Taioseach Micheal Martin said Ireland has accepted 5,500 Ukrainian refugees to date.
13 March 2022
Ireland’s humanitarian response trumps security checks on arriving Ukrainians, the Taoiseach has said.
Michael Martin said the state has so far accepted 5,500 people fleeing the Russian invasion.
He said Ireland’s priority is the humanitarian response to what he termed “the worst displacement of people since World War Two”.
“Our primary impulse is to assist those fleeing war,” he said.
“The Irish people are very seized by a series of atrocities that are going on. What we’re witnessing on our screens every evening is really shocking people and there is huge human empathy there to help the women and the children.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme during a two-day visit to London, the Taoiseach said that, of the first wave of those arriving, around two-thirds have family connections in Ireland, but as time goes on fewer have local connections.
Asked about security checks for those arriving in Ireland, he said: “There is always a balancing of issues, we keep channels open with our UK counterparts – the Home Secretary (Priti Patel) and our Minister for Justice Helen McEntee have been in regular contact.
“I met with the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) yesterday, he paid tribute to what Ireland is doing on the humanitarian front.”
Mr Martin added: “The humanitarian response trumps anything as far as we’re concerned.
“But our security people will keep on monitoring the situation in terms of what’s on.
“We can all see the humanitarian crisis, we do know that that can be exploited by certain bad actors, but our security personnel will keep an eye on that in a more general way.”
He said the view within the EU is that all borders should be open to Ukrainians.
“The Prime Minister’s only discussion with me was on the basis of praising the Irish humanitarian response and no more than that. We didn’t get into the security issues as such.”
Mr Martin also said that, in the longer term, Ireland will reflect on its position of military neutrality.
But he said the current time, in the middle of a crisis, is not the time to do that.
He also said his country is not politically or morally neutral.
“One cannot, in the middle of a crisis, change a long-held policy overnight,” he said.
“The order has been turned upside down by (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin.
“We have to reflect on that as a country. We have to reflect on the cybersecurity threat. It’s not just conventional warfare, it’s the cybersecurity hybrid warfare. It has implications for the European Union, it has implications for Ireland in terms of our vulnerability.
“I believe we should reflect on it without drawing down hard and fast conclusions right now.
“There will be a debate in Ireland but we don’t have time for it right now.”