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Danny Healy-Rae asks ‘where are modular homes for our own people?’

A Kerry TD has asked the Taoiseach why modular homes are not being built for Irish people, and said that “some people have been on the housing list in Killarney for up to 16 years.”

“We want to treat the Ukrainian people properly but we do not want to treat them better than our own people,” Danny Healy-Rae (Ind) said during Leaders Questions iin the Dáil. He also said that Killarney was now hosting 4,000 refugees and migrants and that the government actions endangered tourism in the region.

“I wish to raise with the Taoiseach the recent influx of Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers and the impact they may have on the tourism sector in County Kerry,” the Independent TD said.

“Many are living in hotels in Killarney, Tralee, Ballybunion and other places. It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 in the county now, with almost 4,000 housed in hotels and guest houses in Killarney. Our town of Killarney is at capacity. If we are to look after our own people and the refugees and the asylum seekers who are already here properly, it is clear that we cannot accommodate any more at this time.”

“Our medical services, GPs and social welfare officers are under immense pressure. Come the middle of February 2023, what alternative accommodation does the Government have in mind for the massive number of refugees who are housed in our hotels and guesthouses at present? The children who have come here have been integrated into our schools.”

“Our tourism product and our hospitality business in Kerry depend so much on these hotels to provide accommodation for tourists. They are the vital cog in the wheel that keeps the industry going. It is vital for employment for people in craft shops, souvenir shops, tea and coffee shops, confectionery shops, bus and coach tour operators, taxi and hackney operators, jarveys in Killarney and the Gap of Dunloe, the boatmen, the big entertainment venues, such as the INEC and Siamsa Tire in Tralee, small rural pubs that provide music and entertainment, storytelling and culture and tell visitors about traditions, and our entertainers and musicians. All our visitor attractions depend so much on hotel accommodation being available. We have places like Killarney House and Gardens, Muckross House Gardens and Traditional Farms, the national park, our wonderful visitor centres in Ballinskelligs and Dingle and many other attractions,” he said.

“The Taoiseach has spoken about building modular homes. Where will they be built? Will modular homes be built for our people? We must look after our own. Some people have been on the housing list in Killarney for up to 16 years. We want to treat the Ukrainian people properly but we do not want to treat them better than our own people. We need to look after our own people.

“We need to realise that the businesses I have mentioned are only barely back on their feet after being closed down for two years. What are the Government’s plans. How is the Government going to address the accommodation centre for Ukrainians in Killarney after the middle of February?”

In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that there was a “war situation on the Continent of Europe.”

“These are not normal times,” he said. “We have a whole range of plans. We have started rapid build housing for Ukrainian families. We hope to do 700 by early next year. We will also now do rapid build housing for social housing in Ireland.”

However, Deputy Healy-Rae claimed that an Taoiseach did not answer the question he had asked. “Yes, we are in a war situation. I recognise that and everyone recognises that and we feel for the Ukrainian people. But we have an industry in Killarney that has taken generations to build up. Many hotels are taken up with refugees at the present time.”

“I asked the Taoiseach a straight, honest question. How will he deal with the refugees who are supposed to leave those hotels by the end of February? What accommodation has he arranged for them at the end of February? I told him that so many aspects of our tourism sector have only barely started back on their feet again this year. It has been a bare few months. Surely, they should not have to lose out or be compromised because the hotels are not free. They are already taking ye to court for moving them from one hotel to someplace in Wicklow to someplace in Monaghan. Will they leave the hotels? Will the owners of those hotels now want to let them go? The Taoiseach has not answered my important question,” he said.

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