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The infuriating Ukrainian refugee story from Limerick

We’ll take it as a given that opinions on precisely how many Ukrainian refugees Ireland should – or, perhaps more aptly, can – accept are mixed. The Government certainly seems to believe that there can and should be practically no limit on the numbers of people who come here, and that Ireland has a responsibility to help anybody who is in need. Accepting tens of thousands of refugees into Ireland seems, in some part of the popular imagination, to be a measure of our decency and compassion as a country.

But what, then, do we make of this, reported by the Limerick Leader on Friday?

FIFTEEN Ukrainians who were moved with one day’s warning from a Limerick hotel have described their horror at being ripped from the community where they were forging a new life.

The group were informed on Friday, May 14 and subsequently moved the next day to four tiny apartments in Temple Bar, Dublin.

The Ukrainian refugees have been staying at the Castle Oaks House Hotel in Castleconnell since March. Limerick Live understands that the Castle Oaks was happy for the Ukrainians to stay as long as required. Four were working locally, two had jobs pending and several of their children were enrolled in local schools.

The Ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country issued a collective statement to Limerick Live. They emphasised how thankful they are for all that has been done for them.

We do not feel safe (in Temple Bar). No one can sleep with singing, shouting, breaking glass, and noise late at night,” they said.

They described being “crammed in” at their new emergency accommodation, which they said, has no kitchen facilities.

Set to one side, for a moment, your prior views on whether Ireland should accept Ukrainian refugees, and whether you think doing so makes Ireland compassionate and responsible, or silly and a soft touch. Let’s assume, for the purposes of this article, that it is the right thing to do.

And let’s ask ourselves, too, how we would want refugees to behave when they come to Ireland. Wouldn’t we want them to try and pay their own way? To get jobs? To get their children integrated into local schools? To volunteer in the community?

Because that’s what these people, by all accounts, did. They were working, and integrating, and – according to all the evidence – behaving exactly as we might wish for newcomers to behave. And their reward for all of this is to be uprooted by the state at 24 hours’ notice and dumped into Temple Bar in Dublin.

Consider for a moment, even if for some bizarre reason you have no sympathy for the adults, the case of the children: Having fled their homeland, they were probably just beginning to settle into their new schools, and perhaps make friends. And now they’re being shunted again, across the country, on the whim of some bureaucrat somewhere who – in the finest tradition of the Irish state – seems to see them not as people, but as entries in a spreadsheet.

All of this comes back to our reason for accepting these refugees to begin with, and the nature of responsibility, and compassion, and all the other things the state and its defenders like to believe that they stand for. If we are going to bring people here, then surely we have a duty to them – and to our own people – to ensure that we can provide them with stability and security and a chance to live a decent and peaceful life? Ripping people who have secured jobs and school places for their children out of their accommodation and tossing them across the country into cramped conditions in Temple Bar is simply not a decent thing to do.

And it is happening for two reasons: The first and most obvious is that the country simply doesn’t have the room or the resources to accommodate as many people as we are admitting. The second is that the State in Ireland is – and always has been – particularly callous when it comes to dealing with the “needy”. “You’ll take what you’re given” is the attitude from the civil servants on the ground, even as the politicians preach about what a kind and decent country this is.

If Ireland cannot afford to treat the people it brings here with decency, then it should not be bringing them here to begin with. Our duty to those fleeing a war does not end at the gates of Dublin Airport. A compassionate country would not treat children like this.



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