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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Mar 2022

Vol. 1020 No. 1

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Foreign Conflicts

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

79. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on any or all discussions he has had with his counterparts across Europe with regard to the war in Yemen and the ongoing humanitarian crisis there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14568/22]

John Brady

Question:

87. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the efforts Ireland is undertaking at the United Nations and the European Union to address the conflict in Yemen and the humanitarian crisis there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15346/22]

There has been a war raging in Yemen for seven years. Some 10,000 children have died directly and indirectly as a result of that war, 377,000 people have died directly and indirectly as a result of that war and the UN estimates that 17.4 million people are on the brink of starvation. That war involves Saudi Arabia, which is armed to the teeth by allies of ours, the United States, the UK and France. When is the Minister going to argue for action against the war crimes of Saudi Arabia and its backers in Yemen?

The Deputy does not need to tell me there has been a war raging in Yemen for the past seven years. I have answered questions on that many times here and I have spoken on it at multiple fora.

Yemen is one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, driven by seven years of conflict, economic collapse and the breakdown of public institutions and services which has left millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance. There is very strong consensus across the EU in support of the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to bring about a political resolution to the conflict in Yemen. As a member of the Security Council, Ireland has also engaged extensively in support of the UN's efforts. I have held discussions with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, as well as with Major General Michael Beary, head of the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah agreement. I have engaged extensively with the countries of the region, including in direct talks with the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, stressing the need to work urgently towards a resolution of the conflict.

In addition to significant diplomatic efforts, Ireland has been a consistent and reliable donor to Yemen and has contributed more than €37 million in humanitarian funding since 2015, including a commitment of €5 million for 2022, which I pledged on behalf of Ireland at the pledging conference for Yemen on 16 March. Ireland also contributes towards the crisis in Yemen as an EU member state. Since 2015, the EU has contributed more than €1.2 billion, including €827 million in humanitarian aid and €407 million in development assistance.

Ireland will continue to support all efforts to end this terrible conflict, which I agree is causing enormous humanitarian suffering, including through direct engagement with Saudi Arabia and other regional actors and in the context of our position on the UN Security Council and as a European Union member state.

Presumably, if anybody in this House suggested that we should send a trade mission to Russia to develop our trade relationship, given what it is doing in Ukraine, they would get pretty short shrift from the Minister and from everybody else, rightly so. It would be similar if anybody suggested that it would be okay for any of our allies, so-called, to be selling weapons to Vladimir Putin in the current context. Yet, strangely, in the context of the Saudi war that has brought Yemen to the brink of catastrophe, Ireland sent a trade mission in November to develop trade relationships with Saudi Arabia, which is conducting this barbarous war in Yemen. Our allies, the US and the UK, are selling billions worth of weapons. The latest deal by the United States is a $500 million air-to-air missile arms sale and there are similar massive sales by the UK. Where is the condemnation? Where is the criticism? Where is the demand that these relations with the Saudi Arabian dictatorship conducting this brutal war in Yemen end immediately? Where are these demands?

The war in Yemen is appalling. Over 370,000 Yemenis have lost their lives, including over 10,000 children. We see some of our allies selling arms, with the UK in 2021 authorising sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia of £1.4 billion, and the US in November with $650 million in authorised weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's involvement is central to this horrific and brutal war on the Yemeni people. Will the Minister condemn Saudi Arabia's actions in Yemen? Will he also clarify for the record when the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Varadkar, visited Saudi Arabia to deepen ties with this appalling state? Did the Tánaiste raise the matter of the war in Yemen? If he did, can the Minister tell the House when and where he raised the horrific human rights abuses with the Saudi regime and correct the record?

The idea that the war in Yemen is categorised as a war for which one country is solely responsible is completely inaccurate. This simplified notion that it is all Saudi Arabia's fault is just not true. Saudi Arabia has a role to play in terms of bringing about a ceasefire and Saudi Arabia has responsibilities in terms of ensuring that civilians are protected in war, as any warring party has under international law and the relevant conventions. However, it is not true to say, as is being suggested by the Opposition, that all of this is one country's fault and that if only we would isolate it and implement trade embargoes and arms embargoes, all of this would stop overnight. That is not my understanding of it.

I have met all of the parties involved in different settings. I have faith in Hans Grundberg, who is the UN special representative, and he certainly would not take that view either, I can assure the Deputies. From my understanding, Saudi Arabia is supportive of a ceasefire under certain conditions, but that has not been possible to be agreed with the Houthi leadership. I have spoken to Iran quite directly in terms of their relationship and their influence with the Houthi leadership to try to bring about peace.

