The state will not pay the €120,000 a month accommodation bill of a Mayo children’s charity who helped 90 Ukrainian children flee to Ireland.
Candle of Grace usually organises trips to Ireland for children who grow up in the wider Chernobyl area but after the invasion of Ukraine switched its focus to helping children flee the conflict.
From a bureaucratic point of view everything seemed to be going swimmingly; the paperwork was quickly sorted and Mayo County Council organised accommodation for the children who had all arrived safely in Ireland.
However, the Government has since informed the council and charity that it will not be paying for the children’s accommodation as it was not arranged through a Department of Children scheme.
“We were quite sure that everything was sorted because we were quite sure if Mayo County Council is accommodating the refugees… that everything is in order,” Lily Luzan from Candle of Grace explained to On The Record with Gavan Reilly.
“They’re just saying that because of the arrangement between Mayo County Council and ourselves we have to look after this with Mayo County Council ourselves which is shocking because we’re talking about children.
“We’re talking about their safety and I have to say that they don’t want to be moved to any other accommodation.
“They got used to the premises, they got used to the people, they got used to the volunteers. They’re really, really happy over there.
“There was an option last week to transfer 20 to the community centre and I didn’t even know how to announce it and all of them said, ‘No, we’re staying here and we’re not going anywhere.’”
Many of the children survived extremely traumatic events whilst fleeing Ukraine - some spent weeks living in basements surviving on seeds - and Ms Luzan does not want to inflict any more stress or suffering on them.
“They have had enough of stress while travelling here,” she continued.
“It was very dangerous because the roads were mined and the road was bombed… So they had to change the route and it was very dangerous.
“So they came here and they found safety. They found peace, they’re happy.”
Candle of Grace has written to TDs and ministers, urging them to reconsider.
While the children have asked the charity if it would be helpful if they organised a protest. It is something Ms Luzan hopes will not be necessary:
“We’ll be hoping and praying that the wise men in the Irish Government will just look at this from the other point of view and they will understand that you came from a very, very dangerous area and they will understand that it is not safe for you to go back yet.”
The Department of Children has been contacted for comment.
Main image: Ukrainian children. Picture by: David Tadevosian / Alamy Stock Photo