Ireland’s government politicians call for expulsion of Russian ambassador

The group comprises around 40 lawmakers from both houses of the Irish parliament and MEP Billy Kelleher, all of whom are members of Fianna Fáil. [Shutterstock/Christian Schmidt]

Calls from government politicians to expel the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Anatoliyevich Filatov are mounting following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a petition published this weekend, a substantial group of lawmakers called for the ambassador’s expulsion “in response to the unlawful invasion of Ukraine by President Putin, and to show Ireland’s support for Ukraine’s government and people”.

The group comprises around 40 lawmakers from both houses of the Irish parliament and MEP Billy Kelleher, all of whom are members of Fianna Fáil, one of the parties in Ireland’s governing coalition.

According to the Irish Times, members of Fine Gael, another coalition partner, are compiling signatures for their own petition, also calling for expulsion.

Other politicians and opposition parties Sinn Féin and Labour have also called for the ambassador to be expelled, including at protests held outside the Russian embassy in Dublin this weekend.

Brendan Howlin, the Labour Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson called on Dublin to “seek a coordinated EU and like-minded countries’ response” to the invasion by expelling Russian ambassadors.

EU leaders, however, have agreed not to do so. Foreign Minister Simon Coveney stressed the importance of maintaining diplomatic communication with Moscow but has said that expulsion, along with other options, “remain on the table”.

“I need a line of communication, not only to let Russia know how angry we are with the actions they’re taking, but also to do my job as Foreign Minister to be able to protect and look after and assist Irish citizens, because who knows, Russia may be in control of Ukraine at some point in the weeks ahead”, Coveney told the Sunday Independent.

Fellow government ministers have defended the decision not to expel Filatov, warning that the loss of Ireland’s diplomatic presence in Russia would hinder their ability to protect Irish nationals both there and in Ukraine.

“There is the potential that if the ambassador is expelled, we would see the immediate closure of our embassy in Moscow and a complete breakdown of diplomatic relations”, Justice Minister Helen McEntee told broadcaster RTÉ.

“We need to make sure that we can support our Irish citizens. Nothing is off the table, but we need to make sure that our channels are kept open,” McEntee added.

Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, on Sunday told the BBC that he was proud of his Fianna Fáil colleagues for their stance on Ukraine, adding that the expulsion of Russian diplomats from EU states was being discussed.

His preference, he said, was that any such action was part of a common response.

“It’s under discussion, there’s no question, but it’ll be done on a European level”, he said. “I think we’ll have a much greater effect if we all make a move together.”

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