We need a balanced view. I do not say that we should not hold Saudi Arabia to account for its actions and decisions. We should, but we should hold all parties to the conflict who have been involved in brutality and attacks, particularly in recent weeks, to account. This is about bringing about peace and a ceasefire so we can help civilians to deal with the enormous human suffering that the population of Yemen has had to deal with. Drawing direct comparisons with the war in Ukraine is not helpful. Every conflict is different, complex and needs solutions. That is why we have special representatives for the UN who work full time trying to find a basis for peace. We should support those processes.

The Irish Anti-War Movement, in conjunction with Saudi Arabian dissidents who can never return to their country because if they did, they would be killed, is organising a demonstration this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Garden of Remembrance. Those involved will march to the Saudi Arabian embassy. The march was organised long before the war in Ukraine but, in a gesture of solidarity, they are going to make it also a demonstration against that war. It would be nice to see reciprocation from Europe in that regard.

Let us be clear that there is a difference, which everybody can see. The Saudi Arabian dictatorship is the most vile dictatorship you can imagine. They chopped up Jamal Khashoggi with a sword. They executed 81 people for political crimes at the weekend. They are directly interfering in another country, Yemen. Iran may have relationships with the Houthi, but it is not directly involved. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are bombing Yemen with weapons supplied by the United States and the UK. The latter continue to arm this brutal dictatorship, yet we want favoured trade relations with this regime and say nothing about arm sales.

I have yet to hear the Minister condemn the actions of Saudi Arabia. I call on all international players to pull out, lay off and stop their involvement in and support for the conflict in Yemen, including Iran. However, Saudi Arabia is directly involved in dropping bombs on innocent Yemeni people. I ask the Minister to condemn that.

I also ask him to clarify the following, about which there seems to be some confusion. When the Tánaiste was over wining and dining with the Saudi Arabian regime, it is alleged he raised the war with it. It is also alleged he raised the grotesque human rights abuses, but there is no record of what was said. There are no minutes which show him raising that matter. Will the Minister confirm or deny that the Tánaiste, whilst wining, dining and trying to deepen relationships with this brutal regime, raised the issues, as is claimed? If he did not, that is appalling.

I am not sure if there is wining in Saudi Arabia.

Who is answering the questions here?

Behind closed doors, there is plenty of wining among the sheikhs.

Given the importance of the issue we are discussing and its consequences for people in Yemen, terminology such as the Tánaiste "wining and dining" and so on in an attempt to cast aspersions is unhelpful.

It might be helpful if the Minister answered the real question as to whether the human rights abuses were raised.

I listened to the Deputy so he should hear my answer, please. My understanding is issues have been raised in relation to the war in Yemen by the Tánaiste but it is my responsibility as the Minister for Foreign Affairs to raise these issues directly with the countries involved, which I have done repeatedly on behalf of the Irish Government and people, in terms of expressing concerns. I have spent time travelling and meeting in person with the UN special representative, to try to make sure we are consistent with the international effort the UN is making to bring about peace. Let us not reduce debates and conversations on huge issues like war in Yemen to party slagging matches around Ministers' travel, wining and dining and so on. It is nonsense. Let us deal with the serious issues at play.

Sports Funding

Alan Dillon

Question:

80. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide information on the recent announcement by his Department on increased support for a programme (details supplied); the form of support that it is likely to take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15460/22]

It was excellent to learn of the funding awarded to the GAA global games development programme in recent weeks. I understand funding of €900,000 has been allocated to 110 clubs around the world. I would appreciate if the Minister of State could provide more information on this recent announcement.

The global games development fund is a matching funding partnership between my Department and the GAA that supports community-orientated GAA activities abroad. Established in 2012, it has been remarkably successful in the development of Gaelic games internationally and benefits hundreds of Irish communities abroad. It has grown from 14 projects in 2013 to over 100 projects this year. Funding from the Government's emigrant support programme has grown in response to that demand from €45,000 in 2013 to €200,000 this year.

The value of the fund was amply demonstrated in the response to Covid, when our GAA partner clubs and networks, along with our Irish immigration centres, became the backbone for the delivery of assistance and support to emigrants, including the Government’s dedicated Covid response fund. It is worth noting the incredible role played by many members of the GAA in supporting the Covid response.

