Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that on Tuesday the Cabinet will discuss Ireland’s response to the anticipated thousands of Ukrainian refugees who will arrive in the country.
The secretary generals of Government departments are already coordinating the response that will cover social protection, education, children and economic responses, Mr Martin told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.
So far 1800 Ukrainian people have arrived in the country, 486 on Sunday alone. The number is growing day by day.
To date two thirds of the people who arrived have family contacts here, but more who will arrive in the coming days will not have family connections, the Taoiseach aid.
The scenes at the border have been horrific, Mr Martin added. This was the worst displacement of people since World War II, the response will have to be outside the norm.
“It will be very challenging. It is something we have never experienced before.”
The Government will have to take a step-by-step approach to providing accommodation for the refugees arriving into Ireland.
“We want to provide State accommodation as much as we can”.
Hotels and emergency locations will be considered initially. The Department of Children will work on accommodation issues and a portal will be set up to coordinate expressions of interest.
The issue of Ukrainian refugees arriving into the country who have not been vaccinated will also have to be addressed, he added.
The Government is already working with the Ukrainian community in Ireland and issues such as health and education will be addressed along with issues such as language and translators.
There will be a targeted approach in relation to vaccines because of the lower vaccination rates in Ukraine.
Expulsion of the Russian ambassador
When asked about calls for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Mr Martin repeated the necessity to retain diplomatic communications because of Irish citizens in Russia and Ukraine.
While he fully understood the public anger at the comments by the ambassador, he did not condone any act to damage the embassy. It was a basic tenet of international diplomacy to respect the quality of lives of people in embassies.
Farmers will be given every assistance to underpin their efforts to ensure food security and any efforts to move to the production of grain crops, said Mr Martin. “These are actions outside the norm”.
Every effort would have to be made to ensure that any humanitarian response was sufficient to meet the challenge, he said.
On the issue of rising energy prices as a result of the conflict, Mr Martin said that if production from the Corrib gas field could be increased then that would be done.
Ultimately the best way to ensure security of supply was to put more focus on renewables. A review of energy security which was under way would have to be accelerated, he said, to guarantee security of supply.
As for neutrality, Ireland was not politically neutral on the issue of the attack on Ukraine, while Ireland was not militarily aligned that had not hindered the country’s response and Ireland will contribute the full per capita amount towards assisting Ukraine.
The policy now should be to help Ukraine in any way we can, he said.
“Right now the focus has to be on humanitarian efforts.”