Small town a model of real integration

May 9th, 2023 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

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IT was announced earlier this week that the 80 Ukrainians living in Kerry, who were served with a notice of intention to have them moved on, have been given a reprieve, but at time of going to press, nobody seems to know for how long.

The Ukrainians, who have been in Cahersiveen for a year, were told just last week that they are being moved in order to make way for people who have applied for asylum.

This is not the first time we have seen stories of Ukrainians pleading to be allowed to stay where they have initially settled in Ireland. As in the several other cases (Killarney, to name but one) the people running from a brutal war simply want to be allowed to stay where they have, albeit temporarily – they hope, put down roots.

Just last October, 135 Ukrainian women and children were told they would be moved from Killarney to Westport and it wasn’t until various discussions between Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman and Minister for Education Norma Foley came to a conclusion that they were told they could stay in the Kerry town.

The group had been living in a Killarney hotel for six months and were informed on a Monday they would be taken to Westport in Co Mayo – practically the opposite end of the country – on the following Wednesday. There was such a massive outpouring of anger at the time amid accusations of the government showing no empathy or caring for our Ukrainian visitors, that one would have expected the Department mandarins would have learned their lessons.

Alas, not, it seems. And here we are again. More discussions, more appeals, more Ukrainian people taking to the airwaves to plead to be just left where they are – where they have made friends, found jobs and where their already traumatised small children have started school, settled in and made firm friends.

Moving all these families now will not just upend their own lives, but the lives of the small community of Cahersiveen which has embraced them wholeheartedly, it would appear. Locals took to the media this week to explain how much their little town has been enriched by their presence – one woman saying they were the ‘backbone’ of their tourist economy now, able to fill so many jobs that were otherwise lying vacant.

Some children have joined local GAA clubs, and goodness knows, we need all the young people we can get to join local sports organisations, because there has been such a massive exodus of both Irish men and women, once they reach their late teens and head for the likes of Australia, Canada and the US. As in Cahersiveen, the arrival of the Ukrainian people in so many small towns and villages across Ireland, has given a much-needed boost to the local communities, providing fresh energy and staff for hospitality and tourism jobs.

Of course, there have been challenges on both sides, as the people of the Co Kerry town noted this week – with initial strains on the schools, doctors’ surgeries and more, but they had all come together and made a plan, and it appears to have worked out.

It seems the people of Cahersiveen have made a better job of integrating our Ukrainian friends than our own government has done. In a statement last week, the Department of Children and Integration said it was aware of the impact of the initial decision, and that such moves only take place where ‘absolutely necessary’.

And yet, as examples in the past have shown, when the pressure is on, there is always a better way. It is just a shame the better way isn’t explored first.

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