People who own holiday homes in Ireland should seriously consider offering them to refugees from Ukraine, the Tourism Minister has told Newstalk.
Speaking from the Meitheal tourism conference in County Kerry this evening, Catherine Martin said there are between 30,000 and 60,000 holiday homes in Ireland.
She said the homes contain up to 240,000 bed spaces that could be used to house people fleeing the “the horrendous and barbaric war” in Ukraine.
So far, over 15,000 refugees have arrived in Ireland from Ukraine, significantly fewer than the 20,000 the Tánaiste last week said he expected would arrive by the end of the month.
Many more are expected in the coming weeks, and Minister Catherine Martin is urging holiday home owners to help support them when they arrive.
“I would like to particularly appeal to owners of holiday homes to consider making their property available to assist in the task of providing suitable accommodation in the coming months too – even if it is only for six months,” she said.
“Fáilte Ireland would estimate there are between 30,000 and 60,000 holiday homes in the country and that is potentially up to 240,000 bed spaces.
“I would appeal to the owners of holiday homes to give serious consideration to those who are seeking refuge, who are fleeing the most horrific and unimaginable circumstances. That might be something really worth serious consideration.”
She said work is ongoing across all government departments to house people in the short and longer-term.
“I think, in relation to the horrendous and barbaric war we are seeing in Ukraine, very significant work is being carried out right across the public sector to provide a humanitarian response to the many thousands of people from Ukraine who are seeking refuge and you know, it is anticipated many more will continue to arrive here,” she said.
“The Government will continue to ramp up the humanitarian response to provide accommodation and in addition to hotels and other tourist accommodation and pledges made of homes, the government is identifying State-owned or local authority properties as well as religious sites and others.”
Minister Martin was speaking after the Justice Minister Helen McEntee warned that the number of people fleeing Ukraine has “started to steadily increase again” this week.
The UN Refugee agency estimates that more than four million people have fled the Russian invasion.
Minister Martin was speaking from Meitheal in County Kerry, which is billed as “the most important travel trade event for the Irish tourism industry”.
It is the first time the trade event has been held in-person since the pandemic began and over the coming days over 420 Irish tourism businesses will pitch to over 200 international buyers from all over the world.
Minister Martin said the event is hugely important for the recovery of the tourism market with each international buyer representing tens of thousands of potential visitors to Ireland.
Reporting from Andrew Lowth