Ireland will not be ‘found wanting’ on Ukraine – Irish premier

The Irish foreign affairs minister earlier said he hopes the world is seeing the ‘first step’ towards the ending of war, ahead of Ukraine talks.

27 February 2022

Ireland will not be “found wanting” on support for Ukraine, the Irish premier has said.

It comes as the EU announced that it will close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund supplies of weapons to Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in response to Russia’s invasion.

Ireland had announced earlier on Sunday that it would close its airspace to Russian planes.

In a tweet ahead of the formal announcement of the latest European response to the escalating crisis in Ukraine, Micheal Martin said: “The world has been changed by this unjustified war on Ukraine.

“It’s people have shown such courage, in the face of great loss of life and destruction.

“Ireland’s humanitarian response will not be found wanting.

“The EU is unified and further sanctions will hit Russia hard.”

The Irish foreign affairs minister earlier said he hopes the world is seeing the “first step” towards the ending of war, ahead of talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials.

However, Simon Coveney also said the talks would not deter the EU from fully imposing fresh sanctions.

Mr Coveney tweeted: “Let’s hope this can be a first step to ending Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“But be clear, EU foreign ministers meet tonight to increase targeted sanctions against Russia for unjustifiable aggression & to substantially increase our support for Ukraine.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland has told Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Russia.

In an update to travel guidance, the department said: “Due to the ongoing disruption to flight services to and from Russia, the Department of Foreign Affairs is advising citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Russia at this time.

“Further flight cancellations and uncertainty on travel routes from Russia are expected in the coming days.”

Mr Byrne predicted that the latest sanctions imposed by the EU will have an “absolutely devastating effect on the Russian economy, and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s own personal resources”.

In an interview with the BBC, he said Ireland would back calls for Ukraine to be a candidate for EU membership.

Mr Byrne said the country “absolutely would support” such a move.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Taoiseach Micheal Martin met people attending a demonstration outside Leinster House in Dublin earlier this week (Brian Lawless/PA)

He also indicated that a de facto ban on Russian aircraft in Irish airspace has already come into effect.

“I think effectively that’s already starting to happen,” he said.

“Because, at the moment, there’s a ban on airplanes being exported into Russia and aircraft parts, and that means, for example, that a plane going to Russia actually from any country can’t bring new parts on the plane, even for itself.

“So already we’ve seen Western airlines cancelling flights.

“I think it will be completely untenable for Russian airlines to fly anywhere into the Western world very, very soon.”

Justice minister Helen McEntee also said she expects that decision to be put into practice “quickly”.

Speaking on RTE radio, she indicated that the Irish government has not ruled out diplomats or Defence Forces members being sent close to the western Ukrainian border to support anyone trying to reach Ireland.

She said on Sunday that her department had reacted quickly to put in place a visa waiver scheme for Ukrainian nationals hoping to enter Ireland.

“What we’re doing now is making sure that, when people cross the border, because you have hundreds of thousands of people crossing into Poland, into Romania and other neighbouring countries, is that there is financial assistance and support to provide for our member state colleagues to be able to assist these people.

Police recruitment campaign
Justice minister Helen McEntee said her department had put in place a visa waiver scheme for Ukrainian nationals hoping to enter Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

“What we’re making sure is that it is as easy as possible for them and their Ukrainian family members, or for those who are seeking to travel to join family members here, that it is as easy for them to do so.

“But we have to be clear here, there are no planes flying into Ukraine.

“And there’s no ability for us to get into Ukraine.

“What we can do is encourage people, where it is safe to do so, to travel to the border; where it’s not, to try and find shelter.

“But we have been engaging with people for weeks now.

“We will continue to engage with them even though we don’t have a consulate or we don’t have an embassy on the ground.”

Asked on RTE radio whether diplomats or Defence Forces members might be able to help out or meet people at the border, she said: “I think all of these things need to be kept under review.

“We have our consular assistance in all of these European member states.

“In particular in Poland, in Warsaw, we have a lot of people who are engaging with people who are crossing the border, helping them and also helping those family members who are Ukrainian nationals.

“I think a lot of people who will initially seek to travel to Ireland, they’re Irish citizens, but also they’re people who might have family living in Ireland or they might have business connections or they might have friends.

“And that’s really what we’re seeing initially.

“While we’ve had quite a small number of people, I think in the last few days, the vast majority of those who have come into Ireland are people who have family, who have friends, who have those connections.”

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