Opinion: Don't blame Ukrainian refugees for the Irish government's shortcomings 7 months ago

Opinion: Don't blame Ukrainian refugees for the Irish government's shortcomings

The coalition government has failed to defend Ukrainian refugees following a weekend of negative reporting over their presence in Ireland.

Long championed for their stance over welcoming Ukrainian refugees fleeing war in their homeland, the Irish government appear to have abandoned those who they offered to protect.


Over the course of the past month, both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the coalition government have endured what can only be described as a PR nightmare.

Ukrainian refugees Ireland Leo Varadkar has endured a torrid month of media coverage. (Credit: Getty Images)

From the optics surrounding the Fine Gael leader's mistimed announcement of his newfound status as landlord, to the reports insinuating a rift amongst the cabinet over the lifting of the eviction ban, there has been episode after episode of political ineptitude on display.


It is this series of 'unfortunate' events which has seen support for the Fine Gael/ Fianna Fáil coalition fall to a record low in the latest voters' intentions polls.

Support for opposition party Sinn Féin sky-rocketed to 37 per cent in last weekend's poll which was conducted by The Sunday Times, whilst support for Fine Gael dropped to a meagre 15 per cent alongside a disappointing 21 per cent for Fianna Fáil.

These latest figures also highlight a 13 per cent extension of Sinn Féin's already-sizeable lead over Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael, who now see themselves as just the third biggest party in the country.

This swing in support signifies that the Irish public no longer possesses just a passing interest in the political machinations of Leinster House, but rather an active want for change following a calamitous March for the government.


Ukrainian refugees Ireland Ireland has welcomed over 70,000 Ukrainian refugees to date. (Credit: Rolling News)

Government hide behind Ukrainian refugee coverage.

Over the weekend, it was reported that the state is spending up to €30 million per week to house Ukrainian refugees, news which was predictably lapped up by the growing far-right sympathisers present within Irish politics.


The report in the Irish Examiner also laid out the government's plans to increase its use of retrofitted office buildings to provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, after a number of hotels opted not to renew their contracts with the state which saw them house a sizeable portion of the 70,000 plus Ukrainian refugee community in Ireland.

Following on from this report, the news regarding the criticism of the government's alleged preferential treatment of Ukrainian refugees over other asylum seekers entered the public domain.

Dr Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, penned a letter to Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman in December of last year in which he said it appeared that Ukrainian families were being moved on from the "simply not fit for purpose" facilities at Citywest to alternative accommodation at a far greater pace than other nationalities.

Ukrainian refugees Ireland Dr. Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, has criticised the government over its alleged preferential treatment of Ukrainian refugees. (Credit: Rolling News)

"It is unacceptable that children are treated in this discriminatory manner and it cannot be allowed to continue", wrote the Ombudsman for Children.

In what is now rather predictable fashion, the government has chosen not to address these reports though, given that the ire of many have been wrongly pointed towards the Ukrainian refugees themselves.

By arguably jettisoning off their Ukrainian guests as cannon fodder for Facebook comment sections and Twitter quote-tweets, the coalition is availing of an unearned chance to catch a breath and regroup in the wake of their latest failings.

With the attention of a baying public momentarily diverted, members of Cabinet appear to be hoping that following a week out of the news cycle and a photo-op with US President Biden, that all will be forgotten by their neglected constituents.

Ukrainian refugees Ireland The nation's housing crisis has ratcheted up tensions, with many incorrectly blaming the influx of refugees as a cause. (Credit: iStock)

Helping refugees and solving the housing crisis are not mutually exclusive.

Many will baulk at the €30 million figure quoted as the weekly cost incurred by the state to house Ukrainian refugees, although those same detractors appear to have already forgotten that this is the same government that just last week were shown to have underspent by an incredulous €1 billion on housing developments.

Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin O'Broin obtained the figures which showed that over the previous three years, funds which could have provided an additional 4,000 social and affordable homes went unused by the government.

It is always worth casting our collective gaze back to January of this year when the Department of Finance revealed that a budgetary surplus of €5 billion had been recorded during 2022 by the Exchequer.

Ukrainian refugees Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien have been criticised over €1 billion allocated to housing which went unspent. (Credit: Rolling News)

Let these figures dispel any notion that the funds aren't there to support Ukrainian refugees to the tune of €30 million a week, or that it is a case of either-or when it comes to tackling the housing crisis too.

Lending a helping hand to those women and children who flee the horrors of war is not mutually exclusive with solving the nation's dire housing situation. The latter is not being done due to a lack of available funding, but rather, some good old-fashioned political incompetence.

The same can be said for the claims regarding preferential treatment for Ukrainian refugees over other asylum seekers. Direct your anger towards the collection of barely-serviceable cabinet ministers.

A Ukrainian refugee is not at fault for receiving a suitable standard of care, but rather the government should be at fault for not treating all asylum seekers with the same level of urgency or attention.

Ukrainian refugees Ireland Ireland and Ukraine possess an intimate understanding of one another's history and experiences. (Credit: Rolling News)

A shared bond between nations.

Whether it be both's dependence on the agricultural sector as a central tenet of their economies, the two nations having experienced generation-altering famine or their shared experiences of knowing what it is like to exist in the shadow of a colonial neighbour, Ireland and Ukraine undoubtedly possess a latent understanding of one another's culture and heritage.

To forget this common bond would be a slight on an Irish populous who should know better than most the toils of emigration.

From famine ships to the American east coast to the economic-induced exodus of the 1960s, this is a land which has seen its' people welcomed across the globe in their times of greatest need.

The war in Ukraine is just a year old, and with no end in sight at present, the prospect of more Ukrainian refugees arriving on these shores is a very real one, and one which we must come to terms with.

Moreover, those who object are quite simply uneducated in the root causes of Ireland's ulterior issues such as housing and crime.

It is not the fault of a Ukrainian refugee in emergency accommodation that the vast majority of young Irish people can't afford a mortgage or see a future for themselves in this country. It is the fault of those who sit unchecked in the corridors of power at Leinster House.

Ireland is known worldwide as being the land of one hundred thousand welcomes, a label which brings pride to everyone associated with it - let's not lose such a moniker over the ineptitude which festers amongst our political establishment.

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