THE MINISTER for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that Ireland is to "constructively abstain" from the purchasing of lethal weaponry for the Ukraine military, and will instead contribute to non-lethal support.
Under the EU European Peace Facility (EPF) which was created in March 2021, members states that opt not to contribute to lethal support such as anti-tank systems, anti-aircraft systems and missiles, can instead contribute to the purchasing of equipment such as helmets, protection vests, medical kits and fuel.
The EPF is an off-budget instrument aimed at enhancing the Union's ability to prevent conflicts, build peace and strengthen international security, by enabling the financing of operational actions under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that have military or defence implications.
The package the facility is providing for Ukraine amounts to €500 million, with Ireland contributing 1.9 per cent of that, or €9 million.
Coveney explained on RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the facility "allows the EU to intervene to prevent conflict, to protect civilians in different parts of the world should we need to together as one entity.
"As part of that facility, the EU can provide lethal weapons in order to prevent conflict, and some countries were uncomfortable with that. Ireland was one of those countries. Countries that are uncomfortable with purchasing lethal weapons can purchase other military equipment as part of the overall effort."
Coveney said he felt it was right that the EU was intervening, as the Ukraine military is under "enormous pressure."
"Many of the military, for example, are not trained soldiers at all," he said. "They are simply young men, and not so young men, and in many cases women, who are signing up to put on the military uniform for their country which is under attack by an aggressor."
Coveney also responded to calls to expel the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov, which Sinn Féin and Labour had suggested.
"My job as Foreign Minister is to try to think ahead here," he said. "We are going to have hundreds of Irish citizens living and working in Russia. We have many Irish citizens living in Ukraine too, and I need to make sure we have lines of communication open so I can help those people and do my job.
"Even if you fundamentally disagree with somebody, as we do with Russia right no, and you're trying to hold them to account, you still need to keep that communication open in my view.
"I don't think it's wise to expel the Russian ambassador to Ireland to allow us to have a direct line of communication to Moscow for humanitarian reasons primarily, but also to ensure that we can let them know what the Irish view is very directly."
However, he suggested that other Russian diplomats, embassy staff and operatives may be expelled from Ireland over the coming days and weeks.
In a statement today, Coveney also condemned Russia's decision to put its 'deterrent forces,' or nuclear weapons, on 'special combat duty.'
"This threat of nuclear weapons is utterly unacceptable," he said.
"President Putin’s announcement represents a dangerous and irresponsible escalation in tensions, and considerably heightens the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. There can be no justification for threatening use of nuclear weapons.
"Ireland has long argued that nuclear weapons offer no security, and their use would result in devastating humanitarian consequences. I recall the statement of the heads of the five Nuclear Weapon States, including President Putin, just last month, that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’.
He called for Russia to immediately revoke the order, and urged maximum restraint, de-escalation and the "avoidance of any nuclear rhetoric which will only worsen an already dangerous and unpredictable situation."