A major review of the operation and objectives of the programme was carried out over the past year, taking into account the experience gained during the pandemic. I was pleased to announce a renewed partnership agreement when I met the president of the GAA and his officials in Croke Park on 8 March. This refocuses our support for grassroots activity, particularly by small community clubs. It increases the focus on youth involvement, as well as sponsoring regional tournaments that are a showcase for the games at international level. We will continue to develop the programme to reflect the changing patterns.

Administratively, we agreed to reinforce the role of Croke Park’s central management and strengthen our financial control procedures in line with the growth of the programme. Projects are identified through an open call mechanism conducted by GAA headquarters. The applications are screened at regional level by the GAA and funding decisions are taken jointly by the GAA and my Department. As our communities abroad emerge from the shadow of Covid, the Government stands ready through a strengthened programme to help them rebuild the infrastructure and activities.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I know from speaking to many people of Mayo descent living abroad that they take pride in the GAA clubs in their respective domiciles and the ongoing links these clubs provide to Ireland. GAA is in the blood of many county people and our conversations never drift too far from Gaelic games. The €900,000 global games development fund is going a long way to delivering projects abroad. It is a useful fund. Is there potential to expand to initiatives beyond sport, such as Creative Ireland or similar schemes? Our people hold their heritage with pride and, ahead of the next St. Patrick's Day, it would be great to see an expansion of the work with our diaspora.

We are always looking to expand and see what involvement we can have. What we are doing in the GAA provides a good template for that. Part of the programme we are looking at supporting across the diaspora is the re-energising and re-rolling out of things like the St. Patrick's Day activities and festivals. They were an integral part of the community network that was badly affected by two years in which those programmes could not be held. My Department is committed to looking at how we can develop a range of supports for them in a similar vein to what has been done with the GAA.

This global games development fund has significantly grown, as the Minister of State mentioned, from 2013, when just over 14 clubs were funded. I understand the fund contributes to one-off events and to activities lasting much longer than that. These projects are invaluable in supporting and nurturing a sense of Irish community. Many have created important links between global Ireland and the local community. I commend the Minister of State on that work. Does he envisage that fund will increase over the coming years?

The Deputy made an important point. One of the key things we tried to emphasise in the redesign of this fund, in conjunction with the GAA, was to move away from once-off sponsorship and to a programme of ongoing development, particularly in respect of trying to strengthen clubs at grassroots level and the skill level to benefit clubs. This refocusing is designed to give a much longer-term benefit to clubs on the ground, in contrast to some of the previous once-off sponsorship.

We will continue to review this programme. It has been incredibly successful and I was pleased we were able to increase the support provided for it. It is the type of programme that is at the heart of where we see this development and a role model for involvement by ourselves and the GAA in the diaspora context.

Ukraine War

John Lahart

Question:

81. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will detail all the sanctions that Ireland has imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. [15147/22]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

111. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of officials, persons and companies from Russia or Belarus currently sanctioned by the Government in response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. [15159/22]

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

123. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he expects any further sanctions to be imposed on Russia and Belarus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15344/22]

This question is to ask the Minister if he is in a position to give details of the sanctions, if not perhaps all of them, that Ireland has imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. I ask him to make a general statement on the matter, regarding what those sanctions might involve and what he thinks the likely impact and effect has been on Russia in that regard. Regarding the businesses in question, have they complied with the sanctions and what oversight is in place to ensure that there is compliance with these sanctions? I ask the Minister to make a statement on this matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 111 and 123 together.

Ireland implements UN sanctions, as adopted by the UN Security Council, and EU sanctions, as adopted as part of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. Ireland does not adopt unilateral sanctions; the sanctions in force in Ireland in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine are EU sanctions, agreed and adopted by all EU member states. Similar measures have also been adopted by the US, Canada, UK, Switzerland and other like-minded countries. This co-ordinated effort magnifies the impact of the sanctions, sending a message of unity beyond the economic impacts.

EU sanctions have been adopted on six occasions in response to the crisis in Ukraine: on 23, 25 and 28 February and on 1 to 2, 9 and 15 March. Together, these are the most extensive sanctions in the history of the EU. The aim is to incentivise President Putin to find a political solution to the conflict he has created and to reduce the funding and equipment Russia has available to continue its military campaign.

