More than solidarity needed to justify decision to expel Russian diplomat

March 27, 2018

Commenting on the government’s decision to expel a Russian diplomat today, Social Democrats’ co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said:

“This decision is a very significant foreign policy development, particularly given the fact of Irish neutrality. Such actions should always be carried out first foremost in the national interest and be underpinned by solid security analysis.

“It is not sufficient to base this kind of decision purely on a sense of solidarity with the United Kingdom in the wake of the recent Salisbury attack, however well-placed that sentiment happens to be.

“The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs has yet to state clearly what this exceptional gesture will actually achieve. It is notable that not all EU states have responded to recent events by expelling Russian diplomatic staff.

Deputy Shortall added:

“There are undoubtedly legitimate grounds for concerns about the operations of Russian security personnel in Ireland. A recently as 2010, we saw evidence of Russian foreign intelligence service officers running a spy-ring in the US and forging Irish passports. It is only right for alarm bells to start ringing when we see reports that the Russian embassy in Dublin is to be expanded to three times the size of the US embassy. For a facility that serves a Russian population in Ireland of fewer than 3,000 people this is naturally worrying.

“There are also legitimate questions to be asked about the preparedness of Irish authorities to assess and defend the country against the level of threats we potentially face, particularly when it comes to cyber security. Several other European intelligence agencies have stated that Ireland is being used as a ‘Trojan horse’ to allow Russian intelligence to build links with people working in the technology, science and internet sectors.

“If today’s events remind us of anything it is that we tend as a country to pay scant attention to such threats, often assuming that these things occur elsewhere. The government should be investing in resources where they will be preventative use – not just dramatic diplomatic gestures.”

ENDS

27 March 2018