Monday 24 September 2018

Social Democrats call on Tanaiste for evidence to show need to expel Russian diplomat

Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall (right) during a press briefing on the plinth of Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall (right) during a press briefing on the plinth of Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Wayne O’Connor

The Social Democrats have appealed to Tánaiste Simon Coveney to demonstrate evidence of a need to expel a Russian diplomat in the wake of a European response to the Salisbury attack.

While the party’s co-leaders said there are concerns over the alleged use of a nerve agent on a former Russian spy, they described Ireland’s role in taking action as “unprecedented”.

Róisín Shorthall and Catherine Murphy called on the Tánaiste to show what evidence he has that there is a need to revoke accreditation and the diplomatic status granted to a member of the Russian Embassy staff in Dublin.

They also raised questions about the Department of Justice, asking if there are required structures in place to interpret security concerns effectively.

The Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has met with the Russian Ambassador and informed him that the accreditation of a member of his staff is required to leave Ireland.

Ms Shorthall appealed to Mr Coveney to clarify why such action must be taken.

“If there is strong evidence there we are very much open to that and we would very much like to hear from the Tánaiste what evidence he has in his possession. Of course it does raise other issues about our capability in this country to actually analyse any security information or evidence that comes to the attention of government.”

Ms Murphy asked if we have the know how to interpret such evidence.

“If there is evidence there behind the scenes, whether that is coming from European sources or the UK and it has been analysed and there are grounds there, then yes we are open to action being taken,” she said.

“There have been issues in the past, for example over the use of Irish passports.

We are certainly open to listening to what evidence there is. Our worry is where do we get the evidence from if we have not got a service that is dedicated enough, robust enough and invested in enough to actually give us the evidence we can evaluate.”

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