THE population of Sherkin Island is expected to increase by almost 50% as the local hotel opens its doors to 57 Ukrainians.
Deirdre Ní Luasaigh, chairperson of Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS), confirmed that the refugees are ‘new arrivals’ to Ireland.
She said their organisation is working with the Cork County Community Response Team – an inter-agency group involving the HSE, The Red Cross, Comhar na nOileán, An Garda Síochána and social services, amongst others.
The IPAS – the International Protection Accommodation Services – has organised for the refugees to stay at the island hotel, Sherkin House.
‘As is our reputation,’ Deirdre said, ‘our island will reach out with a warm welcome to those in need of safety, care and compassion. We are a good port in a storm.’
SIDS wrote to the 111 inhabitants of the island and the proposal received ‘a really positive’ response.
‘The island hotel – which has been idle for the last three years – was quickly identified as a resource and the owners of the amenity happily came on board,’ said Deirdre.
Although the island is rural and remote, there is a very active community in winter time, and it is just 10 minutes from Baltimore by ferry. The group was initially expected to arrive on the island on August 1st but that was postponed until later this week.
It is understood that their food will be provided by a catering firm for the first two weeks but after that they will be living as independently as they can, as part of the island community.
The new inhabitants should find lots to do, including social dancing, a mother and toddler group, coffee mornings, crocheting, book clubs and continuing art classes.
‘When they come into the island,’ Deirdre said, ‘they will be met by members of the Cork County Community Response Team in Baltimore and on Sherkin who will help them with the process and give them information.’
‘They will be given a few days to settle into their surroundings, then the response team will send in a health in-reach team – which will include nurses and health practitioners – to offer whatever assistance may be required.
‘A lot of islanders feel it is good to be doing something to help people who are in awful circumstances, not of their making,’ said the SIDS chairperson.
‘People are offering whatever support and help they can provide. Some are offering to help teach English, while another person kindly offered to help anyone with hearing difficulties. It goes to show the generous and caring nature of the people of Sherkin,’ said Deirdre.
Meanwhile, on Cape Clear Island, Cork County Council inspected a number of houses last Thursday, which islanders hope will be suitable for more Ukrainian refugees. Demand for emergency accommodation is set to spike with students shortly returning to units currently housing an estimated 3,000 refugees nationwide.