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Ukrainian refugees turned out in numbers to greet their ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko during her visit to Lisdoonvarna on Saturday afternoon.

Call to employ Ukrainians to support own community in Clare

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JOBS for Ukrainian professionals could help to provide support for those fleeing to Ireland and minimise the impact on services, Clare’s Fianna Fáil senator has said. 

During a Seanad debate, all three of Clare’s senators commended the efforts made in this county to welcome refugees. Senator Timmy Dooley said that, after speaking to a number of health and education professionals, he believes they have the capacity to support their community. 

He said that following his own first-hand experience in Ukraine and Poland, the scale of the crisis has not yet become apparent.

“I do not think we have seen anything like the scale of the demand just yet,” he said. “I hope and I have great faith in the Irish people that they will stick with it. Everybody I have met wants to be part of the solution right now.

“This will require holding the nerve as numbers increase. We are at 10,000. It is a long way to 100,000 and it is a phenomenal distance to 200,000 in terms of stretching not just accommodation but our services and resources. This gives the Minister time as the key co-ordinator to work with State agencies and services to ramp up.”

Senator Dooley highlighted the example of communities in North Clare where local principals have come up with a joint plan to support children. 

“Senator [Róisín] Garvey will know the area I am talking about very well – Lisdoonvarna, Doolin and Kilshanny,” he said.

“The principals of three schools there got together and, working with the Department, effectively managed a plan. They are doing so blind because the Department is catching up but they are driving ahead. They are looking at the employment of teachers and putting the infrastructure in place. That is great.”

He said that, in relation to health services, there is capacity within the community of people coming here. “We need to look to the community that has arrived,” he said.

“I spoke to a number of people in the facilities over the weekend. I visited most of them in Clare. There are doctors, nurses, dentists and teachers. The skill sets are there within the community. I am not talking about employing them straight away. I am just talking about building that community, enabling it and giving it the cover to assist its own.”

“These are high-functioning people who want to work. They do not want to be here. They would prefer to be at home and the bulk of them will go back in due course when things settle.

“They just need that support structure around them. It does not have to be overly burdensome. We just need key co-ordinators in locations with large numbers of refugees. I do not want to over-emphasise Clare, which has opened its arms. Support is needed there.”

Senator Garvey, thanked Minister Roderic O’Gorman deeply saying “he has turned on a sixpence and created systems that were never before demanded at such a scale and in such a short time”.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we will have a lot more to do, but the response from the Minister, his Department and the ordinary people of Ireland has been mind-blowing,” she said.

“It gives you faith in most people. Obviously, there are some very evil people, like Putin, but it is to be hoped the good will outweigh the bad and, overall, we will be victorious.

“In my county, Clare, we have seen mind-blowing generosity from everybody, particularly the Polish community.”

Senator Garvey added that is is now very important to move away from “our fossil fuel addiction”.

“We will not be able to cover the cost increases in petrol and diesel, and they are not going down anytime soon, so we have some personal responsibility to look at our behaviour,” she said.

“This is behavioural change we were working towards anyway because of the climate emergency, but now we have an extra emergency, thanks to Putin, a war emergency, and this is wartime. Anybody who was alive during the Second World War will remember rationing, and we have to do that on a personal level. Unfortunately, it has come to that.”

Senator Martin Conway said he had engaged with many Ukrainian nationals who had arrived in Clare and sought clarification on a number of their concerns.

He asked about public transport infrastructure and the length of time the so-called ‘yellow letter’ allows people to stay in Ireland. He also asked if Ukrainian drivers’ licences would be accepted here, how provision would be made for car insurance and if truck drivers’ qualifications would be recognised. He also asked about access to education and higher education.

Minister O’Gorman confirmed the response to the crisis is an “all-of-government” one.

“Senator Conway gave me a long list of questions, as have others – rightly so,” the minister said.

“I understand that people have questions. We have created a Ukraine unit now in the Department. It is primarily focused on the immediate accommodation response. I am following up on the driver’s licence issue raised by Senator Conway.

“It was raised earlier today, and I have been in contact with colleagues in the Department of Transport. We are following up on that and I hope we will have clarity on it soon.”

Minister O’Groman also clarified that those with yellow letters are entitled to stay for one year initially.

“The European Commission may decide to extend the temporary protection directive for up to three years, but the initial grant of temporary protection is for one year and that is what applies,” he said. 

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