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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C Taoiseach speaking to Irish media outside Ireland's Permanent Mission at the UN in New York this morning.
New York

Ireland would have to assess whether to take in fleeing Russians, says Taoiseach

Germany has indicated its willingness to accept Russian deserters.

Christina Finn reports from New York: 

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said Ireland would have to assess whether it would be willing to accept Russians who are now fleeing the country. 

German ministers have indicated that people escaping Russia could apply for asylum in Germany after President Vladimir Putin announced what he described as a “partial” conscription across the country earlier this week. 

The call up is understood to affect around 300,000 men of military age – although there are already reports from Russia that the real figure could be far higher. 

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed reports of draft-age men from Russia fleeing en masse after Putin’s announcement. 

When asked by The Journal if Ireland would be willing to follow in Germany’s footsteps, he said: 

“I think we’d have to assess all of that. I mean, in the first instance, we are accepting Ukrainian families who are fleeing war. That has been a priority for us, along with normal asylum seeking applicants, which is kind of way up this year.

That is putting a lot of pressure on the country. So we have to work within our capacities, to be frank.

The Taoiseach said that Ireland has never shied away from taking in people who are fleeing regions where they may be at risk. 

“We’ve never refused people who are fleeing because conscience issues or fleeing persecution. So for example, in Afghanistan, we would have facilitated a number of journalists and academics to leave Afghanistan because of the position they would have taken in respect of the Taliban.

So we play a role internationally in terms of people of conscience, who have stood up to regimes. But clearly there are a lot of challenges there.

When asked if he thought Russia’s position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council has been called into question, the Taoiseach told reporters in New York this morning: 

“I believe it is, most fundamentally. A member of the Security Council with veto powers can wage such an unjust war, which is a flagrant violation of the fundamental Charter of the United Nations. It does call, in my view, Russia’s membership of the Security Council into question.”

It is “pretty clear” that we have reached a “turning point” in terms of the UN and the Security Council, he said.

“I think that’s a very serious issue for all in terms of the United Nations, and it does call for an acceleration of reform at the highest level within the United Nations,” he said. 

He said Ireland’s resolution on climate and security last year was voted down by Russia.

“Russia was the one country that vetoed that with no rational explanation for it. 113 member states supported  for  it, others abstained.

“[That] Russia just vetoed it is an illustration of its approach to a whole range of issues, it is not playing a constructive role,” he said. 

Last year, when Ireland’s resolution on climate and security was being discussed at the Security Council, Russia’s representative said that “too many cooks spoil the broth” and said that the UN’s other arms already handle the substantive issues around climate change.

The Russian representative said at the time that while Russia “wholeheartedly concurs” with international calls to address climate concerns, Ireland’s resolution would duplicate work at the UN.

They said the attempts to advance the agenda of the council and include climate change as a threat to international peace and security introduced “a completely unnecessary political component to an already complicated and sensitive discussion”.

The Taoiseach told reporters today that there was agreement that the Security Council needed reform “given the war on Ukraine and how it was conducted – in violation of all known conventions, even military conventions”. 

“There is a huge irreconcilability of Russia being a member of the UN Security Council, which is about peace, and engaging a war of this kind,” he said.

Today, the Taoiseach will be meeting with the Secretary General of the United Nations and President of the General Assembly António Guterres. 

He will later be attending a reception for members of the Irish diaspora at the Irish Consulate in Manhattan.

Christina is reporting from the UN throughout the week. You can follow her updates on Twitter @christinafinn8

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