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Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

Coveney praises Poland's 'incredible solidarity' during visit to discuss Ukraine

Coveney will meet his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau and speak to humanitarian organisations assisting those fleeing the war.

LAST UPDATE | 18 Mar 2022

THE MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs has flown to Poland to discuss the war in Ukraine and what support can be provided to the country and its neighbours. 

Simon Coveney will meet his Polish counterpart Minister Zbigniew Rau in Warsaw and speak to humanitarian organisations assisting those fleeing the war.

On the visit earlier, he expressed support for Poland on Ireland’s behalf as the country endeavours to welcome nearly two million people fleeing the conflict in a matter of weeks. Coveney praised the ‘incredible solidarity’ being shown by the Polish people in the face of this crisis.

During his visit, Coveney will also meet with a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Poland, Polish Humanitarian Action and members of the Irish community in Poland who are involved in providing support to Ukrainian refugees.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland from Poland earlier today, Coveney said the atmosphere in the country was “really just extraordinary”. 

“It’s like a wartime atmosphere, completely dominated, of course, by the war next door in Ukraine,” Coveney said. 

“The generosity of Polish people towards their Ukrainian brothers and sisters is just remarkable. To image that in three weeks two million people would cross the border into your country and largely be accommodated and looked after is an extraordinary effort,” he said. 

However, he questioned whether that will be sustainable in the weeks ahead. 

“The rest of the European Union has got to be generous, and we’ve got to ensure that there is a collective response across the EU rather than expecting countries that border Ukraine to have to deal with the extraordinary pressures of dealing with those numbers of people,” he said. 

Coveney was asked whether Irish soldiers will be sent to Poland to help.

“If it’s helpful, we certainly will offer logistical support, whether that’s through the Defence Forces or through some other means,” he said. 

“If it’s helpful to send a Defence Force team here, whether that’s to register refugees, whether it’s to manage logistics on the border, to manage transport systems, that offer is certainly open,” the Minister added. 

His comments were welcomed today by Senator Gerard Craughwell who has been to the Polish border recently along with colleague Cathal Berry.

Over 8,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland since the war began on 24 February. 

Two new centre hubs, on Cork Street in Dublin 8 and Hanover Quay in Cork city, have opened to help those arriving access PPS numbers, income supports and referrals to state services. A third centre is set to open in Limerick next week. 

Irish Aid has so far committed €20 million to humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, including €1 million specifically for UNHCR’s response in Poland. 

Funding has also been sent to the World Health Organization and other UN bodies to provide support to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and other neighbouring countries.

The Irish Aid humanitarian package also includes a €1 million grant to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), which is supporting the local response in Poland via the national Red Cross society.

Irish Aid will also provide funding to Irish NGOs to partner with local civil society in Ukraine, Poland and other countries.

US President Joe Biden yesterday praised Taoiseach Micheál Martin for the country’s response to the war so far.

“I want to publicly compliment you for it. I think you’ve already brought in over 7,000 or so refugees from Ukraine, and you’re prepared to do more. So, thank you,” he said. 

Martin, who had to meet the US President virtually after testing positive for Covid, said he shared Biden’s horror at “the barbaric attack on the civilians of Ukraine”.

“It’s heart-rending to see the appalling loss of life and also the terrible trauma on the children of Ukraine and their mothers,” Martin said.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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