Taoiseach says €4 billion Covid fund can be used for Ukrainian refugee response


Taoiseach Micheal Martin said a 4 billion euro contingency fund for the Covid-19 response could be set aside to pay for the State’s response to the wave of up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, Taoiseach Michael Martin said. .

And Mr. Martin said his family is considering taking in refugees from the country.

Speaking in London on Sunday morning, Mr Martin said there would be a “certain increase” in public spending to accommodate refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine with more than 5,500 having arrived in Ireland over two years. last week.

“It’s a contingency fund that has been provided in the Budget for Covid that has not been spent,” Mr Martin told journalists outside the BBC in central London.

“Some of that has, but not all of it, and that could be available for us to work with the increases in spending that are bound to happen in areas like education, in sectors like education. like health and boards, and that’s what both the Treasury Secretary and the Public Expenditure Minister are examining. ”

As of the end of January, about 500 million euros of the 4 billion euros fund announced in last year’s Budget had been spent but with all Covid-19 public restrictions now removed and support programs in place. State funding will be finalized in the coming weeks, with Taoiseach comments suggesting ministers will be looking to reallocate the funds.

Mr. Martin said he and his family are considering whether to accept Ukrainian refugees fleeing war in their homeland.

He said everyone would have to play their part and that he and his family would discuss the matter.

Leader Fianna Fáil owns three residential properties, including his family home and two vacation homes, one of which he jointly owns as part of an inheritance. He also lives in an apartment in Dublin owned by his wife.

“I think we’ll all play our part in it,” he said. “I think these are individual decisions that each family has to make and we will respond in relation to that, as a family we will discuss that. We are clearly reflecting on this, just like everyone else. “

In addition to Mr Martin, in the Cabinet, only Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Attorney General Helen McEntee have publicly said they are ready to consider housing refugees to flee the ongoing war in the country. Ukraine.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Ryan, the Environment and Transport Secretary, said he would have to speak to his “wife and four adult children” before taking refuge.

However, when asked if he would encourage Cabinet colleagues to bring refugees into their homes if they have space, he said: “Yes.”

According to Mr Ryan’s comments, the Irish Independent has reached out to spokespersons for every member of the Cabinet to ask if their ministers would be willing to accept Ukrainian refugees if they were able to. .

But there was no response from Tánaiste spokesman Leo Varadkar, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath, Arts Minister Catherine Martin, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien or Foreign Secretary Simon. Coveney,

There was also no response from a spokesperson for Education Secretary Norma Foley, Social Protection Secretary Heather Humphreys, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, Higher Education Secretary Simon Harris, Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly or Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue.

Spokespersons for national ministers sitting at the Cabinet, including Whip Government Chief of Staff Jack Chambers, Biodiversity Secretary Pippa Hackett and Logistics Secretary Hildegarde Naughton did not respond.

Over 15,000 accommodation commitments have been submitted by the Irish public to the Irish Red Cross, 4,500 of which have pledged independent vacant accommodation instead of rooms in their own homes.

A spokesman for the Irish Red Cross told the Sunday Independent: “We are asking those who have registered with us with an offer of accommodation and our contact team will be in touch in the coming weeks. “.

“We have had a large number of accommodation commitments since last Friday when we had only 180 offers and to put it in context, it took several months to reach 1,000 pledges in the refugee campaign. our Syria accident a few years ago.”

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath previously told the Sunday Independent he wanted to use the unused funds to lower the State’s borrowing costs and narrow the deficit this year.

Taoiseach told the BBC on Sunday morning that more than 5,500 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland in recent weeks.

He said security checks were not being carried out but security officers were “monitoring” the situation at the airports.

“The humanitarian response transcends everything,” he said. “We know that can be taken advantage of by the bad guys.”

He said Ireland’s “main motivation” was to help people fleeing war.

Mr Martin also said neutrality was something that needed to be “reflected”, adding that Ireland was not “morally” or “politically” neutral.

“We will have to reflect this military neutrality more generally,” he said.

He said that a long-held position cannot be held “in the middle of a crisis”.

On the sanctions, Martin told reporters outside the BBC that the Government was working “in sync with the European Union” and said that was the basic principle of Ireland’s response.

“We will not take unilateral action regarding sanctions,” he said. “We don’t have financiers in Ireland because we don’t have them residing in Ireland. They haven’t bought any football clubs and the like.

“They are already very common here in the UK and other jurisdictions and our sanctions that we have agreed with the European Union make go after oligarchs across Europe. and track their finances. That’s good and that’s important in terms of maintaining pressure on the Russian system as well as the power and privilege system within the Russian Federation.”

Leader Fianna Fáil again said the fallout from the war would affect the cost of living and said it would be “a very challenging situation”.

He said there could be a “lasting” economic impact caused by the crisis.

“So we must act prudently and wisely about how we deploy resources to understand that they may not necessarily be short-term.”

Mr Martin said he had a “good meeting” with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday in Twickenham.

He said Mr Johnson paid homage to Ireland’s humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis.

They also discussed the Northern Ireland protocol with Mr Martin and said he stressed the EU’s desire for a solution to the issue.

“We have talked about the need for border stability in Northern Ireland and this will be an issue to which we will return.”

Regarding reports that the UK government is looking at a unilateral green channel for goods traveling from the UK to Northern Ireland, Mr Martin said there must be a negotiation between the EU and the UK and “unilateralism”. I generally don’t sign up”.

Mr. Martin said he was not concerned about ministers leaving the country for St. Patrick’s Week as the war in Ukraine continued, adding that there would be a Government meeting next week to approve it. TV affair.

He said he would discuss the Ukraine crisis with President Joe Biden during his visit to Washington DC, which begins Monday. Taoiseach says €4 billion Covid fund can be used for Ukrainian refugee response

Fry Electronics Team

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