Ukraine crisis is like nothing Europe has seen since second World War, Martin says

Taoiseach also tells his party to ‘hold its nerve’ on plans to tackle housing crisis

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the current crisis on Ukraine is "very serious" and Europe has seen nothing like it since the second World War.

Amid ongoing fears that Russia will invade Ukraine and a Russian military build-up along its border, the Fianna Fáil leader briefed his TDs and Senators ahead of an emergency meeting of EU leaders on Thursday on the crisis.

Mr 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”.

Mr Martin said that sanctions against Russia would impact the EU as well, but they were a “necessary response”. EU countries have already approved tough new sanctions on Russian officials in response to a move to recognise territories controlled by Russian-backed separatists in east Ukraine, seen as a possible pretext for an invasion of Ukraine.

All departments and agencies have been asked to develop contingency plans in response to this crisis, Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin also said there would be a “humanitarian approach” to the impact any conflict in the region would have on migration.

He also cautioned that there was a cybersecurity risk that must be monitored and predicted that there would be “a difficult period ahead”.

Some TDs raised concerns that the crisis would bring further increases to the cost of living.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness is understood to have said some people are already making hard choices between food or fuel, while Cork East TD James O’Connor is said to have raised concern that the cost of fuel is hurting working families. Both TDs called for more Government action on this issue.

‘Hold your nerve’

The Taoiseach also told his party to “hold your nerve” on its plans to tackle the housing crisis.

It came after a heated clash with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil on the issue on Wednesday.

Mr Martin said he was “focused on the substance of policy” and claimed “others are all about sloganeering and attack lines”, arguing that the policies and opposition of those people would not get houses built.

He said his party would drive delivery to get increased supply of social, affordable and private housing.

Earlier Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators were briefed by the Irish Thalidomide Association.

The organisation is seeking a State apology over a failure to withdraw the drug Thalidomide from the market, and a fair compensation settlement.

Thalidomide – which was prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness – is linked to major birth defects.

While it was removed from world markets in 1961, it was not removed from the Irish market until nine months later in 1962.

Sources at the meeting described the campaign group's presentation as "powerful". Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is to meet Thalidomide survivors next Monday.