30 Jun 2022

Louth may home up to 3,500 Ukrainian refugees says chief executive

Louth County Council march meeting

Louth may home up to 3,500 Ukrainian refugees says chief executive

Louth may home up to 3,500 Ukrainian refugees says chief executive

Louth may be asked to accommodate up to 3,500 refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine based on current estimates, with Louth County Council currently in the process of identifying suitable locations should the need arise. Louth County Council Chief Executive, Joan Martin, told councillors at the local authority's monthly meeting yesterday that the situation is being handled at a national level however, with the situation being fluid in terms of numbers, and changing on a daily basis.

The matter was initially raised at the March meeting by Cllr Maria Doyle who told the members present that a lot of sports clubs received a letter to say that Dundalk Sports Centre would no longer be available for use because it was going to be used for refugees fleeing from Ukraine. Cllr Doyle said that while she was delighted that Louth County Council was formulating a plan, it would help if this had been communicated to councillors.

The chief executive said she hadn't been aware that a letter had been sent out to sports clubs. She told the meeting that the situation with regards to refugees is being handled at a national level, and those at that level will decide where refugees will go if they don't have family or friends to stay with when they arrive in the country. Ms Martin said the local authorities are there to assist the national agency and they had been asked to identify potential locations that might be used, including hotels and B&Bs in particular. 

Ms Martin said that given the numbers that are potentially anticipated on coming into Ireland, which could be in the region “of 100-140,000, if they were spread evenly on the basis of population, we could expect to get 2,500 to 3,500 refugees on foot of that kind of number." "If those type of numbers came up very quickly we would have to look beyond B&Bs and hotels”, she added.

The chief executive stressed that at present the local authority is focusing on identifying potential places that would be suitable .Whether or not locations are used, would be a matter for the national agency to decide, adding that the situation is very fluid and changing from day to day. “It is an utterly unprecedented situation”, she commented but added “we will try and keep you informed.”

A number of councillors spoke on the topic at the meeting. Cllr Michelle Hall put forward that trauma training should be given to staff in Louth County Council and councillors. “We're going to have children coming over, parents who are going to be extremely stressed and staff who aren't trained in trauma”, she commented. The chief executive replied however to say that the national agency would be dealing with the refugees and they wouldn't be dealing with them directly.

Cllr Marianne Butler put forward that they could find out later in the week that Dundalk Sports Cente could end up being used, so suggested that on that basis, contingency could be arranged for. Cllr Butler also added that the library service has a lot to offer, which could be of some help to the arriving refugees, including books, e-learning and also English classes, which had taken place there in the past.

Cllr Kevin Meenan commented saying that communication is key to ensure a rumour mill does not spread. There are a small minority in the country, said Cllr Meenan, that despise people coming over from another country. “Hopefully we can keep them in this minority”, he remarked.

Cllr Meenan spoke to the Dundalk Democrat following the meeting, where he said: “I think we could see a sizeable number of people coming here. I think we have to have a strategy in place that properly deals with them and blends them into the community so that it works in harmony.”

He continued: “I think a lot of foresight needs to go in a lot of conversations need to be had now rather than reacting to things. I understand these challenges are going to come up ad hoc and very spontaneously, so we have to have as much preparation put in place as possible - because we could have a huge amount of numbers, or we may not have. I think we have to plan for the huge amount of numbers just in case”, the Dundalk councillor concluded.

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