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Ireland expelled four officials from Russia's embassy in Dublin yesterday. Sam Boal

Russia would have ‘no justification’ for expelling Irish diplomats, Oireachtas Committee told

Putin’s regime has a track record of retaliating to the expulsion of embassy officials.

RUSSIA WOULD HAVE “no justification” for ordering Irish diplomats to leave Moscow in retaliation for the expulsion of officials from its embassy in Dublin, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

The Joint Committee on European Union Affairs met today for an update on the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine.

The meeting came after four “senior officials” from the Russian Embassy were ordered to leave Ireland, with the government saying their actions have been against diplomatic standards.

Minister of State for European Union Affairs Thomas Byrne told the committee that there are 19 Russian diplomats in Ireland and 11 administrators. Four from that pool have been told to leave the country.

In contrast, the Irish Embassy in Moscow is staffed by six people. Byrne noted that it’s a very small embassy and the people are doing “extremely essential work in difficult circumstances.”

The Meath East TD said that the four Russian officials were expelled because assessments found they were not doing diplomatic work and were engaged in “other work”.

“They’re being expelled because the evidence available to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the government was that they weren’t doing diplomatic work. They were doing other work that wasn’t compatible with the law. So, we had no option, in those circumstances, but to expel them,” Byrne said.

He noted that the decisions were taken in consultation with the Gardaí, the Defence Forces and other EU member states.

Regarding the prospect of Russia retaliating by expelling Irish diplomats – as it has done with Ireland and other countries numerous times in the past – Byrne said there would be “no justification whatsoever for that”.

“Our staff in Moscow do the ordinary work that diplomats do, which is reporting back to Dublin as to what’s happening and dealing with Irish citizens. 

“Our staff in Moscow are… not doing anything that’s incompatible with their diplomatic status and also Ireland has done nothing wrong. 

Ireland has never invaded any country. Russia has, in this particular case. We do not have spies or anyone doing work on a non-diplomatic basis in Moscow. 

“However, we all know what the form of Russia is in this case. So, we’ll see. But our staff are doing tremendous work there in very, very small numbers. We have a tiny embassy in Moscow,” the Fianna Fáil politician said.

Byrne also noted that special legislation was introduced, on national security grounds, to stop Russia from proceeding with plans to construct additional buildings on grounds of its embassy in Dublin. 

The minister of state also noted that a diplomat was expelled in 2018, in the aftermath of the Sergei Skripal poisoning in the UK. In that instance, Russia responded by sending an Irish embassy official home.

“To be fair to the government, over the last number of years the Russian Embassy has been clearly on the radar. This isn’t the first expulsion, we’ve had to bring in special planning legislation. They’ve been very much on the radar,” Byrne said.

The committee also heard that, as of last Friday, Ireland had notified the European Commission that $919 million (€825 million) had been frozen in connection with the IFSC in Dublin due to the sanctions imposed on companies and individuals connected to the Russian state.

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