Taoiseach rejects calls to expel Russian ambassador

The Taoiseach has rejected further demands for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador to Ireland.

On Wednesday, Micheal Martin refused to bow to pressure from opposition parties in the Dail, as Sinn Fein and Labor pressed the government to expel Yury Filatov.

Both sides acknowledged there were “valid” reasons for keeping the ambassador in the country, but said they paled in the face of the horrors being perpetrated in Ukraine.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, who spoke of the “heartbreaking scenes emanating from Ukraine”, called on Ireland to lead Europe’s diplomatic response to the Russian invasion.

“All diplomatic channels must be used to end the war. All diplomatic levers must be used.

“It is clear that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are abhorrent. And to that end, I want to ask you about the expulsion of the Russian ambassador to Ireland.

“I happen to think the time has come for our government, for you as the head of government, to take the lead on this issue.

Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I invite you, as the head of the Irish government, to lead again, to lead with our partners in Europe and to take advantage of this crucial diplomatic tool.

“It is essential, as shells rain down on Kiev, as people flee for their lives, that we demonstrate by all means to the Russian Federation that our island is synonymous with business and declare that we will not offer no shelter, no excuses, no cover in any form.”

Labor leader Alan Kelly questioned the logic of withholding an ambassador accused of being a proven liar.

“We have always shown leadership in this country and the Russian ambassador is a liar. He has lied to the Irish people on several occasions.

“We are in unprecedented territory, with a regime that is acting in an absolutely horrific way.

“What is the point of having diplomatic channels with someone who is lying? You cannot trust them. If he hadn’t said anything, it would have been better.

“I formally ask you to withdraw our ambassador from Russia, because I think we have to do it.”

Mr Martin has stressed in recent days the importance of maintaining diplomatic ties with Moscow, even in the face of skepticism within his own party.

Michael Martin
Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

On Wednesday, he reiterated the importance of keeping a path to Russia in the uncertainty of the coming weeks.

He also rejected Sinn Fein’s suggestion that a charge d’affaires could be appointed to maintain a diplomatic link with Russia.

“We have been in this horrible war against the Ukrainian people for less than a week. I think President Putin did not achieve the quick victory over the Ukrainian people that he was hoping for.

“It’s very clear now that President Putin is entering a new phase where you’re seeing extreme forms of barbarism, in terms of barbarian attacks on cities, on civilian targets, leveling of cities, and that’s enough horrible.”

Mr Martin said that Europe could experience a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale.

“As a country, we must now reflect on this and begin to prepare for the humanitarian responses that will potentially be needed to deal with the scale of migration caused by the war itself.

“I think the Irish people will do the right thing. We will not be faulted for our humanitarian response.

He said diplomatic expulsions were the “easy part” but it was more important for Ireland to act “in concert” with the EU.

(PA graphics)

Responding to Sinn Fein, Mr Martin said: “We have expelled diplomats in the past. You would not have found favor with that in the past, as you know, and you considered it contrary to military neutrality at a time when Russian aggression was on the rise.

“I readily acknowledge that when this happens, there is a reciprocal response. And you end up with nobody on the ground in Moscow, where we have Irish citizens.

He told Mr Kelly that the sanctions imposed by the EU so far were more important than the expulsion of ambassadors.

“I do not accept the basic premise that has been made here this morning, that Europe should split in different directions. Europe must remain firmly united.

Mr Martin and Mr Kelly clashed as the Labor leader also urged the Government to take further action against corrupt money from Russia flowing through Ireland, with the Ceann Comhairle forced to intervene to call for silence .

The Taoiseach said: “It shouldn’t be a divisive issue. We should be united in this house.

Damage in Ukraine
Firefighters extinguish a Ukrainian security service building after a rocket attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city (AP)

“We are getting calls from MPs and senators across the house, legitimate calls, to help our citizens in Ukraine and elsewhere. We get very legitimate calls that we answer and work with people.

“I’m just saying you know that and some better day and some different day you’d agree with me, Deputy Minister. I regret to some extent the attempts to split a house over this and think it’s wrong.

Meanwhile, members of campaign groups Ukrainians in Ireland and Uplift Ireland staged a protest outside the European headquarters of Facebook and Google in Dublin on Wednesday.

Uplift activist Layla Wade said: “We support the Ukrainians in Ireland group’s call to urge Facebook and Google to remove all Russian state-backed propaganda accounts from their platforms.

“The Kremlin State has been waging an information war for years and has allowed its audience on its accounts to reach such high numbers and we are here to appeal to social media platforms to prevent this from happening. produce.

“It has been happening for years and has reached an acute stage, which we see happening to the Ukrainian people, and it is based on an information war as well as what is happening on the ground.

“Ireland is the European, and in some cases international, home to some of these social media companies and we are here to call on them to remove the accounts.

“They made announcements saying they would take down accounts EU-wide, but we know social media has no borders and we’re calling for a global take-down.”

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