Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Ukrainian War

3:00 pm

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for selecting this issue. Deputy Cannon planned to be in the Chamber for the Topical Issue debate on Tuesday and Wednesday but it does not suit him to be here today.

On the education side, many young Ukrainians, and primarily their mothers, will be overwhelmed on arrival by having to deal with such a dramatic change in their lives and the trauma of the recent past.

Their fathers might not be with them. This will be very difficult.

The first point of contact in the community will be through the schools. Already, we are seeing schools facilitating so many young people. There are many schools. Even in my own constituency today, I was copied into an email from a primary school that was written to the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley. It said that they are ready, willing and able. They want to help and they want to facilitate young people and young Ukrainians. While that process is overwhelming, I would like to especially acknowledge the officials who are working closely with organisations such as Dóchas and the Red Cross in trying to prepare the ground for such a massive undertaking. We are talking about over 100,000 individuals. In dealing with the trauma part of it, there will be a role for the schools. There will be a natural healing in getting students - young people and young Ukrainians - into the schools as quickly as possible so that they can be with people their own age. Obviously, other services will be needed. Our services are already stretched in this area. However, we have to ensure we have support systems for people who are dealing with severe trauma in this regard.

The Committee on European Union Affairs, which I chair, is being proactive. The Ukrainian ambassador will be before the committee next Tuesday. The Moldovan and Georgian ambassadors will be there too. We have reached out to the Romanian and Polish ambassadors. We want to be as proactive as possible to help on the humanitarian side. We are also looking at the real, urgent needs that Ukrainian citizens have at the moment.

The opposite of hope is despair. There is still so much hope out there when you speak to people. People are finding it difficult to deal with the visuals that they are seeing on social media and on television on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis. They are struggling with those visuals. That being said, people are trying to help. I believe there is such a capacity in the Ukrainian people who have become part of our communities over recent years. I am finding through my own office that individuals are reaching out to me, directly and indirectly, to offer help, such as in the area of translation. I know a particular Ukrainian individual who has translated for the HSE and has also been a support teacher in a secondary school. Politicians like myself and the Minister of State, in his office in Kildare, need to have a one-stop shop to direct that. I know this will not happen straight away. We will not have everything right straight away. It is important from an information point of view, where people are trying to help. I will add another point at the end. I acknowledge the role of both Ministers, Deputies McEntee and Humphreys, in the social protection aspect of this matter. That is already up and running so that people can get a personal public service, PPS, number quickly, which is so important. I am delighted to see such a pro-active approach in that regard.


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