Now is not the time for a discussion about Ireland’s neutrality or potential NATO membership, according to the Taoiseach.
Speaking at the headquarters Analog devices in County Limerick this afternoon, Micheál Martin said Ireland’s neutrality has not hindered our ability to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He said the war will make it necessary for Ireland to reflect on its neutral status – but insisted the sole focus for now should be on helping people in Ukraine.
“Those issues don’t arise now at all,” he said. “Everyone’s focus now is on what we can do to help Ukraine.
“Ireland has played a very proactive role in that, particularly in terms of sanctions, humanitarian assistance and also in facilitating the deployment of the European Peace Facility which amounts to about €500m being given to the defence of Ukraine.
“So, our policy of neutrality is not in any shape of form hindering what needs to be done and what has to be done in respect of Ukraine.
“Discussions around that are for another day. I think we have to concentrate and keep the focus on the crisis right now and what we can do to help people in the midst of this crisis.”
He said there is room for reflection on Ireland’s 70-year stance on neutrality and noted that the policy has already evolved with the decision to join the EU Permanent Structure Co-operation (PESCO).
“The important point I would make is that this war does necessitate reflection on all of that, but it should be of a more deliberate kind,” said Mr Martin.
“Meanwhile, we need to keep the focus now on what we can do to help the people of Ukraine – and that is how I see it.”
The Taoiseach also said Ireland was preparing to undertake “one of the largest humanitarian efforts in its history” as millions of people flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He said Ministers have been tasked with preparing plans to house tens of thousands of refugees here.
Families are likely to be asked to welcome people into their homes as the State will not be able to accommodate all arrivals as the housing crisis continues.
Martin also deflects questions on Ireland's neutrality and suggestion it should join NATO. Says neutrality hasn't arisen as an issue in the Ukrainian conflict but that Ireland's position has evolved by being involved with PESCO
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) March 4, 2022
“It is going to be very, very challenging because we are in a wartime situation,” said Mr Martin.
“This is something we haven’t experienced really since the 1940s in terms of such mass movement of people in such a very short space of time from a war zone into neighbouring countries within the European Union so that will have impacts.
“There are no easy answers.”
He said ministers have also been tasked with delivering a plan to ease the rising cost of fuel in the short to medium term.
Prices at forecourts have topped €2 a litre in some parts of the country as the impact of the war in Ukraine begins to be felt.