Ukraine-linked sanctions may threaten Ireland's energy security - Coveney

Minister for Foreign Affairs says Europe could be facing first land war in decades

The threat of sanctions arising from the crisis in Ukraine is a risk to Ireland's energy security, the Cabinet has been warned.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said Europe could be facing its first land war in many decades, told Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that deliveries of Russian coal to Moneypoint power station risked being caught up in the fallout from the crisis if sanctions were to follow.

In addition, Ministers were told tit-for-tat sanctions in reprisal for any military action could have an impact on companies like Aughinish Alumina in Limerick, the refinery owned by Russian company Rusal, which was targeted by the US for sanctions in 2018.

There are also fears that parts of the globally networked financial services and aircraft-leasing sectors could be caught up in retaliatory actions, sources said.


Inflationary pressure

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has asked Martin Fraser, the State's most senior civil servant, to monitor the risk from potential sanctions. Action across the Government on sanctions is being co-ordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

A Government spokesman said "the situation regarding Russia and Ukraine is under continuous close assessment by all relevant departments across Government".

The Government came under fire in the Dáil over increases to the cost of living, with the Taoiseach telling the house that tensions in Ukraine risked adding more inflationary pressure to energy prices.

Mr Martin said the situation was "serious" and that citizens were advised to avoid non-essential travel to Ukraine.

‘Loss of life’

Advocating further dialogue to try to diffuse tensions, Mr Coveney said: “This could be the first land war in Europe that we’ve seen for many decades. It could result in an enormous loss of life and, of course, extraordinary disruption right across the continent of Europe.”

John Brady, the Sinn Féin spokesman on foreign affairs and defence called on the Government to use its seat on the UN Security Council to "talk up a de-escalation".

Meanwhile, Irish fishing boats are planning to peacefully disrupt plans by the Russian navy to conduct military exercises off the coast of Cork next month.

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said the area was very important for fishing and they wanted to protect biodiversity and marine life.

Minister of state Malcolm Noonan voiced similar concern, saying “we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences” for marine life including whales.

“It can cause significant disruption to their hearing systems and normal behaviour, and may lead to permanent or even lethal injury. I have written to both Minister Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to express these concerns.”

Russia's ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, said the military exercises planned for the Porcupine Seabight, southwest of Co Cork, were not a threat to Ireland.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

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