C: Mikhail Vasilyev (Unsplash)

“Is the Government discriminating against Irish pets?”

There appears to be a difference between how homeless Irish people with pets are accommodated by the State and the care offered to refugees.

Back in August, we learned that 90 government contracts worth €99.3m had been signed for hotels across the country to provide accommodation and services such as catering, cleaning and laundry for 32,000 arrivals, according to tender documents published by the Department of Integration.

 Latest CSO figures show a total of 62,425 refugees have arrived in Ireland up to November 6, having fled Ukraine.

Just over 6,900 arrivals from Ukraine are living in host accommodation with 3224 people receiving an accommodation recognition payment of €400 per month. The latest CSO Arrivals from Ukraine report does not include up to date figures for how many are housed in hotels. 

However the previous Arrivals from Ukraine report published last month, showed there were 48,158 people living in hotel accommodation.

All arrivals fleeing Ukraine are entitled to full benefits and pensions including jobseekers payments and children’s allowance under the terms of the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive enacted last March.

Meanwhile, disaffection is growing across the country over what appear to be discriminatory policies adopted by the Irish state in favour of new arrivals.

An article published in the Irish Examiner on November 2 told of a woman living in her car in Dingle, Co Kerry, accompanied by her feline pets. The lady had refused an offer of homeless accommodation from Kerry County Council because she ‘would not be allowed to bring her pet cats.’

Homeless woman Sharon Crandall described the practical and emotional difficulties of living in her car in the newspaper’s comment section.

“My home was my anchor and I have lost it,” she wrote.

“Sometimes during the day or night, a heavy fog of grief will hit me and, in the middle of everything, I am grieving my loss of home, friends, and family. I wonder who I am anymore.. I never imagined I would become homeless, but that is my current reality.

“I am struggling, but I have to speak up — for myself, for other homeless people who are afraid, and to highlight from my perspective how this emergency could be handled more efficiently,” Ms Crandall wrote.

Contrast this policy with Irish government’s planned €5m spend on transporting pets from Ukraine to live in with their owners here in Ireland. The beloved pets bring great comfort to their owners and the work to transport them here is worthy.

By the end of April last, 600 Ukrainians pets had arrived in Ireland under a special exemption to EU regulations on the movement of animals.

Heart-warming pictures circulated across newspapers of refugees reunited with pets, who stay in private and hotel accommodation with their delighted owners.

The Department of Agriculture sought tenders for contracts to provide transport for the animals from their point of arrival to designated isolation facilities, and ultimately to their owners’ place of residence.

The Department estimated that the total cost of providing the transport service would amount to €5 million excluding VAT.

Is it fair practice to leave a woman sleeping in her car in Co Kerry while government pays out to transport pets from Ukraine? Surely the bond between each owner and their pet is equally valid. Why is the policy different for those housed in emergency accommodation but fleeing Ukraine?

Kerry County Council Housing Department was contacted for comment but did not respond.

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