Mayo’s ‘survival’ as a tourist destination is at risk because so many hotel beds are being used by Ukrainians, a local councillor has claimed.
Industry insiders say the decision to house those fleeing war has benefited hotel owners who were paid by the Government during the otherwise quiet winter season.
However, housing refugees means there will be fewer tourists once again this summer - something that will have a profound impact on people’s livelihoods.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve done in Mayo in terms of accommodating the refugees but we have to have regard for our economic situation in Mayo as well,” Fine Gael Councillor Peter Flynn told The Pat Kenny Show.
“We need to ensure Mayo survives as a tourist location and a destination for people to come to and we need to ensure services go alongside the influx of additional people.”
Restaurants, tour guides and those who organise cultural activities say their businesses have suffered as a consequence and Cllr Flynn said people in the county believe they have done more than their fair share.
“Without a shadow of doubt,” he said.
“Deloitte had a hotel investment briefing earlier this year; they called out Mayo specifically to say that Mayo would be down - based on their numbers - €10 million last year on revenue from bed and hotel accommodation… So, it’s a real concern.”
Cllr Flynn said Mayo’s population was already increasing prior to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and “we’ve struggled with that in terms of critical services like housing, medical and education and all the rest of it.”
It is an argument that People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy has little sympathy with.
“My take is, there was a very severe housing crisis before the war in Ukraine, there was a very severe health crisis before the war in Ukraine, there was an education crisis before the war in Ukraine,” he said.
“It suits Fine Gael politicians… to suggest the problem is asylum seekers coming in, as opposed to the problem being Government policy, the failure to tackle the issue in terms of the 50,000 homes that have been vacant for six years, the hoarding of wealth by those at the top of our society that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil support.”
Deputy Murphy said it is the Government’s fault communities lack essential services and suggested a crack down on long-term vacant properties.
“What we’ve proposed is ‘Use it or lose it’ legislation where people have to use their property within six months or face very significant taxes,” he said.
In the first 12 months after the invasion of their country, roughly 75,000 Ukrainians moved to Ireland.
Main image: Summer picnic on Inishturk Island, County Mayo, Ireland. Picture by: Alamy.com