The sanctions have been adopted under two sanctions regimes in existence since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, as well as under the existing sanctions regime in respect of the situation in Belarus. A new sanctions regime has also been created, imposing restrictive measures on the non-government-controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in Ukraine. The sanctions are made up of sectoral measures, which target specific economic sectors, industries or broad areas, such as the media, and individual measures, which apply to named people and entities.

The sectoral sanctions introduced to date target the Russian financial, energy, technology and defence and transport sectors. Similar sanctions have also been introduced on Belarus, in view of the support it is giving to the Russian regime. Trade between the EU and the breakaway regions in Donetsk and Luhansk has been restricted. Restrictions have been introduced on the broadcasting of certain Russia state-owned media platforms in the EU, to try to limit disinformation. The financial sanctions on Russia are particularly wide-ranging, targeting 70% of the Russian banking system, as well as key State-owned companies. Among other things, they ban transactions with the Central Bank of Russia, restrict Russian access to the EU’s capital and financial markets and exclude certain Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system.

The most recent measures were adopted on 15 March and expand financial, energy, and security and defence sectoral measures. In particular, the sanctions prohibit transactions with certain Russian state-owned companies, prevent the provision of credit-rating services to Russia and restrict the import of iron and steel products from Russia. Exports of a wide range of luxury goods from the EU to Russia are also now prohibited.

Extensive individual sanctions measures have also been introduced since 23 February. A total of 685 Russians and Belarusians have been added to the sanctions list, and are therefore now subject to asset freezes and travel bans. Those sanctioned include decision-makers such as President Putin, his defence minister, his foreign minister and the members of the Russian National Security Council, Russian parliamentarians who voted in favour of the invasion of Ukraine, oligarchs who financially or materially support the military operations or benefit from them, Russian and Belarusian military figures and propagandists responsible for spreading disinformation about the Russian invasion. Fourteen entities have also been added to the list and are subject to asset freezes. These include banks, insurance companies, a so-called “troll factory” responsible for spreading disinformation and companies in the aviation, shipbuilding, machine building and defence sectors.

These most recent measures mean that 862 people and 53 entities have been sanctioned for actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Detailed information on all the sanctions adopted since this conflict began are available on my Department's website, including summaries of each of the new legal Acts adopted.

At the Foreign Affairs Council last Monday, 21 March, there was broad agreement on the need to maintain economic and political pressure through the adoption of a further sanctions package in the short term. EU member states have a range of views as to what this further package should focus on. Ireland would favour restrictions on energy imports from Russia to the EU, specifically of coal, gas and oil, but we recognise that many EU countries will need time to undertake energy transition measures to reduce their dependency on Russian oil and gas. Another key priority for all member states is the rapid and effective implementation of the substantial packages of sanctions already agreed. Ireland has asked the Commission to prepare a rapid impact assessment of the sanctions adopted so far, so that we have evidence of what measures are working most effectively and where we may need to plug gaps in future.

The Minister addressed my question in the last line there in respect of the impact of the sanctions. My question is really on the efficacy of the sanctions. How do we know what impact they are having? How long does the Minister think it will take for the report on those impacts to be returned? He referred to it being done at EU level. What is the ultimate purpose of the sanctions? I support them, but I would like more details on them. I listened to an interview carried on radio recently. It was on RTÉ and done by an American. He said some goods in the shops in Moscow are marginally dearer, but regarding the impacts of the sanctions on the ordinary citizen, it seems these sanctions are impacting on more westernised and western-minded Russians. Therefore, I wonder how long it will take for these sanctions to impact in a deep way. Are we talking about a matter of weeks or of months? When does the Minister expect to see a political return from the sanctions? My basic question is: when do they begin to squeeze?

Billions in Russian roubles are reportedly sloshing around the IFSC. Those funds are reportedly being used to circumvent sanctions. We have reports from thecurrency.news about €13 billion of domiciled money in the IFSC and from The Irish Times showing that €34 billion is held by opaque Russian-linked shell companies registered in the IFSC, while Colm Keena has done work concerning a network of bank accounts moving billions of euro from Russia to the west through the IFSC.

The question put to the Government since the start of this conflict has concerned what research it is undertaking to ensure that such activities can no longer happen. What are we doing to close that method of circumventing international sanctions against Russia?

There were many questions there and I will try to be as precise as I can in responding. Ireland and other EU member states have asked for, effectively, an impact assessment as we go in respect of these sanctions. This war, though, has only been going on for a month. The first three rounds of sanctions packages happened over five days. Normally, it takes months to put an impact assessment in place. Therefore, everything in this regard is happening in fast-forward, if you like.

