The lack of beds for Ukrainian refugees arriving into Ireland over the weekend was “really scandalous”, according to Newstalk presenter Jonathan Healy.
He was speaking after refugees were forced to sleep in Dublin Airport over the weekend as the State had no suitable housing to offer them.
A new temporary facility with 200 beds is being opened in the airport today to accommodate the new arrivals.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Jonathan Healy questioned why the facility wasn’t ready to go before the weekend.
He said it is “really scandalous that we are dealing with people in this vulnerable situation so badly”.
“I know we have huge numbers of people trying to get into this country,” he said. “The equivalent of the population of Waterford has been accommodated since the war broke out in Ukraine, but it happened again at the weekend, it happened at a time when the State couldn’t respond in any meaningful way.
“They knew it was coming because Citywest was full as late as the middle of last week. So, the State knew there was an issue, but they didn’t have surge capacity built in.
“Lo and behold we have got 200 spaces available at Dublin Airport today. Why they couldn’t have been activated before that, I don’t know.”
He said the State needs an ongoing whole of Government response to the Ukraine crisis.
“Ultimately, this is down to the fact that there was one Government department taking the lead on this,” he said. “The rest of them seem to have said, well, you’re in charge of that and off with you.
“This needs to be a whole of Government response to an unprecedented crisis and we are letting people who are very vulnerable down.”
Shane Coleman on the other hand argued that Ireland is “doing our best in an impossible situation”.
“This time last year, we had 7,250 people in the refugee system,” he said. “At the moment, we have 58,000 and 42,000 of those are Ukrainians.
“We have accommodated 60,000 Ukrainians so far this year.”
Shane said Ireland is doing more than many other European countries.
“I had a quick scan across the EU to see what other EU countries are doing,” he said.
“France, 101,000 Ukrainian refugees. Now look at the size of France and the population of France and that’s not that much more than us.
“The Netherlands, 77,000 and they have three times the population of us. Belgium has 52,000 and again, a bigger population than us.
“We are doing more proportionately than all those other countries and we already have a housing crisis in this country.
“I think it is an impossible situation and people are doing their best in an impossible situation.”
He said people are often too quick to criticise.
“We love in this country - particularly in the media - saying, it is a disgrace, it is a scandal, why aren’t the Government doing more?
“You know what, sometimes, maybe there isn’t more that can be done. Maybe they are operating at full capacity. Maybe they’re doing their best.”