PLEA John Maughan, MCC.
He might be better known for his football exploits but in his day job as Procurement Officer with Mayo County Council, John Maughan is witnessing on a daily basis what Ukrainian refugees have had to endure in fleeing their homeland.
He is also more aware than most of the logistical challenges of accommodating so many refugees in Mayo at short notice.
Currently there are over 700 Ukrainian refugees that the council have documented but Mayo County Council believe the true figure is higher and growing all the time.
There are 300 refugees in Breaffy Woods, 89 at the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris, 85 at the Great National Hotel in Ballina, 50 in Newport and 59 at the Lough Lannagh Holiday Village in Castlebar.
Speaking on The Mayo News Football Podcast, John Maughan, the current Offaly and former Mayo football manager, has appealed to people to consider taking refugees into their homes, if they are in a position to do so.
“We know we’ve a housing crisis in the country, there’s no domestic housing available,” he said.
“A lot of people are a little bit hesitant at the moment taking people in. They don’t know the duration, how long it is going to be. It is not ideal to have 300 plus out in a hotel in Castlebar and we’ve another high number in a hotel in Claremorris, similarly in a hotel in Ballina. The ideal scenario would be maybe if we could embrace those people into small communities. There are eight down in Blacksod. Someone has made a house available for them.
“Ireland has put their shoulder to the wheel with payments and donations and fundraisers and it is absolutely remarkable and I don’t think it is going to get any better in the short term so we just need to keep a watch out and try to assist and help in whatever way we can,” he added.
His own family have been part of the relief effort, as he explains.
“My own family home in Crossmolina, where I was born and reared, my brother has that house. It was lying idle. He has made it available. He has three Ukrainian girls staying in it. He has managed to get all three of them working. Two of them working in Ballina, another working in Crossmolina. He went out and bought a car for them, knowing that they will reimburse him in time.
“Two of those three girls are in their final year of dentistry. They come home in the evening from work in Ballina and they sit on an English class two or three evenings a week and they’re also continuing their final year dentistry work that is being delivered remotely. The third girl is working in a shop in Crossmolina,” he said.
In the course of his work, he has met refugees staying in The Quay Community Centre in Westport and has been seeking other locations for temporary accommodation in the county. The accounts he has heard are ‘horrific’.
“We’ve Westport Quay Community Centre. We’ve 20 refugees there. I sat and spoke to a lady last Saturday (April 23). Her husband is fighting in the war and she has their 13-year-old child with them. They’re living and sleeping on a bunk bed at Westport Quay Community Centre. That’s the reality. It’s horrific. It is absolutely terrible … Our life is dominated by it here because we’re engaging with them and meeting with them and trying to assist them and trying to get more community centres up and running. I was down in Crossmolina seeing if the town hall was available.
“They are so grateful and thankful that in a time of crisis the good natured people of Ireland are helping and we have that reputation of being very welcoming. Every single one of them are so grateful despite the trauma they’ve suffering, families left behind, their houses might have been bombed, some of them walked onto a bus not knowing where they were going in Europe and arrived in Ireland with the clothes on their back and nothing else. It’s horrific,” said Maughan.