Housing refugees in student accommodation “displaces” people living in Ireland and is “totally counterproductive and wrong,” according to an Independent TD.
Marc MacSharry was speaking after the owners of Benbulben Court and Milligan Court - two Sligo properties used as student and summer tourism accommodation - announced plans to use the properties to house refugees.
Benbulben Court had been purpose-built to house students attending the nearby university.
On The Pat Kenny Show, Deputy MacSharry said the development got planning permission on the basis it would be used for students.
“Because of the actions that we've taken in response to the war in Ukraine, there are exemptions relevant to that situation,” he said.
“To the best of my knowledge, this currently doesn't represent a planning breach, though it is an unmitigated disaster.”
Deputy MacSharry said the plan “underpins the lack of a joined-up approach at Government level.”
“You have in effect, one department carrying out tenders with what would appear to be an endless amount of cash for lucrative contracts for accommodation providers,” he said.
“In effect, [this] displaces people living in Ireland – be it students in this instance, or families looking for accommodation – and that is totally counterproductive and wrong.
“A tender went out, this company won the tender [and] while no contract is signed, the State is in something of a quagmire.
“Frankly, I don't care, they'll have to do whatever they must do legally and get the advice of the Attorney General.
“This accommodation is for students, and it must be for students.”
Deputy MacSharry said the proposals will impact “between 400 and 500” students in Sligo.
“There simply is not the opportunity to pivot in a different direction,” he said.
“The Northwest and Sligo in particular, have a very serious housing crisis.”
Deputy MacSharry said the criticism of the decision is “not a question of us not wanting to assist the Ukrainians.”
“It's not a question of being racist, xenophobic, or anything like that,” he said.
“As a nation, our policy nationally is different, it would appear, to other European countries and this needs to change.”
The Independent TD claimed the level of support Ireland offers refugees is “de facto marketing Ireland as a location for people fleeing the war in Ukraine”.
“Ireland is obviously providing a minimum of €230 per week. The next highest is €107 in Finland. In Denmark, it's between €60 and €80 and in the Netherlands, it's €54,” he said.
“If I have to flee a war-torn Ukraine, there's only one location I'm heading for – and that's where I'm getting the best deal.
“In Ireland, we're providing the finances, the accommodation in some instances means medical cards, and free post home – that's not been replicated in any other country.
“I am not a racist, I'm not a zealot, I'm not a xenophobe.
“Because we live in a very woke world, no doubt there’ll be texts into your show saying, ‘Oh my god, what a right-winger’. I'm no more right-wing than the man on the moon.
“We cannot be foolish and reckless about our capacity, and that's the issue.”
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Main image shows a split of Marc MacSharry (Photo by Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie) and Benbulben Court (Photo by Google)