I understand the European Commission is constantly working on a rolling assessment of how these sanctions are working and biting, the impact of them and so on. The EU has also been asked to consider mitigation measures for member states in terms of the impact of sanctions here. Of course, agreeing sanctions packages to effectively disrupt trade between Russia and the EU has a big impact on the EU too. These sanctions damage our own economies but are more than justifiable given the extent of the aggression and scale of human misery linked to what is happening in Ukraine.

This is why I believe sanctions will continue to get stronger to act as a deterrent to the continuation of this war. I hope they will work in parallel with very proactive interventions to try to bring about the basis for a ceasefire. I will answer the question on the IFSC at the next opportunity but it is not primarily my responsibility.

I thank the Minister and it clearly takes time. Everybody is interested in the background - the rationale rather than research - for particular sanctions rather than others. We must be guided by the fact that the last people we want to penalise are our own citizens and people in business here. We do not wish to affect consumers here who have felt an impact. What is the purpose or rationale for this? In other words, what is the endgame for sanctions? What are they designed to do? Is it, as the Minister implies, to bring Mr. Putin to the table? Is it to put such a squeeze on those who support him that they would be minded to tell him that he should bring an end to this? Is it that there would be such a negative economic impact on Russia over a period that its leadership would be minded to take a different course of action? What kind of timescale does the Minister envisage for the sanctions to have the desired outcome?

The IFSC is acting as a colander, allowing Russian money to percolate and therefore to circumvent sanctions. It is up to each individual country to implement and impose those sanctions, so will the Minister address that point? It is something of real significance and if it is happening, it means the IFSC is helping the Russian war effort.

Another way Ireland and the European Union is supporting the Russian war effort is by spending €500 million every single day on Russian oil and gas. The US and Britain have decided to target Russian oil and gas but there is an inability in the European Union to make proper decisions about this. The Minister mentioned Ireland does not adopt sanctions unilaterally but one of the problems in this country is we are continuously outsourcing elements of our foreign policy to the European Union. The Minister indicates we are stronger working together in making decisions with Europe, but if Europe will not make the bloody decision, how is it in any way stronger? It is still €500 million on a daily basis going from the European Union to Russia for oil and gas. That is at the same time we are giving money to Ukraine. It does not make sense.

When dealing with the question of money flowing through the IFSC, we are all committed to the idea that Russia's ability to fight a war should be hurt as much as possible in a financial sense. Will the Minister indicate the status of the list of companies still trading with Russia and which we who sit on the European Union affairs committee were told by the Ukrainian ambassador, H.E. Larysa Gerasko, was given to the Minister's Department? I get that it is far better that we act across Europe as opposed to unilaterally but at the same time, one of the requests was that we would cut off access of Russia and its proxies to seaports here as well.

It was an excellent question posed by Deputy Lahart on the purpose and efficacy of sanctions. Of course, the purpose of these sanctions must be to stop the war in Ukraine and bring Russia to the quite natural and obvious end, which is the negotiating table. Therefore, it is crucial that on a daily basis we analyse the impact of the decisions made and further decisions that could be made. We operate in partnership with the EU and as a member of the UN Security Council but, crucially, we must be guided by an independent Irish foreign policy that is based on our historic military neutrality. That means we can play a positive and constructive role in securing what the peoples of Ukraine and all over Europe are demanding, quite correctly, which is an end to the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In response to that comment, I have said many times that we are not neutral in this conflict.

I did not say we were.

We are being asked by the Ukrainian ambassador and the Ukrainian Government to make interventions and we are trying to do as much as we can to support the people of Ukraine who are under attack. We are also working as part of a collective effort within the EU and the broader international community to try to find a way of bringing this to an end. The Deputy is correct that there are advantages to Ireland's historical approach to military neutrality and non-alignment.

What about the IFSC?

On the question of the IFSC, Ireland will ensure we will play our part in the full implementation of sanctions, full stop.

What research is happening?

It is primarily a matter for the Department of Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland, along with other Departments. From my perspective, we have made commitments to EU sanctions and we must ensure they are fully implemented, including if that involves the IFSC.

