Minister of State Joe O’Brien TD visits refugee centre for Ukrainians in Estonia on official St. Patrick’s Day visit and pledges support for Community & Voluntary Groups in Ireland to assist in the Crisis

·         Minister visits busy refugee centre in Tallinn

·         Visit to NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence

As part of his official St. Patrick’s Day visit to Finland and Estonia earlier this week, Minister of State Joe O’Brien TD accompanied the Deputy Mayor of Tallinn to the country’s primary refugee centre processing Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Estonia, with a population of just over 1.3 million people, has welcomed over 20,000 refugees from Ukraine with the vast majority of them coming through Tallinn. Minister O’Brien spent time observing the operation of the centre and speaking with the management team about their experiences of set-up and operation.

Later in the day the Minister visited the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence where Irish Defence Forces Comdt Rónán O’Flaherty is stationed, and heard a presentation on the challenge of modern cyber terrorism.

Speaking after his visits Minister O’Brien said:

“The Ukrainian people accessing the centre have had their lives upended in the most unimaginable way.

“The volunteers on site were doing a fantastic job of supporting people and ensuring they have access to essential supplies for their immediate needs as well as helping to prepare them for a longer stay in Tallinn.

“However, despite this support the trauma that people have experienced was evident during my visit. The children’s artwork, mostly depicting Ukrainian colours & memories of their home, adorning the walls was particularly poignant.

“In both Helsinki and Tallinn I met with the Ukrainian Ambassador to each country and the message was clear – international solidarity and support is hugely important to the Ukrainian community.

“I am delighted to be able to say that Ireland extends that solidarity and support.”  

The Irish Government is working to ensure that local capacity, resources and knowledge are brought to bear on the overall humanitarian response and is working closely with Local Authorities to ensure a well-co-ordinated and seamless approach. 

This will provide a structure to draw fully on the capability, know-how and reach of the Community and Voluntary Sector. 

The Minister concluded:

“In my role as Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities I intend to closely work with the Community and Voluntary sector to ensure that support is maximised.

“This is why one of my first engagements upon arrival back to Dublin on Wednesday morning was a meeting with representatives from that sector to discuss how best my Department can support the sector – and ultimately the Ukrainian people – through this crisis.”

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