Cabinet to discuss Irish part of EU aid to Ukraine

Dáil motion on ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ comes amid military aid concerns

Ministers will be briefed on Irish and EU aid to Ukraine at Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting, while the Government has tabled a Dáil motion to express support for the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the country, to be discussed in the afternoon.

Ministers will discuss details of the Irish contribution to Ukraine from the EU, which decided over the weekend to send almost half a billion euro in military aid to the beleaguered country, the first time ever the bloc has directly intervened in this manner. Ireland has said that it will make a contribution to non-military aid.

On Monday, the Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan said it would not be acceptable for the Irish contribution to be used for military purposes. “It’s not for fuel that’s going into army tanks,” she told The Irish Times. “I would have a problem with that.”

But a Green TD, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disagreed, pointing out that the UN Charter allows for countries to act in self-defence.


Refugees to EU

Ministers are also likely to hear a briefing on Tuesday from Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on EU plans for dealing with the growing influx of refugees from Ukraine. Justice and home affairs ministers discussed the plans in Brussels on Sunday, but will return to the EU capital later this week to finalise a plan, it is understood.

The UN has estimated that the war could displace as many as four million refugees.

Ministers indicated on Monday that the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, who repeatedly claimed that Russia had no plans to invade Ukraine in recent weeks, would not be expelled. Senior Government sources did not rule out diplomatic action against Russian embassies, but said it would be done in concert with other EU members.

Many Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs have called for Mr Filatov’s expulsion.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said, “I can understand the anger of people, and of our public representatives towards Russia and towards Russian representatives in Ireland, personified in the person of the ambassador.

Diplomatic channels

“[Mr Filatov’s] public presentations have not been good. People in Ireland do not like that type of presentation,” he said, citing the ambassador’s contradictory statements on Russian’s intention to invade.

“On balance we want to retain a capacity to help Irish citizens be it in Russia or be it elsewhere in Ukraine who may need assistance from us urgently. In times of conflict, it is important to keep [diplomatic] channels open and also to have very fresh and up-to-date insights about what is happening on the ground in given locations.”

He said that was why expelling diplomats was always the last resort, inferring that the Russians would retaliate by expelling Irish diplomats if the Government pursued that action.

Government sources pointed to concerns for Irish citizens in Russia, many of whom worked in businesses that would be affected by the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West.

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Mr Filatov either did not know what was going to happen in Ukraine or he deliberately misled the Irish public, an Oireachtas Committee and the Minister as well.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times