Taoiseach admits to ‘challenging’ refugee situation after meeting Ukraine PM

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Ireland is facing a challenging situation amid efforts to house Ukrainian refugees, the Taoiseach has said.

The Irish premier held an hour-long meeting with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Wednesday afternoon at Shannon Airport in Co Clare.

The two leaders discussed the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, with Mr Shmyhal touching down briefly in Ireland before continuing his journey to Washington.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Martin said that he had received a “first-hand account” of the horrors being waged by Russia against Ukraine and the objectives of the Ukrainian Government.

The meeting came two weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a historic virtual address to the Irish parliament.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (left) with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal
Taoiseach Micheal Martin (left) with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal (Government Information Services/PA)

Mr Martin told reporters that the pair had discussed the possibility of a further round of EU sanctions against Russia.

The Taoiseach said that he had stressed the unwavering Irish support for Ukraine’s bid to join the EU.

“The strategy of the Putin regime is not just killing people, but also causing huge international instability about energy and food,” he said.

Mr Martin also admitted that Ireland was under pressure, due to the arrival of 25,000 Ukrainian refugees in the weeks since the war began.

He said that the Government wanted to accelerate the processing of offers of accommodation for refugees.

He also said that the country was “close” to requiring mass accommodation centres for Ukrainian refugees, with questions asked about the potential use of the Millstreet Arena in Co Cork.

“I think we are close.

“I think facilities like that will be deployed as numbers continue to come into the country.

“The situation is very challenging indeed but we have to do everything we possibly can on all fronts to be of assistance and help the people fleeing Ukraine.”

Mr Martin said it was impossible to predict how many refugees might need to be housed in emergency accommodation.

“There is a deliberate strategy, on behalf of Putin, to bomb people out of Ukraine.

“It is a shocking and scandalous sort of approach by the Russian Federation to deliberately try to create that terror.

On Tuesday, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told the UN Security Council that world leaders must do all they can to secure an urgent peace in Ukraine, amid an all-out Russia offensive in the Donbas region.

Mr Coveney also accused Russian forces of showing an “utter disregard” for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.

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