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Mayo expecting 5,000 Ukrainian refugees

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COUNCIL ARE DOING ALL THEY CAN Tom Gilligan, Director of Services, Mayo County Council

Director of Services makes plea for accommodation


Anton McNulty

A SENIOR official with Mayo County Council says the county must ‘gear up’ for thousands of Ukrainian refugees settling in Mayo.
With up to 200,000 Ukrainian refugees expected to settle in Ireland as a result of the Russian invasion, Director of Services Tom Gilligan told councillors that Mayo should expect to welcome up to 5,000 refugees.
Speaking at last week’s monthly meeting of the Ballina Municipal District, Mr Gilligan, who is responsible for housing in the Council, said that the local authority is doing all it can to accommodate people fleeing the war.

Very serious
Mr Gilligan thanked hoteliers around the county for sourcing 62 units to house refugees over the weekend of March 19 and 20, but he added that more accommodation must be sourced.
“You are talking about 4,500 to 5,000 refugees who might be coming into the county, and we need to gear up for that. We need accommodation and space. I am urging anyone who has any vacant home or holiday home to please come and get in contact.
“We can turn around any accommodation in the short and medium term because we need to show solidarity and these people need our help. I am urging people to do what they can in relation to housing because it [housing] is a very serious situation and deteriorating at a rapid pace. If people can do what they can we would really appreciate it,” he said.
The issue of Ukrainian refugees was raised by Independent councillor Mark Duffy, who suggested that the St Mary’s Secondary School building be used for accommodation after the school moves to a new building in the summer.
“In Ballina we have St Mary’s Secondary School which will be vacated in mid June and the children will go to the new secondary school. There is no succession plan as I currently understand for the secondary school and when we close the doors the lights will go off. It will instantly become vacant and potentially a derelict site if there is no use for it.
“It has all the services and with some retrofitting it can potentially be used as a temporary accommodation site. I suggest it as a potential suitable option. Regardless of what might happen it should not be allowed to run into disrepair as the convent which is next to it,” he said.

John Hume
Fellow Independent councillor Seamus Weir suggested that the world needs a statesman like John Hume to help bring peace between Ukraine and Russia.
“A person like John Hume is what we need now. A person who can stop this war. A negotiator who can say stop because we are watching on television night after night the bombing of this country literally to the ground. Where are our states people to put a stop to this? Because at the end of the day they will have to come to an agreement.
“When we see day after day what they are doing to ordinary human beings is unbelievable. It is a plea to do something to stop this war,” he said.
While extending his sympathies to the Ukrainian people, Cllr Weir also questioned where all the refugees will be housed given the current housing crisis in Mayo.
“We have to welcome them but is there accommodation for them? I don’t know where they will put them. There is a suggestion that 100,000 will come into this country very soon, and we cannot say no to them and that’s it. What will happen in the future, I wonder, if there is no houses?”

 

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