauses available to both parties so, again, the figures are indicative rather than actual.

The services which are subject to these contracts are accommodation and ancillary services for refugees arriving in Ireland as a result of the Ukrainian conflict and include catering services, cleaning, laundry facilities, certain consumables, and security services.

Around 17,000 asylum seekers have also arrived in Ireland this year but the department said no similar obligation exists to publish the same information for international protection accommodation.

'The Irish should understand Ukrainians. They also fought for their independence' 

by Conor Capplis 

For 27-year-old Roman Gangan, his life in Ireland since fleeing wartorn Ukraine has been all the more difficult because of one sobering problem: nobody wants his dog.

'I understand the feelings of the locals and their anxiety,' Hanna Bieliaieva says. 'Sorry, I’m sorry, but our country is now at war and we really need support and protection.' The Ukrainian refugee is pictured in Killarney with her sons Kolya and Yurs. Picture: Don MacMonagle
'I understand the feelings of the locals and their anxiety,' Hanna Bieliaieva says. 'Sorry, I’m sorry, but our country is now at war and we really need support and protection.' The Ukrainian refugee is pictured in Killarney with her sons Kolya and Yurs. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Along with his wife Tetiana and his large Cane Corso dog Nora, Roman has been stuck in State accommodation since arriving here in July.

Jumping from place to place throughout their time here, they have been unable to settle with an Irish family or rent their own home.

“I could not leave the dog in Ukraine,” he said. “This is our friend and she never left us, and we can’t leave her either.”

Despite trying, no family wanted to bring such a large dog into their home, and now the three remain at a hostel in Co Wicklow — for now.

38-year-old Lilia Kristenko weeps as first responders collect the remains of her mother Natalia Kristenko in Kherson, Ukraine, on Friday. The 62-year-old was killed instantly from a wound to the head in a Russian missile attack outside her home on Thursday. Her husband died hours later in hospital from internal bleeding. Picture: Bernat Armangue/AP
38-year-old Lilia Kristenko weeps as first responders collect the remains of her mother Natalia Kristenko in Kherson, Ukraine, on Friday. The 62-year-old was killed instantly from a wound to the head in a Russian missile attack outside her home on Thursday. Her husband died hours later in hospital from internal bleeding. Picture: Bernat Armangue/AP

Many Ukrainians have been moved around multiple times since arriving in Ireland, making it difficult to hold down jobs, make friends at school, and integrate into the community.

At the hostel in Wicklow, Roman fears for his wife’s health in the old and cold building. The shower and toilets are shared and only accessible by going outside.

Roman works as a van courier, saving up for a place of their own they may never get. But even if the housing crisis doesn’t price them out, their money isn’t enough.

“When I tell them I have a dog, they say: ‘Oh no, we don’t want you here’,” he said of his dealings with prospective landlords.

“We do not want to sit on the neck of the State. We would agree to any property and make repairs if necessary.”

Roman will be one of more than 70,000 Ukrainians in Ireland by the end of the year if Government projections come true. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has voiced concern over the high numbers, but Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman has said he is confident his department can cope.

Ireland’s accommodation system has been stretched and strained since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine prompted a wave of people seeking temporary protection, and amid a burgeoning housing crisis, how are the tens of thousands stuck in hotel accommodation coping?

Oksana: 'We are very grateful'

Oksana and Oleksii Zatsarynska with their children Myroslava (6), Milan (2), and Ratimir (11), war refugees from Ukraine living in Cork.	Picture: Larry Cummins
Oksana and Oleksii Zatsarynska with their children Myroslava (6), Milan (2), and Ratimir (11), war refugees from Ukraine living in Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

Oksana Zatsarynska, who lives in a small hotel in Cork City, wants nothing more than a place of her own. Oksana arrived last August from the Russian-occupied Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine with her husband and three young children, including a two-year-old toddler.

“We get free meals and accommodation, for which we are very grateful,” she said, and commended the polite staff who keep the place very clean.

But she lamented the lack of space and said she hopes to secure larger accommodation to reunite with the rest of her family, who plan to move to Ireland soon.

“The hotel has no classroom and no playroom,” she said. “It’s not possible to cook for children, especially for a small baby.” She said her children aren’t eating well, with food ordered to the hotel, and her youngest has been sick often amid digestive system issues.

“It is important for us to stay in Cork since our son is studying at MTU [to become a musician] and his abilities give us hope,” she said.

Oksana does not speak English, but is making efforts to integrate into the community by building friendships, attending English classes, and singing with Cork’s first Ukrainian choir.

Hanna: 'Saving my children'

Hanna Bieliaieva and her sons Kolya (8) and Yurs (6) with a horse and jaunting car in Killarney, Co Kerry.	Picture: Don MacMonagle
Hanna Bieliaieva and her sons Kolya (8) and Yurs (6) with a horse and jaunting car in Killarney, Co Kerry. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Hanna Bieliaieva lives in a hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry, with her two sons. She arrived in Ireland last March alone with her children.

“My parents, brother, and my whole family stayed in Kharkiv,” she said. “They help our army fight for our freedom. From Ukraine, I took only my children, saving them from the horrors of war.”

She said she is very grateful to the hotel owners who are “amazing people with open hearts”.

Unlike others who are desperate to move into a place of their own, moving for Hanna would be “a lot of stress, especially for the children. I just hope it doesn’t happen again”. Renting a place of her own would be “almost impossible”, she said.

“We are happy here now. My kids go to the best school, they have wonderful teachers, and they became friends with their class-mates. I have a job in Killarney.”

East Wall protests

While Ukrainians unanimously exude a great level of appreciation for Ireland and its people for taking them in, not all Irish have been so welcoming. This week, a series of protests erupted in Dublin’s East Wall in the north inner city over the housing of refugees at an old ESB building in the area.

Locals were frustrated at the lack of consultation before a decision to use the building. Up to 380 men, women, and children who arrived in Ireland seeking international protection are being housed in the building.

For Roman, he understood the frustration of protesters and that it was a normal reaction amid a housing crisis. However, he stressed they must know Ukrainians did not come here of their own free will.

Neighbours and paramedics evacuate Viktor Anastasiev to hospital after he was injured during a Russian strike in Kherson, Ukraine, on Thursday. Picture: Bernat Armangue/AP
Neighbours and paramedics evacuate Viktor Anastasiev to hospital after he was injured during a Russian strike in Kherson, Ukraine, on Thursday. Picture: Bernat Armangue/AP

“We are very grateful to the Irish for their hospitality, you have a wonderful country, [but] we came because of the war,” he said.

I know Irish history well and I think they should understand Ukrainians. The Irish also fought for their independence for a long time.

Hanna is “concerned” about the protests and said although she is “forever grateful” to Irish people, she stressed that those from other countries also need protection and support.

“I read about the anti-refugee protest in Dublin,” she said. 

"I understand the feelings of the locals and their anxiety. I agree that it is very difficult to accept so many visitors in their motherland.

Sorry, I’m sorry, but our country is now at war and we really need support and protection.

"I sincerely and tirelessly thank you for that. We are safe and have the opportunity to live with dignity.”

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