Taoiseach Micheál Martin has angrily rejected an accusation that the Government is “cynically using Putin’s war to drive a coach and four through Ireland’s neutrality”.
He told People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy who made the claim that it was a “shocking thing to say”, adding that “one would imagine we had contrived the war” to facilitate ending the State’s neutrality.
Rejecting the accusation “in its entirety”, he said Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal had asked for help in demining because there are landmines all over Ukraine and Ireland was involved in developing the Convention on Cluster Munitions with Norway and the Vatican in 2008.
“Ukraine has asked us for help with demining. I think we should train Ukrainians if they seek help on that aspect of it.”
He told Mr Murphy that because of that “you turn that into an attack of neutrality”.
“It makes my blood boil,” he said.
Raising the issue in the Dáil during Taoiseach’s questions Mr Murphy claimed a Government decision for Ireland to participate next month in an EU training mission for the Ukrainian army was very clearly “the next step in the Government’s determined effort to involve Ireland in European and eventually Nato military undertakings”.
He said the Government was very cynically using “Putin’s imperialist and brutal invasion of Ukraine to drive a coach and horses through what is left of the idea of neutrality”.
The Dublin Southwest TD added that the Irish Government had taken part in five meetings of Ukraine contact defence group, “a group described by the US Secretary of Defence as a Nato alliance, a body which meets at the Nato headquarters”.
He said this was in addition to the escalation of Ireland’s involvement in Pesco (Permanent Structured Co-operation) which aims to deepen defence co-operation between EU member states.
Mr Murphy claimed “the Government is doing all of this in open defiance of the wish of an overwhelming majority of people to remain neutral from all of the imperialist military blocs that are a scourge on the people of the world.
“It is also doing it without any vote under Article 28 of the Constitution which states clearly that the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann.”
But the Taoiseach told him that his approach “makes my blood boil. Because you only see evil everywhere. You see wrong everywhere. You see wrong motivation.
“I made it clear that we’re not joining Nato, that no government decision has been taken. People can have different perspectives on that. I suggest we have a citizen’s assembly in the fullness of time, but not now in the middle of this conflict, this war.”
He said to Mr Murphy that during the 45 minutes of discussion in the Dáil on his areas of responsibility, “you have done what you do, which is to attack everyone else and to attack Ireland.
“You are attacking us now in the context of the Government and Ukraine war and you’re not attacking Russia.”
But Mr Murphy intervened: “I said it three times in a row.”
The Taoiseach replied that “you say it and then speed on quickly”.
He added that Ireland’s neutrality “was of more concern to you than the fact that Iranian drones are raining down on Ukrainian civilians”.
The Ukrainian government wants help with demining because “it is a real problem for them”.
He added that “we know armies like Russia would leave stuff behind where kids will have their legs amputated” when they step on mines.
“They’ve asked us for help to de-mine” and “I think we should train Ukrainians if to seek help on that aspect”.
He insisted that “we can only do what we within the framework that we have set ourselves in terms of triple lock and so on.
“We are not participants in the war, because of the policy that’s been made crystal clear to Ukraine. Our military neutrality was made crystal clear to all parties that is accepted.
“So please don’t accuse us of actions that we’re not engaged in and allege motivations that are completely untrue.”