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Justice Minister Helen McEntee rethinking offering Ukrainian refugee a room in her home

The minister is concerned a refugee would be left at home all day

Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Photo: PA

Senan Molony

Justice Minister Helen McEntee is rethinking her own offer of accommodation to a Ukrainian refugee.

It comes as the Red Cross reports that more than half of the accommodation pledges made for Ukrainian refugees in Ireland have fallen through.

Ms McEntee, who has a child now nearly one-year-old, says she is concerned that a refugee at her home – where she previously offered a room – would left at home all day.

She lives in a remote area of Co Meath, north of Slane. “It is miles from anywhere,” the minister said. “You can’t really walk anywhere.”

She pointed out that Ukrainian driving licences are not recognised here, other than in connection with holiday car hire.

While immigration rules have been suspended for humanitarian reasons across the EU, there remains a “European problem” with Ukrainians driving in their host countries if they do not sit a separate national driving test.

Ms McEntee said she and her husband were both out all day and she would not want an accommodated person to feel isolated, although she has not formally withdrawn her offer.

“My own situation is somewhat challenging at the moment,” she said, adding that she had spoken to other people who had provided accommodation in the past. One problem was “the location I live in, to come to live in this community and the difficulty in accessing the means to travel.”

Ms McEntee said she supported the payment of some level of subsistence to host families, where this was wanted.

“We’re very aware that there’s been an increase in electricity and fuel, and in prices generally -- so I think what we'd have to establish is how we would help to cover those costs (for host families).

“I don't think anybody's looking to make money out of it -- certainly not. In relation to those day-to-day expenses, that's something the Government said we'd be open to assist with.”

She admitted that Red Cross figures published today show that “unfortunately, almost half of the offers that were made cannot be followed through, or there are challenges in bringing them about.”

They were working flat out, but the overall timeline and situation made it a challenging task, she said.

It could be the case that Government subvention of hosts might get some people back who had withdrawn their pledge, she granted, but it was not the case that people were looking to make money out of it.

State accommodation was being audited for refugees across Government, she said, and her Department had identified some larger buildings, but it was a work in progress.

“That will hopefully help to ease the numbers. It’s coming on stream, an everything is being reviewed and looked at on a weekly basis.

“Obviously we want to encourage people to come forward, and not to force anybody to have to give up the property or accommodation. We need to engage with people to approach consensus.”

A spokesman for the Minister later said that Ms McEntee had never formally made an offer to the Red Cross, but had long been considering opening her home to Ukrainian refugees.

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