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It's still not clear how many refugees Ireland is taking

A special cabinet meeting will take place this week to discuss Ireland’s response to the migration crisis.

Updated 3.10pm

ENDA KENNY HAS insisted that there is no split in the coalition over the number of refugees Ireland will take in response to the migrant crisis.

The Taoiseach was speaking in response to reports that Tánaiste Joan Burton’s suggestion that Ireland would accept as many as 5,000 people had not been agreed with Fine Gael.

The figure is far in excess of the 1,800 figure that was being suggested by senior politicians last Friday as part of a Europe-wide response to the migration crisis.

Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have spoken extensively on the issue today but neither have given a clear indication of how many refugees Ireland intends to take.

However the two party leaders have insisted there is no split between Fine Gael and Labour over the issue.

This morning Kenny said there would be a special cabinet meeting this week to discuss how Ireland plans to respond to the crisis. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is due to bring a memorandum to ministers setting out measures to accommodate refugees.

The Taoiseach said there is no split in the government and insisted he would not quibble the numbers being suggested. He said the most important was “that there be a strategy and a plan”.

I am not fixated on numbers here. There seems to be a huge concentration on what the exact number is going to be.

‘Bogged down in statistics’

He later added: “We don’t want to get bogged down in the statistics. This is about humanity.

Would you send your children across the Irish sea in a rickety boat when you don’t know if they’re going to get there?

Tomorrow the European Commission is expected to announce proposals on national quotas that will then be discussed by EU leaders next week.

Kenny called for a unified response to the crisis, which he described a “global problem, a global challenge”. He said he did not want Europe divided on this issue.

I can’t give you an accurate figure as to what the numbers are now but we will play our part. Whether that be a figure mentioned by the Tánaiste or whatever figure, we want to deal with this purely from a humanitarian perspective.

Also speaking today, Burton said Ireland would do “what we have always done” in its response to the crisis.

We will step up to the plate because I think we are all conscious that our forefathers left this country in pretty rickety boats as well and really, as Europeans as well, this cuts to the heart of the European project.

Burton said the number of refugees Ireland will take in will be “very significant” but, unlike yesterday, did not suggest a specific number.

‘Build up over time’

At a press conference this afternoon, Burton said that the number of refugees coming to Ireland would build up over time as the state would have to provide for issues like family reunification.

“We’re in absolute agreement that what we need to do now is put a framework in place and I do anticipate that over time the numbers will increase to what I indicated previously [i.e. 5,000],” she said.

But that will be over a number of years and it will be consequent on issues such as families being reunited, who have been separated by the war.

The Labour leader insisted that nobody at this stage could predict exactly how many refugees Ireland will take, and insisted: “It’s not a numbers game.”

Speaking at Leinster House Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said that 5,000 refugees is “the minimum” that Ireland should accept.

“I think that this is such a crisis that I think there is an absolute urgency for the government to say that we open our arms, we open our hearts, we open uor communities and we welcome refugees who are fleeing persecution,” she said.

Read: More than half the population wants Ireland to take in 5,000 refugees

Read: Syrian refugees coming to Ireland won’t have to go through Direct Provision

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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