With respect to Deputy Lahart's question, because of the pace of the issue there is a need to respond quickly. Normally, before the EU would impose sanctions on a country or another part of the world, there would be much assessment before making a decision. The judgment was made in this case by EU leaders that we needed to move far more quickly. The truth is there is an element of the unknown in terms of the impact of these sanctions both on Russia and the EU but because of the brutality of what we are seeing, we needed to act quickly to put in place a significant deterrent and make a very clear statement to the Kremlin that the EU would act quickly and together. It has done so. There was a miscalculation that the EU would not have the capacity to do what we have done.

We are over the allotted time. I have already given an extra minute. We must move on unless the Minister has something brief to add.

I am responding to four Deputies.

Two Deputies tabled the questions.

There were three. I am in your hands.

Overseas Development Aid

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

82. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine with regard to the resultant and expected global food shortages and the impact on Ireland’s overseas development aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15474/22]

The Minister referred to a crisis that is playing out in fast-forward or at least in real time on media, including social media. There is also a catastrophe playing out in slow motion arising from the Russian aggression in Ukraine. We know Ukraine alone provides the wheat supply for more than half of the world food programmes and there shall be major implications for people across the developing world as expected crop crises unfold on foot of the invasion. Have we any plans for our overseas development aid in this respect?

Given their important role in the world’s food system, together providing 12% of the world’s traded calories, global food security has been damaged by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The most immediate impact has been the significant increase in the prices of wheat, sunflower oil and fertiliser, which is already affecting food prices in import-dependent poorer countries.

With fertiliser prices increasing, food production prices will also increase, reducing farm incomes, just as climate stress and pre-existing conflicts are also complicating food production. Many countries where the Irish Aid programme is active, including but not exclusively Ethiopia, Syria, Lebanon, and Kenya, are particularly exposed to increasing food prices. With the World Food Programme’s humanitarian response also vulnerable to increased cereals prices, and also increasing transport costs, the situation of many of those at risk has deteriorated. The World Food Programme has reduced its rations to many of those dependent on its food distribution, and in Yemen, for example, 16.2 million people are food-insecure.

In addition to the Irish Aid humanitarian response to Ukraine, already exceeding €20 million in response to immediate needs, my Department will ensure that the whole of the aid programme is engaged in responding to the wider challenges arising from the food security issues arising from the invasion of Ukraine.

Irish Aid has a strong track record from which to build in response to this crisis, building from our global leadership on food systems, including at last year’s food systems summit and through our board membership of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, as well as mainstreaming food across our development programme and humanitarian responses. Ireland has pledged €800 million to nutrition work over the five years to 2026, including a three-year strategic partnership with the World Food Programme worth €75 million to provide food assistance to the world’s poorest people. In addition, Irish Aid will work with partner governments on the re-orientation of social protection programmes and to improve agricultural practices.

The Minister of State rightly draws attention to the proud record Irish Aid has in regard to our overseas development aid programme. I know that we like to try to fund multiannual projects which is right and correct. However, exceptional measures will need to be taken for the forthcoming food shortages. We also need to look forward in respect of climate shocks, which are mentioned in the programme for Government. While we did not anticipate this level of military crisis, climate shocks are going to affect agriculture in developing countries even more than they will affect us here. We are going to have to take emergency measures to feed the world's poorest. Unfortunately, as with all of these things, the worst effects of this crisis are going to be played out among the populations least able to afford them. We really need to be planning ahead and seeing what we can do as an admittedly small country to help in this matter.

The Deputy is quite right in his analysis. We are working with the World Food Programme. As a small country, our best involvement is through large international organisations. Under our commitment with the World Food Programme we have put in €75 million from 2022 to 2024, increasing support to it. The Deputy is right to highlight that in a number of countries where the World Food Programme is the primary source of food supply there are going to be issues later in the year. We are conscious of that. We are working on that. We are also working to ensure that our own aid programmes, while maintaining focus on Ukraine, continue to function within those countries. There is no question that there is a supply side issue from Ukraine and Russia to the World Food Programme. Even if that can be met there will be international price implications for World Food Programme purchasing. This needs to be a collective response and we are working on addressing it now.

That draws attention to the fact that we need to have a short-term and immediate response to this crisis in terms of getting food to the most vulnerable. However, we also need to have a long-term response to food sovereignty and food security in developing countries. There is a reference in the programme for Government to vulnerability to climate shocks. We know we are going to see it intensify and worsen. There is an important role for Ireland in long-term overseas development aid and helping countries develop their own food sovereignty and food independence, particularly countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of our partner countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. I hope we will see a scaling up of our initiatives from Irish Aid in that regard, particularly in supporting food systems and agriculture in developing countries.

