By Dominic McGrath, PA
Nearly 90 state-owned properties are almost ready to be used to house Ukrainian refugees.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, speaking after a Cabinet meeting, said that his department had identified 529 vacant or unused buildings that could be used to provide housing for arriving refugees from Ukraine.
Mr O’Brien said that 89 would be usable within the coming weeks, creating around 5,000 beds for refugees.
These would require “some work, but not extensive work”, Mr O’Brien said.
“There is a spread right across the 26 counties,” Mr O’Brien told Newstalk.
Around 25,000 Ukrainian refugees have now arrived in the Republic, putting pressure on the Government to find housing and accommodation.
Mass and emergency accommodation centres have already started to be used.
Mr O’Brien said that the accommodation would be a “little bit more long-term” than the Millstreet Arena in Cork currently being used to house refugees.
“It is about moving quickly on these ones,” he said.
Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin had said the Government would do “everything we possibly can” to provide for Ukrainian refugees arriving in the State.
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath told Cabinet on Tuesday that Ireland is preparing to spend around €3 billion in 2023 on welcoming and supporting those arriving from the war-torn country.
Mr Martin, speaking before Cabinet, said he had met refugees over the weekend.
“Their gratitude to the kindness of the people of Ireland was heartfelt,” he said.
“This is a horrific war that is having a terrible toll on families and, in a shared humanity, we must do everything we possibly can within our energies and with our resources to do what we can.
“We want this war to end; it should end, because too much life has been lost.”
Mr McGrath said the “primary focus” of Cabinet discussions on Tuesday will be accommodation for refugees.
He said ministers will be “looking at all of the options that are available to Government to find accommodation as quickly as possible”.
“The system is now under real strain and we are at the point of offering accommodation that is not at the standard we would like but is necessary because ultimately these refugees are fleeing war and our first duty is to provide safety and security for them and to meet their basic needs,” he said.