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Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan outside the Irish Embassy in Washington DC today.
refugees in ireland

Taoiseach: Officials vetting accommodation for refugees amid report of 'sex for housing' offer

Taoiseach says Ireland will take in a further 500 Ukrainian refugees that are currently in Moldova.

Political Correspondent Christina Finn reporting from Washington DC

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the Government has been working with Tusla and the gardaí to ensure that proper vetting standards are applied to offers of accommodation to refugees arriving to Ireland.

His comments comes after the Irish Examiner reported that a property in Clare was being offered for free to a “slim Ukrainian” woman, with an expectation of sex.

The landlord reportedly demanded a photo from a prospective renter before he said he would reveal the exact location of the property.

“I think that’s morally reprehensible, that kind of behaviour,” the Taoiseach said today when asked about the case outside the Irish Embassy in Washington DC, as he begins his week-long visit to the US for St Patrick’s Day.

Martin said Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, whose department is heading up the effort to secure accommodation, is aware of the potential for the abuse of asylum seekers, and that he had briefed the Cabinet about the matter this morning.

He also said that the Government has been working with hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other forms of accommodation partly to prevent such abuse.

“Those experienced in this field are very conscious that there has to be vetting, and they’re working with Tusla and the gardaí in respect of what would be the proper vetting procedures to be adopted, to make sure we protect children in particular in situations like this,” the Taoiseach told reporters today.

He added that the International Society of the Red Cross, which is assisting refugees from Ukraine, has told O’Gorman that it wants “to take it step by step to make sure that we do it right, with proper standards”. 

The Taoiseach confirmed that Ireland will receive 500 Ukrainian refugees from Moldova and that over 6,646 people have now arrived in Ireland since the beginning of the conflict.

He also said that Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien briefed Cabinet on planning that is underway to build modular housing for those arriving in Ireland. 

But he said the current plan is to secure as many available facilities as possible to accommodate people coming from Ukraine.

‘Proper homework’

“They’re getting good response, in terms of hotels, and various other facilities,” he said, adding that the Government is working through pledges from people who have said they have an empty property.

“We’re very conscious that there has to be proper vetting, proper homework done in respect of all of that.”

When asked today if he will take in any refugees himself, the Taoiseach said it is “a personal decision that we will take as a family, and we will work out ourselves in terms of how we will assist as a family in that regard”.

He told The Journal that he has ruled out any plans to travel to the border region of Ukraine or indeed to the country itself.

It has been reported that the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers will be travelling to Kyiv by train today in the first visit by foreign leaders to Ukraine’s besieged capital. 

The Taoiseach also touched on the issue of Ireland’s neutrality in the crisis.

“Ireland has been part of the security and defence discussions within Europe for a long time, in terms of security and defence policy. We’re not part of the European Defence Pact. And that’s not going to come before us by the end of the month,” he said.

“But there will be discussions around security issues in terms of particularly threats from cybersecurity, hybrid threats, and interoperability of forces, which we’ve already been part of in respect of Pesco, in respect of Partnership for Peace with NATO, and in respect of a number of battlegroups that we’ve joined over the years with other EU member states. 

“What will happen at the next EU meeting is an evolution of security and defence policy within the European Union.

“I tend not to see these these issues as black-and-white issues that are going be decided on one given day. Rather, what has happened over the last number of decades has been an evolution of our position.

“We’ve always participated in European security and defence discussions. Denmark didn’t and now Denmark are having a referendum to opt in, to participate in those discussions into the future.

“I have said myself that I believe in the fullness of time, in the aftermath of this war there is no reason why we as a society shouldn’t create a forum like a Citizens’ Assembly to have a meaningful informed reflection on the whole issue of security and military neutrality in all its aspects.”

He added that Ireland has one of the highest levels of participation in peacekeeping in Europe, adding that it has been a particular sign of the country’s strength.

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