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Simon Coveney criticises meeting between new Defence Forces chief of staff and Russian Ambassador


Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney (Photo: Niall Carson/PA)

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney (Photo: Niall Carson/PA)

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney (Photo: Niall Carson/PA)

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has criticised a recent meeting between the new chief of staff of the Defence Forces and the Russian ambassador to Ireland.

Mr Coveney, who is also Minister for Defence, told the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday that he was “surprised to put it mildly” at Lieutenant General Seán Clancy’s meeting with Yury Filatov last Friday.

Mr Coveney said he had spoken to the recently appointed chief of staff and that he viewed what happened as ill-judged, according to sources at the Fine Gael meeting who said it was clear from his comments that Mr Coveney had reprimanded the State’s top military official.

Mr Coveney told the meeting that Lieutenant General Clancy had told him the meeting was part of engagements he was undertaking with diplomats as part of his new role.

A source close to Mr Coveney said it was the tweet from the Russian Embassy that “was the surprising bit”.

The embassy tweeted a photograph of the ambassador and the chief of staff.

The issue was raised by former agriculture minister Michael Creed who questioned the timing and appropriateness of the meeting, which took place at the Russian Embassy on Orwell Road in Dublin last week and was tweeted about by the embassy afterwards.

“Parties discussed the issues of Russia-Ireland relations and international agenda, as well as prospects of contacts between (the) armed forces of (the) two countries,” the tweet stated.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said his department is examining the impact of EU sanctions on Russia if they invade Ukraine and any potential counter sanctions.

The Fine Gael leader told party colleagues his department is profiling how such international measures would look on the ground and affect businesses, adding that the pandemic had shown how businesses can be helped during an economic shock.

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He also said planned Russian naval exercises off the Irish coast are very unwelcome and a matter of concern.

A number of TDs and Senators raised concerns about delays and cancellations of road projects in their constituencies including Senators Garret Ahearn, John Cummins, and Micheál Carrigy along with TDs John Paul Phelan, Brendan Griffin and David Stanton.

Mr Stanton was, according to sources, the strongest critic of Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, saying he had failed to even respond to a letter he wrote to him about an upgrade to the N24 Carrigtwohill and Midleton Road. The Cork East TD questioned why Mr Ryan should be supported if he does not respond to Government TDs.

Mr Ahearn called for progress on the N24 and said the project had been backed by the IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan. Mr Varadkar said he would raise the issues at the next Coalition leaders meeting.

Elsewhere, Mr Varadkar told the meeting construction had commenced on over 30,000 homes in the last 12 months and 40,000 planning permission applications had been granted for the same period.

A number of parliamentary party members raised issues around delays in processing passports and work permits. Mr Coveney informed the meeting that up to 1.7 million passport applications will be made this year whereas the previous highest was one million.

By the end of this month 775 people, increased from 460 last June, will be working on passport applications and this will be increased to 900 by the end of March.

This article was amended on January 26, 2022.

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