A top official in Mayo County Council has asked for owners of holiday homes and vacant homes to come forward to offer their properties to home Ukrainian refugees who are coming to the county.
On Monday morning this week, 20 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Westport at 5am and are currently being housed in the Quay Community Centre. The group is comprised of one grandmother, seven mothers, nine daughters, one son, and one single female.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week, Director of Services for Mayo County Council, Tom Gilligan, outlined that there is a shortage of accommodation in the county and how this is affecting the council's ability to house the refugees.
"At the moment we have a number of locations throughout the county. We have some in the Great National Hotel in Ballina, the McWilliam Hotel in Claremorris, Breaffy Woods and in our own facility in Lough Lannagh in Castlebar. There are other refugees in Newport as well, we opened up and utilised last week the Quay Community Centre in Westport. We had 20 refugees arrive at 5am on Monday morning. We are working with the other agencies as well, and I want to compliment them for the work they are doing, to make sure they are in a safe environment. We have a catering company lined up, we have security, cleaning organised. We are trying to provide alternative accommodation as well because at the moment they are on 20 camp beds, it is not ideal and we’ve installed a washing machine, looking at installing our own showers there for them.
"I put a call out in relation to vacant properties, particularly holiday homes, which is the low hanging fruit here. Because those homes could be occupied very quickly, most would be of a standard that would be suitable.
"But it is difficult, because we have that lack of accommodation, we have a housing crisis, with so few properties available. There is a moral obligation I think myself on making property owners and holiday homes owners to step up and come forward and help these people out - it is a tragic situation for them. To see them come off the coach at 5am, they are traumatised, they don’t know where they really are, they are dropped off in the middle of the night, they are brought in, they have probably never been to Ireland before. But all I can say is there is no complaints, they're going around with smiles, they are are being incredible, but it is so tragic for them.
"The thing is we have been relying so much on hotel accommodation and I want to thank them so much, but the reality here is this is the tourism season coming in, we have our own major events and it is getting more and more difficult for hotel accommodation and getting consecutive nights. They could come and say we have a wedding on Saturday and have no room that night. That is why we need to look into setting up our own centres in relation to this, we are looking at other facilities in the county, we have had a number of groups like soccer clubs and rugby clubs who have offered their facilities to us and we are looking at them."