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Ukrainians housed ‘in ar**hole of nowhere’ – MP

As Ireland begins to cut benefits for refugees, one lawmaker complained that €145,000 homes aren’t good enough for them

Irish MP Verona Murphy has declared that Ukrainians in Ireland deserve better than brand-new modular homes located in the “ar**hole of nowhere.” However, public support for taking in Ukrainians is falling, and the government recently announced drastic cuts to welfare benefits for new arrivals.

Ireland has taken in more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees since last February, more per head of population than the UK, Germany, or France. The state currently guarantees accommodation to these refugees on an indefinite basis, but with Ireland in the depths of the EU’s worst housing crisis, pro-refugee politicians have complained that some of the sites chosen are substandard.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, independent lawmaker Verona Murphy complained that one such site – in a rural area roughly halfway between the cities of Dublin and Limerick – had been deemed suitable for Ukrainians but unsuitable for other asylum seekers or Irish people.

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Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar talks with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on the day of a joint news briefing at Horodetskyi House, on July 19 in Kiev, Ukraine.
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“It’s not acceptable to just say it’s for one sector of refugees and nobody else. And it’s generally, excuse the term now, in the ar**hole of nowhere, it just isn’t good enough,” Murphy argued. The location – in the village of Rathdowney – is “an impediment to someone coming here as a refugee finding a job,” she claimed, and housing Ukrainians there would do “untold harm to the integration process and how we deal with refugees at a community level.”

Rathdowney is a small town with a population of around 1,200 people, with an economy centered around agriculture and meat processing. Under the government’s plan, 170 Ukrainians are to be put up in 42 modular homes worth €145,000 ($159,000) each, a local politician stated last week. Despite Murphy’s argument that the homes are substandard, each dwelling will cost more to build than a basic three-bedroom house in Rathdowney sells for.

Ireland currently provides such housing for free, does not require Ukrainians to find work, and gives each Ukrainian adult a weekly stipend of €220 ($236). Unemployed Irish people are given the same weekly dole, but must actively seek employment, and face a 57,000-person waiting list for social housing, according to government statistics.

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According to a recent opinion poll, 62% of Irish people think that their country has taken in too many Ukrainian refugees, while only 20% think that more should be allowed to come. A similar survey in June found much more support for more arrivals, with more than half of respondents saying that the government should continue to accept Ukrainians “no matter how many arrive.”

As of January, the government is set to cut weekly benefits for newly arrived Ukrainians to €38.50 ($41) and impose a 90-day limit on free accommodation. Speaking to national broadcaster RTE on Sunday, Minister of State James Browne admitted that Ireland’s generous benefits had caused a “significant increase in secondary movements” of people to Ireland who had already been based elsewhere in the European Union.

December 14, 2023 at 11:53PM

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