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Thursday 21 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# Controversy
Meeting between Defence Forces chief and Russian ambassador was arranged last November
Coveney was accused of undermining the Chief of Staff’s position.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 27th 2022, 4:00 PM

THE DEFENCE FORCES has revealed that it agreed late last year to arrange a meeting between Chief of Staff Seán Clancy and the Russian ambassador to Ireland, following a request from the Russian embassy.

A Defence Forces spokesperson confirmed to The Journal that Ambassador Yuri Filatov’s officials asked to meet with Seán Clancy in November. Clancy took over in the role in September of last year. 

The spokesperson said that the meeting was part of an ongoing set of visits from foreign diplomats to discuss military matters.

“In late November 2021, the Russian Ambassador, Yury Filatov, requested a courtesy call with the newly appointed Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy and the meeting was arranged for late January 2022. 

“The meeting was held on the 21 January 2022, in the Chief of Staff’s Office, McKee Barracks, Dublin.  Since his appointment as Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Clancy has met, and continues to meet with foreign dignitaries and representatives as part of his protocol responsibilities as Chief of Staff,” the spokesperson said.

The latest development comes after Defence Minister Simon Coveney today gave his full support to Lieutenant General Clancy in the Dáil today, following criticism of comments made by the Cork TD last night. 

Speaking at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night, Coveney said he was surprised by a photograph of the Clancy meeting with the Russian ambassador.

It’s understood Coveney also said the meeting was ill-judged, and that he had been told it was part of a series of meetings Clancy was undertaking with a number of ambassadors.

The Russian Embassy in Ireland tweeted a picture on Friday of Sean Clancy posing with Ambassador Yury Filatov, with the post noting that they had discussed issues of Russian-Irish relations and the international agenda “as well as prospects of contacts between armed forces of two countries”. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Coveney said he had “no hesitation in expressing my full support and confidence in the Chief of Staff and in his judgement”.

“The Chief is holding a number of pro forma meetings” with diplomats as is usual when appointed, Coveney noted. 

He said that what he had commented on last night related to the timing of the meeting with the Russian ambassador, and the tweet drawing attention to it.

“I have absolutely no reservations or no questions about his actions. I don’t think it’s welcome that the Chief of Staff has been brought into public commentary and political debate, and I recognise that I have made a contribution to allowing that to happen, and I’d certainly like to correct that this morning.”

Coveney had been criticised by Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady who said the minister’s actions had “undermined his Chief of Staff at the very start of their tenure”.

In the wake of the latest statement from the Defence Forces confirming the meeting had been in the works since November, The Journal asked spokesperson for Minister Coveney whether he had any further comment. The spokesperson said they had nothing to add beyond Coveney’s statement in the Dáil.

This morning, the Department of Transport issued a marine notice advising all seafarers that the Russian Navy will carry out manoeuvres off the southwest coast of Ireland from 3 to 8 February.

Fishermen have today also met with the Russian ambassador over concerns for their safety during the military drills.

The Russian artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters but within Irish-controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

With reporting from Garreth MacNamee.

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