Pets from Ukraine cost the State up to €1 million a month

Martin says this was only one aspect of Ireland’s ‘humane’ response and ‘reflects the best of what we are as a people’

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has defended the State paying up to €1 million a month for the transport and accommodation of pets from Ukraine as a “humanitarian” and “compassionate” response at the time.

He said nobody realised at the outset that the war in Ukraine would last more than two years and it was only one aspect of Ireland’s response to the conflict.

It was a “decent response that reflected the best of what we are as a people”, he told the Dáil.

Mr Martin was replying to Independent TD Michael McNamara who said that “in addition to the moneys being spent by the Department of Agriculture transporting pets from Ukraine, the Department of Integration was paying for their accommodation, up to €20 per pet per night, but it varied from centre to centre”.

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Mr McNamara highlighted a report in the Irish Daily Mirror that at the peak of provision in November 2022, more than 1,800 cats, dogs and other pets that travelled to Ireland with their Ukrainian refugee owners and were accommodated by the State.

Mr McNamara said it was “not possible to establish actually how much money was spent because there is just one invoice covering everything from various accommodation providers, and they do not differentiate between the cost of accommodating pets and accommodating humans, which, obviously, we are required to do under international law”.

Ireland, unlike other countries, seemed to have had no policy at the time, he said. “Some had a policy of ‘absolutely no pets - we cannot take your pets’. Others had a policy of ‘Yes, you can take your pets with you, but you pay for them yourself’.

“Ireland was paying for them, but we do not know how much money was spent. Based on the number of pets in the country, which was seven times more than the Department of integration knew about, it could have been up to €1 million a month.”

He asked if the Tánaiste was happy with “the oversight of spending in that Department when you were Taoiseach and are you happy with the oversight of spending now?”

Mr Martin said “we all responded in a humanitarian way at the time. No one believed the war would go on for two years.”

He told Mr McNamara that “there is a context to all this. I will always recall, when I was leaving Kyiv, the train station there. There is an exhibition in the train station which recalls the horror facing the population of Ukraine at the time. There were desperate photographs of mothers with their children looking out the windows at their husbands, in-laws, grandparents - frightened children. That was the scene.

“We all responded in humanitarian way. At the time, no one believed the war would go on for two years. I didn’t believe that it would go on for two years.”

The Tánaiste added that “the essential response we made at the time was to be a humane response”. He said that the Clare TD might two-and-a-half years later “instance one aspect of that response. I just think there was a context at the time in which this country responded.

“We can be overly negative about ourselves all the time. I think was a decent response that reflected the best of what we are as a people.”

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