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Clare has been one of the leading counties to accommodate Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.

Cead míle fáilte for hundreds of Ukrainians in North Clare

Ennis College Further Education

HUNDREDS of people fleeing war-ravaged Ukraine have received a cead míle fáilte in North Clare as community groups, organisations and local representatives have come together to ensure a co-ordinated welcome for the new arrivals.

More than 500 Ukrainians have arrived in Lisdoonvarna with a further 100 staying in Ballyvaughan in local hotels. This isn’t the first time that Lisdoonvarna has played host to the people of Ukraine as the town has fond memories of welcoming the Ukrainian Special Olympics delegation in 2003.

More than 200 Ukrainian refugees who are now staying in the Hydro Hotel in Lisdoonvarna this week called for world leaders to stop the war.

The refugees who arrived at the hotel last week have called for peace saying, “All Ukrainians and all people of the world, one peace now. Please stop this senseless war. World leaders help us to stop this war. Kindness and compassion to all humanity.”

Hotel owner Marcus White told The Clare Champion that the Ukrainian people staying with them “now have a roof over their head, they have good food and they are in safe hands.”

Following a meeting last week in North Clare with community groups and various organisations it was decided that Lisdoonvarna Fáilte will act as a hub liaising with the Ukrainian people, local groups and organisations, state agencies and accommodation providers.

Lisdoonvarna-based Councillor Joe Garrihy said the local response to the people coming coming from Ukraine showcases the very best of the people of Clare and Ireland.

“This is what we are about, this is a moment in time to prove who we are and show what the Irish have shown for years when giving to people overseas and now this is on our actual doorstep.”

There has been an overwhelming welcome for the Ukrainian people, he says. Some of the Ukrainian people have gone to football matches, the St Patrick’s Day parade and a concert while many local people have already downloaded translator apps to help communicate.

“There is a real collective effort here between the people who have arrived and local communities and agencies coming to help. The calls are coming in every five minutes from people offering to help and be part of what we can do. I can’t even begin to imagine how these people are feeling looking at the news and the horrific carry-on.”

“We have a lot of high quality accommodation with very good operators so are able to give a good reception to people who need it at the worst possible time. None of these people in their wildest dreams, or in this case nightmares, ever envisaged being on the North coast of Clare.”

He says that the people of Lisdoonvarna have “thrown their hearts and arms open to the Ukrainian people” pointing out there is a “special connection” between both places.

“At the 2003 Special Olympics Lisdoonvarna and Doolin were the hosts for Ukraine hosted a 45 person delegation.”

Keep your head down! Baytsar Maksym, right, and friends from the Ukrainian Special Olympics team battle with the strong breeze during a visit to the Cliffs of Moher in 2003. Photograph by John Kelly.

“The Clare County Board, through Pat Fitzgerald and Fr Michael McNamara got specially made Clare jerseys with Ukraine on the front and An Clár on the back and they were worn in Croke Park for the games,” he recalls.

He explains last week’s meeting was organised because it was felt locally that a co-ordinated response was needed to ensure that the new arrivals were able to access the support they need during this difficult time.

“We very strongly want to hear from the Ukrainian people what they need and what are the priorities for them so that we can source what is required. We are really conscious of making sure this is co-ordinated and that we get requests rather than landing in with things that mightn’t be needed.

“These are people who have travelled over 3,000 miles by many different forms of transport and have come with very little. They obviously had to leave a horrific war zone and had no time to bring anything with them.”

As well as sourcing basic items like clothing and provisions, the group have been working with agencies such as Mid West Simon who have been helping the people with accessing documentation and other matters.

He adds the North Clare group are also liaising with their counterparts in West Clare which has also welcomed refugees from Ukraine.

“We are engaging very well with West Clare and Kilkee and my colleague Councillor Cillian Murphy. A community has also arrived there for shelter and we are working with the resource centre there. This is a county-wide response rather than everyone doing their own thing.”

Those arriving in North Clare are mostly women and young people, including people who in their home county worked in a range of professions including a surgeon, vet and chemist.

Speaking with them he said they are “feeling very, very relieved to have sanctuary. They have gone through an epic journey to safety with their families. And they are thankful, which is unnecessary. I think it will take a while to settle down and we are giving them their space and engaging where they want engagement.”

He concluded by saying that every effort will be made to ensure that these people have support.

“This is a collective welcome with agencies and communities working together. People will have a genuine concern about capacity of services, but every effort is going to be put in to make sure resources are there.

“It is important that we all recognise that we are in this together and that we need to support each other. This is only the beginning and there is going to be a lot more asked of us as time goes by. But I think this is an opportunity, potentially a once in a lifetime one, to do real good in a real tangible way and people are embracing that in every way they can.”

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