Ministers to decide on Russian expulsions after security briefings

Donohoe says appropriate for State to review matters of national security

Paschal Donohoe: “it is appropriate that Ireland conduct a review of this matter within our own jurisdiction, and that is what is happening”

Paschal Donohoe: “it is appropriate that Ireland conduct a review of this matter within our own jurisdiction, and that is what is happening”

 

Ministers will be briefed in the coming days on the security review of the Russian embassy currently taking place, before the Cabinet decides on any possible expulsions of embassy staff on Tuesday.

Government Buildings sources say that assessments have been carried out by gardaí and military intelligence officers amid Irish concerns about some personnel at the embassy and plans for a significant expansion of facilities there.

The embassy wants to fly in builders from Russia to undertake the construction, but it is understood that no visas have yet been issued for the workers.

A Government source would only say that the work visas issue had been discussed as part of the general background to the embassy issue.

On Sunday it was reported that a Moscow firm with links to the Kremlin is responsible for the planned expansion at the embassy near Rathgar, Dublin.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney travelled to Sweden on Sunday night for a series of meetings on Monday morning, and will return to Dublin in the afternoon when he is expected to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan for discussions on the security situation.

On Friday Mr Varadkar said the Government would consider whether to expel Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK’s retaliatory response over a nerve-agent attack on a former spy in England.

Mr Varadkar said a review would be conducted to assess whether Russian diplomats were covertly working as intelligence agents.

Tough stance

His tough stance came after British prime minister Theresa May addressed European leaders at a summit dinner on Thursday evening, sharing British intelligence assessments of the Salisbury poisoning.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said that Ireland would be accused of not acting in solidarity with its UK ally had the Taoiseach not ordered a review of Russian diplomats and their activities in Ireland.

He said “it is appropriate that Ireland conduct a review of this matter within our own jurisdiction, and that is what is happening” following the information and assessment shared at the EU Council meeting in Brussels.

“If we were not indicating a willingness to do so of course we would face charges then about are we not acting in solidarity with a country that is an ally of our own”.

The Minister said on RTÉ Radio’s This Week: “It is appropriate that we conduct a review of this matter ourselves in relation to matters of national security.”

He added: “Where there are consequences within our own jurisdiction for activity that has happened elsewhere it is the Irish Government that should do that work and that is what is happening.”

‘Rushing to judgment’

Fianna Fáil has warned against “rushing to judgment” on the expulsion of Russian diplomats.

The Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O’Brien said he had sought a meeting with Mr Coveney about the “possible plans to sanction Russia in the wake of the Salisbury incident.

“I have already expressed concerns about certain comments made by the Taoiseach last week relating to the possible expulsion of Russian ambassadors,” he said. “The Government should not be rushing to judgment before having a thorough, objective and neutral assessment of allegations, and this is something I intend to raise with Minister Coveney.”