Can the gravy train last?


A report earlier this month by Ciara Phelan in the Irish Examiner said the Government is to explore paying social welfare to Ukrainians as a way of encouraging them to return home when the temporary protection directive ends in March 2024.

A paper by the Department of Justice put forward at the Cabinet committee on Ukraine includes an option on how to “incentivise voluntary returns” including the continued provision of supports for a time-bound period to provide security to those returning.

Ukrainians can avail of jobseekers’ allowance if under the age of 66 and those older receive a supplementary welfare allowance.

They can also avail of child benefit and a number of other financial supports depending on their circumstances.

A front-page report in today’s Irish Times by Jack Power says the Irish Times analysed the logs of more than 3,500 payments made by the Department of Integration last year and found hotel groups and companies involved in running direct provision centres received tens of millions of euros in contracts.

Figures show Tifco Ltd, the second largest hotel operator in the country owned by US private equity group Apollo whose portfolio includes the Travelodge hotels was paid more than €80 million under State contracts to provide accommodation to Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers.

The second highest-paid company, Tetrarch Capital who owns the 764-bed Citywest hotel and connected convention centre was paid at least €34 million.

The UK-based JMK Group run by Pakistani-Irish businessman John Kajani received at least €17.2 million for its Holiday Inn Dublin Airport hotel.

Brimwood Unlimited, a company owned by former Monaghan GAA football manager Séamus McEnaney and his daughters got around €24 million for direct provision accommodation.

Mosney Unlimited owned by Drogheda-based businessman Phelim McCloskey got €15.8 million last year for direct provision accommodation.

His company has received €170 million since the direct provision system was set up in 2000.

Bridgestock Care Ltd, owned by Sligo-based businessman, Michael Gillen received €14.7 million for direct provision accommodation.

Latest financial accounts show Bridgestock recorded a profit of €3.8 million in 2021, with a further €2.5 million in earnings carried over from previous years.

It’s costing the state €30 million a week to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

Approximately €1 billion has been paid to accommodation providers for Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the war.

In the early months of this year there was considerable delays in processing payments and providers were paid interest on the money owed by the state to accommodation providers.

The requirement to pay interest on outstanding payments stems from the European Communities (Late Payment in Commercial Transactions) Regulations 2012.

Despite the massive financial outlay, the state is unable to provide accommodation for all new arrivals.

At the moment approximately 500 asylum seekers are without a place to live and some have resorted to living in tents in Dublin city centre.

Trouble broke out over the weekend in Dublin in a laneway off Upper Sandwith St that resulted in a makeshift camp set up by migrants being set ablaze by anti-immigration protesters. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the incident.

Meanwhile, the crisis extends beyond homelessness and social unrest. Scarce Garda resources are being deployed to keep the peace at protests. On Friday night, a line of gardaí stood between anti-immigration protesters and an opposing group who had gathered in support of the refugees in Upper Sandwith St.

Elsewhere, a Fáilte Ireland memo circulated to the Cabinet subcommittee on Ukraine last Thursday warns that the economy will take a €1.1bn hit because of a lack of hotel accommodation this summer because of the level of refugee and asylum-seeker occupancy.

𝘋𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘶𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘗𝘢𝘱𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘯 𝘋𝘪𝘴𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘛𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘮 𝘈𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 argues that there needs to be “mitigation measures” put in place for businesses that depend on tourists – such as boating, bike hire and cafes.

On 22 June 2022 Deputy Carol Nolan told Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, “I am convinced that if we do not learn to find some way of exploring in a grown-up, pragmatic and constructive way the links between unsustainable levels of inward migration or asylum into this State and housing, then we will never find a meaningful solution to an already overwhelming crisis…We can no longer bury our heads in the sand when it comes to these issues.”

O’Brien pulled out the racist card in his response to Deputy Nolan.

“I respectfully suggest that the Deputy’s comments this afternoon pose a risk to social cohesion. I want to be very clear on behalf of the Government…We will take in as many Ukrainian citizens fleeing the brutal war foisted upon them through no fault of their own as we must. We will not introduce any caps in that regard,” O’Brien said.

The promise not to put a cap on refugees, is one of the very few promises that the government has ever kept.

It’s a policy that’s contributing hugely to the crisis in housing and homelessness permeating every sector of society that is likely to lead to an increase in the type of social unrest we witnessed in Dublin over the weekend.

It’s leading to unemployment for low-paid workers, mostly females who work in the tourist, retail and hospitality sector.

The blame for the summer of unrest that we are heading into lies with the government that now appears to be stumbling from one crisis to another, saved only by the fact that there’s a budget surplus enabling them to throw money at the problem in the short term.

What happens when there’s a downturn in the economy and the money runs out?