Ireland ‘won’t shut Border’ over British concerns about Ukranian refugees - Ryan

Donnelly ‘regrets’ British government’s position and ‘would love to see UK in line with Europe’

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Ireland was making ‘the right decisions’ by making it easier for Ukranian refugees to arrive here in line with the approach in fellow EU member states. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Ireland is not going to shut the Border in response to any British concerns over the State’s open-door policy for Ukrainian refugees, Green Party leader and Minister Eamon Ryan has said.

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday quoted an unnamed British government source expressing concern that Ireland’s plan to give shelter to up to 100,000 people fleeing the Russian invasion could pose a security risk to the UK. The number of refugees who have arrived in Britain remains in the low hundreds.

“We’ve seen this before with migrants from Albania that they have come through Dublin, into Belfast and across to the mainland to Liverpool. That’s created a drug cartel route,” the source told the Daily Telegraph.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said there had been an open Border with Northern Ireland throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and that was not going to change.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Ryan was asked if such concerns were legitimate. He said there had been an open Border with Northern Ireland throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and that was not going to change due to the arrival of refugees in Ireland.


He said security can be enhanced with good sharing of information.

“We’re not going to shut the Border... I think the UK government are going to understand this in the same way we understand when it was coming the other way with the pandemic, that the best way is not to shut the Border but to make sure you share information and that gives confidence and security.”

Under Common Travel Area rules, British and Irish citizens can travel freely between the two countries without passport checks.

Information sharing

Mr Ryan said the Cabinet was told that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has been in regular dialogue with British home secretary Priti Patel, including on mechanisms for sharing information on arrivals into Ireland in a “GDPR-appropriate manner”.

He said there was a common European Union approach and he believed the bloc was showing its strengths and values during the crisis. Mr Ryan declined to comment on whether the UK needed to do more to help refugees, saying Ireland was focused on “getting our own logistics right”.

However, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly earlier said he “regrets” the British government’s current position on accepting Ukrainian refugees.

He said Ireland was making “the right decisions” on admitting large numbers and making it easier for them to arrive here, in line with the EU approach.

“I regret the UK’s current position…I would love to see the UK in line with what Europe is doing,” he told reporters at the launch of a women’s health action plan in Dublin.

Separately, Ireland’s participation in a fourth round of sanctions against Russia is being considered by the Government on Tuesday.

The EU, the US and others have imposed string of economic sanctions on Russia, its president Vladimir Putin and some of his key allies in response to the invasion.

Fresh sanctions

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he expected a further EU announcement on fresh sanctions within days. He suggested that products such as oil, coal, timber and gas were being considered but that there was no agreement yet.

Mr Donnelly said Cabinet would also discuss health supports being put in place for the anticipated arrival of large numbers of Ukrainians.

“There will be an initial healthcare assessment, we’ll obviously have a vaccine programme ready to go,” he said. “There’ll be medical cards, we’re arranging access to GPs for people who come in who might be in hotels, for example, or if they’re within the community we’re arranging access to local GPs, access to hospitals as well.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin later told the Dáil that events unfolding in Ukraine had created the largest humanitarian crisis seen since the second World War. He said “every effort” would be made by the Government “to do what we can”.

“There are no immediate answers, but what it will mean is that some of the norms that would characterise business as usual, will have to be put to one side in terms of enabling facilities and work to be done to create accommodation,” he said.

“We no longer have the luxury to be saying we can’t have this development over there or that development over there, the crisis is going to be so big in my view that we will have to pull out all the stops as quickly as we can as a society and as a Government to do it.”

Mr Martin was responding to Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald who said the figure of 100,000 refugees being speculated by members of Government was “a huge scale of people seeking refuge”. “The question arises, how our system, that’s already stretched can accommodate a challenge like this, where will these refugees live, what’s the accommodation plan,” she said.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

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

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times