I agree with the Deputy's emphasis on the longer term approach, particularly in respect of climate financing and adaptation. We are absolutely certain that a set of programmes is needed that enable food production to take place in a more localised way and make it as independent of inputs like fertilisers as possible. Stability of food production in key areas is needed. That is part of Irish Aid's ongoing commitment programme which we are continuing to strengthen. The immediate impact of what has happened in Ukraine highlights that these are really key things that need to be addressed. The Irish Aid programme is addressing them as we speak in terms of our approach to tackling that food security system.

Diplomatic Representation

Brendan Griffin

Question:

83. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contact he and his officials are having with the Russian ambassador; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15515/22]

Catherine Connolly

Question:

126. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the engagement he has had with his counterparts in Russia, either bilaterally or through Ireland’s membership of the United Nations Security Council since February 2022, to bring about an end to the war in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15467/22]

James Lawless

Question:

145. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the recent meeting between the Irish ambassador to Russia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15326/22]

Thomas Gould

Question:

147. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the last time he met with the Russian ambassador; and if he requested the ambassador to correct the statement that he gave to the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. [15331/22]

James Lawless

Question:

161. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the recent engagement he or his Department have had with the Russian ambassador; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15325/22]

What contact have the Minister and his officials had with the Russian ambassador and will he make a statement on the matter?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 126, 145, 147 and 161 together.

I was not sure whether this question was purely about Ukraine or about the broader relationship with Russia. I will give the Deputy answers on both.

Ireland has kept channels for dialogue with Russia open, and my officials have had numerous engagements with Russian interlocutors on Ukraine. During such engagements, we have consistently made clear to Russia that we view its aggression against Ukraine since 2014 as unacceptable. In all our interactions, we have also been clear on the need to uphold international law, especially the UN charter. We have also called for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. We have been unwavering in our expression of solidarity to Ukraine, and insisted on its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

In May 2021, in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov I raised the detention of opposition political leader Alexei Navalny, treatment of minorities within Russia, the situation in Ukraine and Russian actions in the Czech Republic as points of friction and departure. In a bilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov at the UN in September 2021, I reiterated Ireland’s long-standing position against Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Since Russia's further invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, my officials have formally registered Ireland's opposition to Russia's actions with the Russian ambassador. My Department is carefully monitoring the progression of direct talks between Ukraine and Russia. Ireland stands ready to support any initiative which can deliver peace, in line with international humanitarian law as well as international human norms and standards, and which respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

Ireland's positions are well known and we have been consistent in meetings with Russian interlocutors. This consistency extends to meetings between our ambassador to Russia and the Russian Government. I have no influence over the Russian ambassador's statements to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I know that matter has been raised by some. In short, we speak to the Russian Embassy all the time at senior official level. Sometimes those conversations involve me. I can assure the Deputy that we are direct and consistent in the messages we are sending.

I fully appreciate that channels for dialogue are open and that they are constant and consistent. Have they led to anything? Is there any progress? The Minister briefly mentioned the ambassador's performance before the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee. I note equally his performance on RTÉ and his slew of absolutely offensive statements.

In more practical terms, the embassy is in my own constituency of Dublin Rathdown. There is understandable desire from so many people to protest against the continuing Russian presence in Ukraine. Practically, however, this is having an impact on the residents on Orwell Road and nearby. At what point does the need for expulsion here, as we have seen in other European member states, become not just an aspiration but a reality? Is keeping the channels open actually achieving anything when they continue to put out a slew of disinformation and maintain two defence attachés? Let us not forget that Russia continues to bomb women and children out of their houses in Ukraine on a daily basis.

It is my judgment that having a diplomatic channel for communication and sending messages makes sense on lots of levels. Even if there is a war going on, people need to talk. If we are going to continue to try to bring an end to that war, talking is necessary and diplomatic interventions are necessary, even if we fundamentally disagree with the people we are talking to in terms of the approach they are taking and the legality of that internationally.

Having said that, we are assessing whether the extent of the presence and the Russian diplomatic footprint in Ireland is appropriate. We continue to speak to a number of other EU countries that are doing the same. This week, a number of EU countries have made decisions in that regard. I suspect there will be decisions, next week perhaps, by other member states. When we are ready to make decisions from an Irish perspective, we will do so.

Is féidir teacht ar Cheisteanna Scríofa ar www.oireachtas.ie .
Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.
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