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*The former offices of Shannon Development is now home to 100 Ukrainians. Photograph: Joe Buckley

A DEDICATED TEAM within Clare County Council is to be established to co-ordinate a response in each of the Municipal Districts to the arrivals of displaced Ukrainians.

Up to now, voluntary community groups had been leading the county’s response to the influx of an estimated 3,000 plus Ukrainian refugees to Clare since Russia’s invasion at the end of February.

At the end of April, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien (FF) confirmed that each local authority would be equipped with a dedicated Director of Service level staff member, supported by a small team to coordinate the local response between all of the agencies and community groups engaged in support and service provision to the Ukrainians.

Director of Service with the County Council, Anne Haugh confirmed that recruitment is underway to appoint an Acting Director of Service who will head up “a specific team to deal with the response in each Municipal District”. She believed this would be “a small team to address the various elements of the response”.

Ms Haugh outlined that in the region of 2,400 Ukrainians are now accommodated in hotels, guesthouses and commercial operated houses in Clare, the figure does not include the approximate 1000 individuals residing in private homes. The former Shannon Development offices is now home to 100 refugees in the heart of Shannon.

Local authorities have been tasked with inspections of private properties pledged under the Red Cross Scheme. “That exercise is ongoing,” she confirmed but is “not yielding huge numbers”, engagements are continuing with Mid-West Simon to deem what is and is not suitable.

Another request issued to local authorities has been to look at ways to alleviate what is expected to become a “significant shortfall of beds in the coming months”. The Director confirmed that three rest centres not currently utilised are available for emergency use and have capacity for 70 people.

Chair of the Social Development SPC, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) noted the issue surrounding housing refugees was having “a huge effect on a lot of people, it is not just hotels but holiday homes”. He continued, “The disruption is huge, there should be more of an organised response because there is room for all”. Space must be provided for Ukrainian children in primary and secondary school students, he said while asking the Minister for Education be reminded of that. He stressed that “vulnerable people that already lived in the county cannot be excluded from the support they need also”.

Appointment of a dedicated team “can’t come soon enough,” Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) who has been heavily involved in the Lisdoonvarna welcoming of refugees, remarked. “It needs to be appreciated the burden that communities and groups have carried for the past three months, it has taken its toll, it has been extremely rewarding but people are out of the comfort zone in a huge way but a hugely positive way. We’re in the middle of a world war of a modern variety”.

He admitted to having his mind blown by the resilience of the Ukraine refugees. “The world is watching us, if we respond positively it will be remembered. It is a test and how we come out of it, will be a measure”.

Communities must be commended for their response, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) maintained. “They do need to be commended but they need to be helped because it can lead to burnout and that’s not what we want. My own family was personally welcomed into Shannon from Belfast and this is our way of giving back. Long may it continue that we’re the island of a thousand welcomes”.

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