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Politicians confirm they're on Russia's travel ban list as Taoiseach calls move 'classic diversion'

Minister Simon Coveney said the sanctions were “an attempt to unsettle Ireland and our political system”.

LAST UPDATE | 18 Nov 2022

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN agrees that the travel ban sanction list provided by Russia is incoherent and thrown together.

When asked if he agreed that the list of some 50 or so Irish politicians appeared to be cobbled together, he said it “would appear so”. He added that he was not privy to how Russia ‘puts together these lists’.

Martin said the move was “classic diversion” and “propaganda” from Russia. He said it shouldn’t deflect from showing solidarity with Ukraine and increasing pressure from the international arena to “stop this war”.

Ireland would maintain solidarity with the EU, UK and US and “keep the pressure on”, he said. 

The Taoiseach added that he was not planning on travel to Russia. “Not any time soon,” he said.

His comments come as a number of politicians from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have confirmed that they are on the list. 

It is understood that there are no politicians from the Green Party or Sinn Féin on the list. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said this morning that Russia’s move to sanction over 50 Irish politicians and ban them from entering the country is “an attempt to unsettle Ireland and our political system”. 

Coveney deemed the move “an unwelcome distraction” and said that Ireland “should not play that game”.

Coveney, along with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister of Justice Helen McEntee and Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe were among 52 politicians banned from entering the Russian Federation due to “the anti-Russian course of the Irish government.”

The statement, issued by the country’s Foreign Ministry at 11.26am Irish time on Wednesday, also bans Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil Seán Ó Fearghail, as well as dozens of unnamed senators and TDs.

The Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuri Filatov was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday, with the department saying that the Government’s “firm objection to the unwarranted and unjustified travel ban imposed on Irish citizens” was conveyed during a meeting with senior officials. 

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Coveney said that the sanctions placed on Irish politicians was an attempt to “unsettle the Irish political system”.

“In relation to the decisions by Russia this week, you know, I think we need to see that for what it is, which is an attempt to try to unsettle the Irish political system by targeting some people and not others, some political parties and not others.

“We shouldn’t be playing that game. You know, the role that Ireland needs to play is to focus on where the real war is taking place. Where women and children are being brutalized across Ukraine, through the night by by rockets being sent from Russia.

When asked what Ireland’s response would be to the sanctions, Coveney said that there is an “ongoing consideration” around the number of staff at the Russian embassy in Dublin.

“We will, of course, consider the appropriate level of diplomatic presence in Ireland, and I can brief party leaders on that in the next week or so,” Coveney added.

“That’s been an ongoing question, and it certainly shouldn’t be a knee jerk reaction to what we’ve seen this week.”

Some politicians have taken to Twitter to share that they have been included on the list of sanctions, including Labour leader Ivana Bacik and Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan.

“Just contacted this evening by @dfatirl to be informed that I am one of the Oireachtas members on the #RussianList travel ban,” Bacik tweeted, adding that it was “long past time” that Ireland expelled Filatov.

O’Callaghan tweeted that he was “delighted that my support of Ukraine has been given such recognition”.

Fianna Fáil senator Timmy Dooley also shared that he was named on the list, which he deemed a “disgraceful action of intimidation by a desperate dictator”.

“This is nothing but a dog whistle to his supporters to visit harm on those of us who have been named. I have never given way to bullies and that won’t change,” he tweeted.

Minister for European Affairs Thomas Byrne is also on the travel ban list, as is Chair of Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, who spoke out against Russia’s actions in recent days. 

Ceann Comhairle Sean O’Fhearghail, Fine Gael TDs John Paul Phelan and Michael Ring, and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen, Padraig O’Sullivan, Christopher O’Sullivan and Lorraine Clifford-Lee are also on the list. Fianna Fáil James Lawless also confirmed on Twitter that he is listed. Independent TD Gerard Craughwell has also confirmed he is on the list. 

Sources within Fianna Fáil speculated that the reason for many of its politicians being listed is due to almost 40 Fianna Fáil TDs, senators and MEPs signing a petition calling on the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov to be expelled from Ireland.

They indicated that many of the names on the petition also feature on the travel ban list. 

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond, who has also confirmed he is on the list, told The Journal: 

“This week, Russia has continued to bombard Ukraine as part of their bloody and illegal war of occupation. The creation of a sanctions list is part of Russia’s propaganda machine, it is merely another desperate attempt by the Russian Government to distract from their heinous actions.

“However, rather than distract, it should be used as a lightening rod to further focus the Irish people on this brutal, illegal war; the impacts of which are being felt globally. Let’s use this list as a reason to increase Ireland’s commitment to the Ukrainian people and show we will continue to stand against Putin’s terrorist regime.”

Coveney said that the Government’s focus is “to look beyond what is a distraction and an attempt by Russia to unsettle Ireland and to focus on what we do well, which is to be a strong international voice, to protect international law to protect the UN Charter, both of which Russia is ripping up at the moment.”

He said that Ireland is assisting the Ukrainian military in the war with non-lethal weaponry, adding that “that is not going to change”.

But I think at a time when we see a military superpower looking to change international borders by force, imposing their will through brutality, which is what we’re seeing currently in Ukraine, Ireland is not neutral on that issue, and hasn’t been from the very outset.

“If one country is blatantly breaching international law, and another country is the victim of that, well then Ireland takes sides and we shouldn’t apologise for taking sides. That doesn’t undermine our our non-alignment internationally. Militarily, we’re not members of NATO, but we are a country that chooses between right and wrong.”

Fine Gael Minister of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs Colm Brophy confirmed to The Journal that he was not on the list, saying it he has “no idea” how it was put together.

“I think there was a lot of contributions to a particular Dáil debate or something. I have no idea how they draw these things up. I’m not for one minute going to get inside the minds of someone either in the Russian embassy or some ministry somewhere in Moscow,” he said.

I am not on the list but I do think the list is a bit of a joke to be honest. It’s designed for propaganda purposes. So we need to be focusing on what they’re actually doing, the horrendous acts that they’re carrying out in Ukraine at the moment, trying to kill people by literally leaving them without the power or electricity this winter.

“That’s the type of criminal activity that we should be focusing on, not whether or not some guy went through a system of about 50 TDs and Senators and put their names down.”

Explosive weapons

Later today, Coveney will, with international colleagues from 75 countries, endorse the Declaration on the Protection of Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas at a ceremony in Dublin Castle

Speaking about the declaration, he said that it is about focusing countries on applying “what is already there in international law, but requiring militaries to explicitly consider the impacts of civilians on their actions in populated areas”.

He said the declaration is one of the ways in which Ireland “as a neutral country can be impactful internationally, by shining a spotlight on what is completely unacceptable and illegal in terms of the consequences of warfare on populated areas”.

“This morning, up to 10 million people have no power and many of them no water in Ukraine today, a country that is now starting to see snow falling and so we have parents trying to figure out how they’re going to heat their children,” Coveney said.

“This is the human consequence of a war of aggression that is now targeting civilian infrastructure and civilians that we are trying to call out.”

With reporting by Christina Finn, Tadgh McNally and Rónán Duffy

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