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US warns of Russian efforts to interfere in Irish elections

Russia has been increasingly targeting European elections, attempting to sow distrust and discredit democratic institutions, diplomatic cable states

The Irish Government has been warned by the United States of potential attempts by Russia to interfere in upcoming elections.

The warning was contained in a diplomatic cable sent last month by the US State Department to dozens of countries worldwide considered at risk from election meddling from Moscow.

Government and diplomatic sources confirmed Ireland was one of the recipients. The warning states Russia is increasingly using social media, espionage and other hybrid or grey-zone methods to interfere with or discredit elections in democratic countries.

“Our information indicates that senior Russian government officials, including the Kremlin, see value in this type of influence operation and perceive it to be effective,” it stated.


US officials have warned countries, including Ireland, that since attempting to influence US Presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, Russia has become emboldened and increasingly sophisticated in its interference attempts, sources said.

The goal is not necessarily to ensure one side wins in an election but to sow enough division and doubt to create instability and erode social cohesion in countries Russia perceives to be hostile to its interests, Washington believes.

“Since coming out very strongly in support of Ukraine since 2022, Ireland certainly falls within that camp,” an Irish diplomatic source said.

The European Parliament elections scheduled for next year are believed to be a main target for Russian interference. Ireland will also host local elections next year and a general election sometime before March 2025.

Washington based its latest assessment on an examination of alleged Russian influence operations targeting 11 elections in nine countries between 2020 and 2022, including the United States. Another 17 countries were targeted by “less pronounced” attempts, the assessment states.

In its warning, the US highlighted one unnamed European country where Russian intelligence agents intimidated election workers, sabotaged overseas voting and used fake news websites to sow doubt about the results in a recent election.

The cable did not identify any of the countries alleged to have been targeted, although it is understood Ireland is not one of them.

An Irish Government spokesperson confirmed it has been in discussions with the US about potential Russian interference but declined to go into specifics.

“The authorities here have had discussions with US counterparts about foreign interference in the electoral processes of other states and their assessment of Russian-origin actions in this area.”

Foreign interference in electoral systems is a matter of shared concern “as it seeks to undermine democratic values and polarise societies,” they said.

“Ensuring the integrity of Ireland’s electoral process is a matter of the utmost concern for the Government and it will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure future elections in Ireland continue to be free and fair and without interference by external actors.”

The US Embassy in Dublin confirmed the existence of the cable. A spokesman said the US “notified each country, privately, on whether we assess Russia had sought to degrade public confidence in elections held in their country” but that the briefings are being kept confidential.

The Irish Government spokesperson pointed to several Irish and EU initiatives established to combat election inference. This will be one of the main tasks of the new independent electoral commission, An Coimisiún Toghcháin, they said.

A spokesman for An Coimisiún Toghcháin, which was established in February, said this week it has not received any information from the US on threats to elections. He said a “key function” of the Commission will be “the monitoring and management of any potential risks to electoral integrity as part of our preparations for future electoral events.”

In June, the commission’s chief executive Art O’Leary said foreign and domestic threats to the election process have been identified. He said its job is to combat disinformation spread during elections rather than to try to identify who is behind it.

“In a three-week window we don’t have the luxury of spending time trying to identify actors,” he told the Government’s Consultative Forum on International Security Policy.

The Russian Embassy in Dublin dismissed US warnings as part of an “anti-Russian disinformation campaign”.

Its purpose is to denigrate Russia and shift public attention away from “the real and well-established facts” of Washington’s own election meddling, a spokesman said.

Asked about the US cable on Monday, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee urged Irish people to be vigilant about what they read and believe online in advance of local and European elections due to be held next year.

“I think that’s always a risk,” she said of possible Russian interference. “We’ve seen this in other jurisdictions, whether it’s one particular country or any others, we have to be mindful of that,” she said, pointing to new cyber security structures that have been established to assess threats such as hacking or disinformation which have “massive implications for democracy”.

“I would remind people, if you’re looking at information online, where’s this information coming from, what are the sources, can it be trusted?”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times