New documentary shines light on empathy of Kerry community

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Tim Clifford with Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko at the opening for the
Tim Clifford with Ukraine’s Ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko

As a candidate in the Kenmare Local Election Area, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with our community—both the long-standing residents of South Kerry and those who’ve joined us more recently, under dire circumstances, from Ukraine. Last week, I attended the screening of “How Ireland Welcomed Ukrainians” at the Rose Hotel in Tralee, a moving documentary that captures the spirit of our community’s response to the Ukrainian crisis.

The film, a collaborative effort between Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and North, East, and West Kerry Development (NEWKD), not only showcases the warm welcome Kerry has extended but also highlights the active contributions of Ukrainian refugees. From participating in local sports teams to volunteering, their gratitude and willingness to integrate and enrich our society in such circumstances is admirable.

One of the event organisers, Natalya Krasnenkova, said: “When I arrived, I realised we were very lucky as I think Kerry people are the warmest in all of Ireland. Really empathetic, really helpful, really friendly, and I’m delighted to be here. Of course, I want to return home, and I wait for that moment, but I am happy.

Having the opportunity to chat with Ukraine’s Ambassador to Ireland, Larysa Gerasko (pictured above), at the screening, was an honour. It underscored the significance of our local actions and the power of community solidarity.

Living in Killorglin and engaging with businesses and people across South Kerry, I’ve witnessed first-hand the support our locals have shown towards our new Ukrainian neighbours. Displaced by a war forced on their democratic European country, their presence in South Kerry, especially in areas suffering from outward migration, has been somewhat of a boon for our local communities.

The Ukrainians I’ve spoken to express immense gratitude for the dignity and warmth with which Kerry has embraced them. They’re mindful of occupying hotel spaces during tourist season and are eager to contribute positively to our economy, many working within the hospitality sector themselves. Yet, their aspirations extend beyond temporary solutions—even with an uncertain future they seek independence, the ability to cook their own meals, live in permanent homes, and integrate fully into our community.

Nearly 50% are working which helps the shortage in the workforce and are actively looking for housing to rent. Ukrainians are learning the English language, 40% attend offline courses, 55% will learn the language independently in online courses. There is also a large number with qualifications that need to go through a transition process to get the Irish equivalent. 

The crux of the issue is the acute housing crisis exacerbated by successive FF/FG government failures. This crisis not only affects our new residents but also impacts Irish homeless in the same temporary accommodation system, those subjected to high rents, and young adults confined to their childhood homes.

I am proud to live in Kerry. I am proud because of the genuine empathy of Kerry people, where Céad Míle Fáilte actually means something. I am proud because as a rural county Kerry people are fair and progressive. I am proud because Kerry people are problem solvers. And because of these reasons, together, I am sure we can adapt and overcome issues through progressive thinking and not regressive reaction.

For a deeper insight into the experiences of Ukrainians living in Ireland, I encourage you to explore the Ukrainian Action 2024 survey: