Visa requirements for all Ukrainian citizens entering Ireland will be waived in response to Russia's invasion, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed on Thursday.
Until now, Ireland was the only EU state which applied visa restrictions on Ukrainians.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice would meet on Thursday afternoon to operationalise the waiving of visa requirements, the Taoiseach said.
There would be a “significant migration issue” arising from Russia’s attacks on the country and Ireland had to “play its part” in supporting those affected, he said.
The hope was that the move would be helpful to Ukrainian families in Ireland who wish for their loved ones to join them.
Irish businessman Brendan Murphy, who had been trying to get temporary visas for his Ukrainian wife and family, has fled Kyiv as Russian forces moved in to the capital city.
He said he could have left last week if not for the Irish Government’s position on visas.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One on Thursday afternoon, Mr Murphy said he was "very pleased" to see visa requirements waived but said it "would have been better" if it happened earlier.
“I welcome it … but I’m disappointed it took a little time,” he said.
Mr Murphy, who is from Co Louth, had been trying to get emergency visas for his wife Marina, her 80 year old mother and her daughter.
Ukrainian airspace has been closed and overland routes out of Ukraine were severely disrupted.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast on Thursday, Mr Murphy said people were relocating because Russia had bombed multiple cities.
“I can see now the panic is beginning. People are trying to get money from banks and things so people are beginning to kind of do everything they can.”
The window of opportunity to leave was now “very narrow,” he said, and some roads were “impassable” with traffic.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was “closely monitoring” the situation in Ukraine and advising all Irish citizens currently in Ukraine to shelter in a secure place.
“Citizens should consider leaving Ukraine if they judge it safe to do so, depending on their location and prevailing circumstances,” the Department said.
There are 70 Irish citizens currently in Ukraine who have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs, according to an update on Thursday.
The Department is also remaining in direct contact with the families who have a surrogacy arrangement in Ukraine.
“The safety and security of Irish citizens and their dependents in Ukraine is our priority,” it said.
The Department’s travel advice at www.dfa.ie/travel has information for neighbouring countries that people may be planning to travel to, or through.
Any Irish citizen requiring emergency consular assistance should contact a dedicated telephone line, 01-6131700, which has now been set up at the Department of Foreign Affairs.