There’s gratitude! Ukraine’s Ambassador lacks diplomacy

With her recent outburst, Larysa Gerasko appears to have been oblivious to the massive housing shortage and the homelessness crisis in this country, says Ailin Quinlan
There’s gratitude! Ukraine’s Ambassador lacks diplomacy

Larysa Gerasko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Ireland, recently criticised the fact her country’s refugees were sleeping at Dublin Airport

WAS it being racist, the old woman inquired, to say that she thought the Ukrainian Ambassador had been downright ungrateful?

Complaining that a group of her countrymen had to stay overnight in Dublin Airport when the people had done everything they could for Ukrainian refugees at a time when our homelessness crisis was at epic levels, probably at its worst since the evictions of Famine times?

As usual in these days of no eye-contact and political correctness, everyone gazed into their phones and avoided answering.

Irritated by the lack of engagement with this feisty and outspoken elderly lady, and the pervasive sense of ‘whatever you say, say nothing,’ I said; “No, that’s not racist.”

The Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, Larysa Gerasko, had repeatedly expressed her gratitude for what Ireland had done for Ukrainian refugees - before recently issuing a widely publicised criticism that it was “unacceptable” that a group of her people had had to spend the night in Dublin Airport.

Well, of course it’s unacceptable. We know how unacceptable it is, because Ireland is floundering to deal with a dreadful housing crisis which is affecting, it should be emphasised, many, many Irish people, resulting in astronomical rents, a vicious shortage of accommodation, and widespread homelessness.

We know many homeless Irish people were not spending that same night in State-provided accommodation or, even, in the shelter of Dublin Airport - they were spending the night under bridges and in doorways on the streets.

As it lurches through a spiralling domestic homelessness crisis, this State is straining every resource to continue to host Ukrainian refugees, along with the other people from all over the world who continue to seek sanctuary here.

It is true that Ireland is hosting a mere fraction of the estimated seven million Ukrainian refugees being hosted across Europe since the war began last February. However, as the New York Times observed after it visited Ireland last September to see how we’re dealing with the influx, this country has worked to accommodate the largest number of refugees the State has ever accepted, “mixing refugees fleeing war with locals in the largely homogenous towns and villages of its more rural corners”.

We don’t need the New York Times to tell us this of course; we know.

People throughout this small nation, across its cities, towns, villages and countryside, have been doing their best.

Like the old lady, I felt someone really needed to stand up and explain to Ms Gerasko that Ireland has been doing its utmost for the Ukrainian refugees but that we are not drawing from a bottomless well; that this is a small island nation with limited resources, that it has a massive pre-existing homelessness and accommodation problem, a broken health service, overcrowded school classrooms and a serious shortage of doctors and teachers - and that yet, despite all of this, the Irish people have looked after some 50,000 refugees from Ms Gerasko’s country.

Someone might say that given the gargantuan effort to welcome, house, clothe, feed, heal and educate refugees fleeing from the war throughout this country, it’s a bit bloody ungrateful to be castigating us when our severely strained resources show occasional signs of faltering.

It’s hard for some of us to swallow Ms Gerasko’s complaints in the cold light of the fact that providing sanctuary for some 50,000 or so Ukrainian refugees has been a phenomenal logistical challenge for this small country.

Of course, we accept that things have not always run smoothly and to plan, that at times there has been a lack of co-ordination, a lack of communication, and no small amount of chaos.

But we’re doing the best we can.

And the Ukrainian Ambassador has on several occasions expressed gratitude for what has been done.

She is also obligated to stand her ground and fight her people’s corner, but you know what, let’s be realistic and not flog the goddamn struggling horse to death here.

I was relieved to hear that, shortly after she made her widely publicised complaint, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman and his officials held a meeting with Ms Gerasko to update her on the accommodation shortage in this country, whilst reiterating the Irish government’s continued solidarity with Ukraine.

Afterwards, the Ambassador once again expressed her gratitude for the support that people fleeing the war in Ukraine have received from the Irish people and the Irish government, and acknowledged the challenges involved in responding to the number of people arriving in Ireland.

Strange to think, though, that Ms Gerasko - living, as befits her high diplomatic status, in comfort in one of the most expensive cities in the world - appears to have been so oblivious to the massive housing shortage and the homelessness crisis in this country.

Recently, there was a line of people applying to rent a house in a housing estate in the rural town of Bandon for €1,750 a month.

In Dublin, the landlord of a one-bedroom apartment in Harold’s Cross was asking €2,400 a month.

Like I said, let’s not flog that struggling horse to death, Larysa.

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