Payments to families for hosting Ukrainian refugees not yet agreed

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath

Senan Molony

No work has yet been done on drafting a scheme to financially support Irish families taking in refugees from war-torn Ukraine , a week after the Taoiseach revealed the Government would look into the issue.

The first draft of proposals is not expected before next month at the very earliest, the Sunday Independent understands.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath told a press conference last Thursday that “the Government will match the generosity of the Irish people in welcoming Ukrainian refugees”.

But he admitted when contacted this weekend that discussions had yet to get under way about framing such a scheme, much less the specifics of how much money would be involved.

However, the State is severely stretched with existing commitments, not least in finding accommodation and providing social protection payments to tens of thousands of arrivals from Ukraine.

Experts say there is “absolutely no possibility” of matching the British payment to hosts of £350 a month. Sterling is particularly strong at present, meaning an equivalent amount of €422.76 at exchange rates yesterday, or about €100 a week.

While Merrion Street is silent on the issue, sources believe a more realistic sum might be €225 a month in an Irish context, or a stipend of €2,700 a year.

Such a scheme could cost the Government €30m a year, but the State does not want to be seen as paying people to lodge refugees, while it is also felt that most hosts do not wish to see their generosity tainted by an unseemly debate about money, which runs the risk of making the process look grubby.

The Tánaiste has confirmed that financial assistance is “something that’s being considered at the moment”, although Ukrainian refugees are afforded social welfare.

“There is a cost associated with somebody staying in your home. And we do want to encourage people to invite people into their homes,” Mr Varadkar said.

The details are “being discussed between Equality Minister [Roderic] O’Gorman and Minister McGrath”, he claimed, but it has now emerged that no such discussions have yet taken place and the Dáil and political echelon are on an Easter break next week.

The Tánaiste said his own offer of accommodation to Ukrainian refugees with partner Dr Matt Barrett was proceeding, but was not straightforward.

“I think a lot of people have offered, and understandably a lot of people are frustrated that their offers are not progressing for various reasons,” he said, citing duty of care issues.

Meanwhile, Mr McGrath revealed that €3bn is being set aside for the cost of the Ukrainian influx next year — equivalent to €600 for every Irish citizen.

This is based on an assumption that an average of 100,000 Ukrainian exiles may be living here in 2023, with politicians united in agreeing that the cost must be willingly and cheerfully borne in defence of freedom and democratic norms.