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Grim diplomatic dance on Ukraine reaches its end with Russian invasion

Inside Politics: Widespread condemnation of Russian aggression in Dáil exchanges

The grim diplomatic dance has reached its end. Ukraine's president has declared martial law as Russia launched military strikes on the country, while the country's foreign minister called it a "full-scale invasion".

Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the action during a televised address early on Thursday morning, saying the move was a response to threats from Ukraine. Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as well as Odesa and Kharkiv following Putin's announcement that the military operation had begun.

The latest updates can be read here and on irishtimes.com throughout the day.

The gathering crisis also received detailed consideration in the Dáil and at parliamentary party meetings. As Cormac McQuinn reports, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told a meeting of his parliamentary party on Wednesday: "We are seeing mass militarisation and we have seen nothing like this since [the second World War]."

He said: "Everyone in Europe is vulnerable to this aggression and we cannot accept it."

Mr Martin raised concern at the prospect of a “severe escalation” which would have “devastating consequences” that would impact on global stability, economies and inflation. He expressed a hope that “diplomacy can win out”.

Simon Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said much the same in the Dáil. There was widespread condemnation of Russian aggression but marked differences when it came to the analysis of the conflict, and the solutions. Opinions divided along party and ideological lines, including criticism of Nato and of funds from controversial Russian entities passing through the IFSC.

There were also some predictable side-swipes including Sinn Féin's John Brady devoting too much of his speech to denouncing Boris Johnson and the Tory government in Britain.

‘Golfgate’ lands Tánaiste in the rough

The "afters" of the Golfgate controversy continue to fester. On Monday it was Phil Hogan, yesterday it was the three Fine Gael senators who found themselves summarily suspended from the parliamentary party for six months after attending the Clifden event.

Following the judgment of Galway District Court, this week has been payback time for the three, Jerry Buttimer, Paddy Burke and John Cummins. They met party leader and Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, privately on Tuesday where he outlined the procedure.

It all played out at last night's parliamentary party. Jennifer Bray coaxed a fantastic line from one of the participants who described the meeting as "long and strange".

It boggles the mind. At issue was a complaint that Varadkar had dispensed with established procedures in the party by giving the three senators the order of the boot.

As Jennifer reports: “Mr Varadkar told TDs and Senators (at the meeting) he would examine the concerns raised and look at the party rules and also committed to including a recognition of the recent Golfgate acquittals in the official minutes of the meeting.”

Best Reads

Miriam Lord on the daily bitter-battering between Micheál Martin and Mary Lou McDonald at Leaders Questions.

Denis Staunton reports on Boris Johnson's defence of the sanctions the UK has imposed on Russia.

Simon Carswell has a comprehensive report on the annual report of the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon and her strong defence of her office's record in enforcing data protection rules.

Simon quotes her as referring to “very damaging” profiles on Ireland’s data protection regime that have been written over the years.

As he reports: "She said that misinformation had been 'amplified' by commentators who 'have no knowledge' of the work it has done, the fines imposed, the cases progressed or the litigation it has engaged in. It was a problem for Ireland and a problem for the DPC, she said."

A second Garda inquiry in three years has been launched into alleged electoral fraud in Sligo-Leitrim.

This is Sarah Burns' report on the testy exchanges between the Taoiseach and Sinn Féin leader over the O'Devaney Gardens development.

Playbook

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will attend an emergency summit in Brussels tonight to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

The Shared Island Forum meets again tomorrow with sport as its theme. Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers will lead out the debate on behalf of the Government, and the key address will be delivered by the celebrated boxer Barry McGuigan.

The moderator is our own Joanne O'Riordan. One of the most interesting sessions will be discussing how to tackle the drop-off in sports participation among teenagers. Former badminton international Chloe Magee, Professor Niall Moyna of DCU and Paralympics gold medallist Jason Smyth are the participants.

In the Dáil Green Party colleagues, Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan will, in turn, respond to questions relating to their responsibilities in the first two sessions of the morning.

Leaders’ Questions are at 12 and the afternoon session will be primarily taken up by a debate on the Government’s “Town Centre First” policy.

In the Seanad, Linda Ervine, who comes from a loyalist background, will address the House on the Irish language (she is a speaker) and possibly about the GAA club she has founded in East Belfast.

Later there is a debate on mental health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

A Bill drafted by Fine Gael's Barry Ward will also be debated. It proposes to ban secondary or alternative betting on the National Lottery in bookmaker shops and on online gambling sites.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will appear before the Committee on Health to discuss the revised estimates (budget) for the sector.

The Committee on Public Accounts is examining the financial statements of the Residential Tenancies Board.