By Dominic McGrath, PA
The Dáil has heard that Ireland needs to crack down on Russian money moving through the State’s finance centre.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin also backed a call for the Dáil to vote soon to formally censure Russian actions at the border of Ukraine.
Full details of EU sanctions against Russia will be confirmed later on Wednesday after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered troops into separatist regions of Ukraine, prompting fears about a full-scale invasion.
In the Dáil on Wednesday, Labour leader Alan Kelly said €118 billion was funnelled through Dublin to Russia between 2005 and 2017.
He told Mr Martin: “We’re at risk of becoming the best small country in the world to funnel corrupt, dirty, Russian oligarch money.
“If sanctions in the UK, US and EU lead to a clampdown on Russian billionaires, there’s a likelihood that oligarchs under shell companies, thousands of them, may seek to use Ireland to continue to funnel the money.”
Mr Kelly said the Dáil must “unanimously” condemn the Russian aggression of recent days, which has stoked fears of a full-scale war in Europe.
The Taoiseach, who was in Berlin on Tuesday for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, again condemned Russian actions.
“We’re part of the European Union-wide sanctions regime and the European Union along with United States, and it’s (through) working in concert with other like-minded countries who value democracy that a range of sanctions have been agreed.
“We will share with the European Union any sanctions and obviously support all sanctions, including the targeting of the ability of the Russian state to access the European Union’s capital and financial markets, which will be a significant sanction in itself.”
Mr Martin backed the call for a Dáil motion on Moscow’s actions.
“Russia’s behaviour deserves the unequivocal condemnation of everyone in this house, and our support as a country for Ukrainian sovereignty, territorial integrity and right to choose its own foreign security policies is unwavering,” he said.
“It is a very dark moment in European history on the continent. It is very, very serious. The sheer scale of the militarisation of the border in Ukraine is something that we would have thought a relic of the past.”
Earlier, the Minister for Finance said he understood the concerns of business, as the EU, UK and US begin to impose punitive sanctions on Russia.
Russia has manufactured this crisis and is responsible for the current escalation.
We will now quickly finalise the sanctions package, in coordination with our partners.
Read President @vonderleyen's speech on the EU's response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine ↓
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) February 22, 2022
Paschal Donohoe said full details of the EU sanctions would be announced on Wednesday afternoon.
“An element of that will be to break and challenge the links between the finance and capital markets of the European Union and Russia. So there will be elements of that that will be included in the package of measures that will be confirmed by the European Union later on today,” he said.
Asked on RTÉ radio about the role of Ireland in the sanctions package, he replied: “If a country has a large financial services sector and values that, and we do here in Ireland – it’s a really big employer in the Irish economy – that does mean that we’ve international capital and international money in Ireland and, yes, there is indeed a level of Russian capital traded in and out of our IFSC (International Financial Services Centre).”
He said the Government has already changed the law on tax, while also updating anti-money laundering legislation, in response to concerns.
Mr Donohoe said a war in Europe would have a detrimental impact on the Irish and European economy.
However, he again ruled out further measures to tackle the rising cost of living before the October Budget, even if energy prices rise due to the crisis in Ukraine.
He said he knew companies were concerned about the impact of sanctions on business, adding: “I think it’s very understandable for companies that are involved in sectors that have particular links with either exports or imports that come from Russia, or go to Russia, are of course concerned about what a war or sanctions could mean.
“If you look at where our economy stands overall, our exports to Russia are approximately 1 per cent of our national income. Our imports from Russia are approximately 0.5 per cent of our national income. But inside that 0.5 per cent, there are sectors that do have a little bit more of a reliance on Russia than other sectors would.
“It’s understandable that they would raise concerns regarding what could happen, but we are making these decisions inside the context of the security and the ability of states to determine their own future being threatened by unacceptable and illegal behaviour.
“And Ireland does need to be part of the response to that.”
Mr Martin told the Dáil: “I don’t think it’s enough to say that there’s growing anxiety about the aggressive position in Russia.
“I think we should all be clear in this house that we all condemn the Russian aggression and use that language clearly and without equivocation.
“Yes, there will be repercussions and sanctions, that is the inescapable consequence of Russia’s behaviour.
“We don’t want to take economic sanctions, nobody does.
“Those sanctions will have an impact, the crisis is having an impact on oil and gas prices, and it will continue to have that, and that is the inevitable consequence of what is going on now.”