County Limerick town struggling to meet needs of Ukrainian refugees

Limerick City and County Council Director of Economic Development Vincent Murray.

LIMERICK City and County Council has been called to provide the proper community, social, and transport infrastructure required to cater for the large number of Ukrainian refugees in one County Limerick town.

Speaking at this Monday’s Economic Development, Enterprise and Planning SPC (Strategic Policy Committee) meeting, a plea went out for greater support from the local authority to cope with the recent influx of refugees from war-torn Ukraine into Bruff.

Declan Hehir, a community representative member of the Public Participation Networks (PPN), told council members that the services and infrastructure currently in place are not appropriate.

He also pointed out that the population of the town is only 803 people.

“The community has total sympathy and welcome for the planned arrival of 340 people, however a 41 per cent increase in population presents many challenges for the community.

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“We are calling on Limerick City and County Council to provide the proper community, social, and infrastructure facilities required to cater for such a sudden increase in population to the town,” Mr Hehir explained.

“We just don’t have the adequate facilities for that many people. We realise this is an emergency situation but we don’t even have an appropriate bus service in Bruff.

“Ukrainians are forbidden from drinking alcohol in the convent where they are staying, so you see them drinking in the park, and you couldn’t really blame them.

“What are the Council going to do?” he asked.

The Council’s Director of Economic Development Vincent Murray pointed out that these are emergency measures that are currently in place.

“We are very sympathetic to the situation and we welcome the Ukrainian refugees in their time of need. We will remain in constant contact with the relevant authorities and look at getting longer term arrangements in place,” he replied.

“Is there any chance of getting an emergency bus service in place? There is only one bus in and out of Bruff daily so emergency measures are needed in case Ukrainian people need to get somewhere.

“I mean, what do you expect us to do this winter with no facilities?” Mr Hehir inquired.

Fine Gael councillor Olivia O’Sullivan reassured Mr Hehir that she had attended a meeting with Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien this week and these points were made to him.

“There are 50,000 Ukrainians in Ireland, which is a big ask of us to take that on. But on a positive note, 10,000 of these are already in the workforce,” Cllr O’Sullivan said.

“Transport was really emphasised to the Minister. Children are in centres and can’t get to school. This is hugely significant. But we are feeding all this information back to the government.

“This is a huge drain on resources, but everyone is trying to do the best they can.”

Independent councillor Eddie Ryan told council members that they had a briefing in the Cappamore/ Kilmallock Municipal District recently on the matter.

“There is 160 refugees in Bruff and a further 475 due into Cappamore. We need more. We still require a bus service, a proper service,” Cllr Ryan insisted.

“The community of Bruff has been so welcoming but it is down to us to say services are required and to go get them.”

Fine Gael councillor John Egan made the point that transport into and out of the town has been an ongoing issue with the current bus service in place.

“This was a problem when there was no Ukrainians, but it is a very big problem now. We need emergency transport to be funded and we will have to put the pressure on to get it.”