Over half of Ukrainian refugee accommodation pledges have been cancelled, and it highlights our inability to maintain momentum
In the face of civil unrest, social injustice and national tragedy, we’re quick to get behind a cause — but once it drops out of the headlines, it seems to disappear from the collective consciousness entirely.
In excess of 1,000 people who had offered to house Ukrainian refugees have withdrawn their pledge, leaving an influx of those fleeing their wartorn countries without accommodation.
At present, there are 24,438 Ukrainians in Ireland, of which 16,000 are in urgent need of a safe place to stay. With arrival numbers reaching 400 daily, it is estimated that by the end of May, there could be up to 33,000 people seeking asylum throughout the country.
There are currently 2,325 beds available through local authorities, and once hotels and B&Bs are approved, the number of available beds will increase to 10,500.
Once news of the Ukrainian invasion reached Irish shores, people throughout the length and breadth of the country were quick to offer up their homes or vacant properties to those in need. However, once a follow up email was sent out, 12,000 pledges have been either withdrawn, or fallen through entirely.
Incentivising the people of Ireland back into action, the government is currently considering a monthly payment of €400 for those volunteering to host Ukrainian refugees in their own homes.
This is a prime illustration of the way in which public outrage and outpourings of support quickly peter out once the initial compulsion to get behind a cause has been sufficiently expressed. While it may be well intentioned at its core, it’s practical follow through that we struggle with.
As a whole, activism in modern Ireland is truly magnificent. As a nation, we’ve fought tooth and nail for social justice, martial equality and reproductive rights — and won. From protests to petitions, campaigners, advocates and volunteers have proved time and time again that exacting real change is possible when we band together toward the common good.
Between the rapid fire pace at which news becomes old and the tendency for real stories to get eaten up by a perpetually updating timeline, the tendency towards knee-jerk activism is unavoidable.
Eager to pledge our allegiance to a cause, we chime in on social issues and reshare infographics to spread valuable information in a flurry, but it’s become all too easy to leave it at that. Taking on a feeling of box ticking, paying lip service to a cause rather than standing firmly behind it until a real, tangible difference has been made.
So far this year, the Irish nation has been left reeling on numerous occasions following unimaginable levels of violence. In the wake of the 23-year-old Ashling Murphy’s killing in Tullamore, vigils honouring her life took place throughout the country. The attack also prompted renewed pressure placed on the Department of Justice to develop a new strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence so that the women of Ireland can feel safe and protected. The third national strategy in Irish history, this is an attempt at tackling an issue that we cannot lose sight of.
The recent unthinkable murders of two Sligo based men — Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee — affected our nation in a similar way. With hate crime legislation due to be enacted this summer, these egregious and heartbreaking attacks have also brought the necessity for structural reform back into the public consciousness. From LGBTQI+ inclusive sex education in school to diverse representation across the board, we need to ensure that this momentum is not squandered.
If we want to achieve real, systemic change in these areas, and if we as a nation want to provide safe asylum for those forced out of their countries due to an ongoing war, we cannot lose focus. We need to back up our outrage with action, maintaining the level of energy required to see things through.
If there’s an initial compulsion to use your voice and resources — whether that’s calling out misogynistic behaviour or volunteering to welcome refugees under your roof — then continue to shout about it and act on it. If we’re to make changes, we cannot let the balloon hit the floor.
Protest photo via PA Images