27 May 2022

'This is a war effort' - Coveney says Ireland may need to host Ukrainian families who flee from war

'This is a war effort' - Coveney says Ireland may need to host Ukrainian families who flee from war

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said there was unlikely to be enough state accommodation to cope with the number of Ukrainians expected

Irish families may need to host refugees escaping the conflict in Ukraine according to Simon Coveney who said there is “indisputable evidence” of Russian war crimes in the country. 

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said Ireland would be “central” to the humanitarian response to the crisis but said there was unlikely to be enough state provided accommodation in the country to cope with the numbers of Ukrainians expected.

“It will probably have to involve families as well who are willing to open up their homes to Ukrainian families for a temporary period of time,” he said.

“But this is a war effort, so the norms need to get set aside.”

People at a vigil outside the Ukrainian embassy in Dublin on Monday evening 

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Coveney added: “We’ve seen I think indisputable evidence now that war crimes are taking place in Ukraine – the brutalising of a number of Ukrainian cities, the deliberate targeting of civilians.

“It is now under investigation from the International Criminal Court, who have now opened a file on potential war crimes in Ukraine, and I think that says a lot.

“But I think we can see for ourselves in terms of some of the social media pictures that are coming out, which I think are being stood over by the media organisations, as to the extent of civilian targeting in Ukrainian cities, which is essentially terrorising civilian populations.

“And that is something that can’t go unchecked and we need to call it out.”

Mr Coveney said the three rounds of EU sanctions against Russia, along with the arms and non-lethal supplies sent to Ukraine, was evidence of the bloc working at “unprecedented pace” to respond to the invasion.

“I think we have no choice but to show a level of resolve and solidarity within the European Union that is proportionate to what is happening on our doorstep in the heart of Europe,” he said.

“We have a sovereign state, a democracy, being brutalised and attacked by one of the most powerful military forces on the planet and we have got to respond to that.

“I’ve been in politics for nearly 25 years and I’ve never seen an issue that has galvanised European unity in a way that this has. It’s changing countries’ foreign policy, it’s bringing countries together in a way that sets differences aside.

“So many countries across the European Union have different and complex relationships with Russia historically but this issue really has I think brought people together rather than anything else, and it will continue to in the days ahead.”

Mr Coveney said the conflict was the first war that has “played out on social media”.

“I think as Irish people watch what’s happening to Ukrainians and they’re horrified by it and they want us to be working with our EU partners and indeed other partners to respond to that in solidarity,” he said.

“And we are. We’ve already announced a 10 million-euro humanitarian package. I expect we’ll do a lot more than that. We’ve waived any requirements for visas for Ukrainians to come into Ireland, and they’re going to get effectively a special refugee status when they get here for up to three years to be able to work and live here, effectively as EU citizens.

“I think, in truth, if we’re going to be able to accommodate the numbers that I expect to come here, we’re going to have to go beyond providing state-provided accommodation.”

He added: “The extent of the sanctions that are now in place or being put in place are extraordinary measures that mean that the EU is going to suffer as a result of these sanctions, as well as Russia,” he said.

“But I think that’s a sacrifice that the EU is willing to make.

“I think the humanitarian response that Ireland will need to be central to and part of will also demand a level of solidarity and support and generosity and emotional connection with a country that’s just being torn apart at the moment.”

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