143 Ukrainians have entered State since waiving of visa requirements, McEntee says

Coveney says under 80 Irish citizens remain in Ukraine as Dáil debates motion on crisis

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said 143 Ukrainians have entered the State since the waiving of visa requirements for all Ukrainians travelling here.

The move to waive visa requirements for Ukrainians was announced last Friday following the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.

However, Ms McEntee also said that many of those 143 were previously resident in Ireland and "have travelled back to the State for reasons other than escaping the conflict in Ukraine".

She said she would keep “the situation and these numbers” under review as events in Ukraine transpire.

Ms McEntee was speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday during a motion calling for support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

She said it was likely the EU would activate the Temporary Protection Directive, designed to provide a “co-ordinated response for a mass influx of displaced persons”.

“This measure has not previously been used by the EU, the view is that it would be a right mechanism to help those leaving Ukraine,” she said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney meanwhile said just under 80 Irish citizens remained in Ukraine. He said his department was also in contact with families in surrogacy arrangements involving Ukraine but did not want to make any comment on that publicly, "given the extreme sensitivity of the situation that applies to a number of families, some here and some in Poland, waiting for news of their newborn children".

“I want to make clear that our strong advice is against all travel to Ukraine for any reason,” he said.

“I understand the strength of feeling among Ukrainian and Irish citizens alike and some have been in contact with my department, looking for information on how to join the military efforts to defend Ukraine.

“I must make clear again – the situation in Ukraine is extremely volatile and dangerous and Irish citizens and residents should not travel under any circumstances.”

Ambassador’s statements

Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil that two weeks ago the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, had told an Oireachtas committee that any invasion of Ukraine "would be insane".

“He repeated the same statement on national television. Last week, his president, Mr [Vladimir] Putin, gave the order to invade Ukraine. Does the ambassador in Dublin now believe that president Putin is in fact insane?” Mr Flanagan said.

“The invasion of Ukraine is the latest in a very long line of Russian and Putin aggression.”

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart said the Taoiseach needed to "call in the [Russian] ambassador soon and give him a dressing down, not least in regard to the lies he told the Government and the people of this country".

Mr Lahart said he understood the importance of maintaining diplomatic connections and that calls for the Russian ambassador to be expelled “arose out of a sense of powerlessness and anger in the face of Russian actions”.

“I think we can certainly expel the bulk of the Russian team at the embassy, particularly their spying team, their listeners and that section of its diplomatic corps,” he said.

Escalation

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy told the Dáil he wanted to address the "campaign from large sections of the establishment to paint anyone who opposes escalation and the risk of nuclear war as in some way pro-Putin".

“It is a disgusting slur designed to silence opponents of war, in order to further the plans on display in this debate today to undermine Ireland’s neutrality,” he said.

“The idea that we are in some way soft on Putin is patently ridiculous.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the actions of Russia had brought "nothing but death and destruction to a proud country".

"They are acts that we have regrettably witnessed around the world in modern times – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine, " she said.

“They are acts that have no place in the 21st century, period, irrespective of who the aggressor is.”

Labour TD Brendan Howlin said the last six days had been "among the most momentous and frightening in Europe since the end of the second World War".

“The settlement we Europeans thought existed, one that underpinned peace on our continent, has been fundamentally undermined and attacked. This Dáil must be clear and united in our response,” he said.