By Dominic McGrath, PA
The expulsion of Russian diplomats from Ireland is "under discussion" amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a member of Government.
Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne, who is Minister of State for European Affairs, said the expulsion of Russian diplomats from EU countries was being discussed, adding he is “proud” of his party colleagues who have called for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador.
There is growing pressure in Ireland for Yury Filatov to be expelled from the country over the actions of Russian in Ukraine.
On Saturday evening, nearly 40 Fianna Fáil TDs, senators and MEPs signed a petition calling on Mr Filatov to be ejected from Ireland.
The list included TDs Jim O’Callaghan and Dara Calleary, as well as senators Lisa Chambers and Fiona O’Loughlin.
The chair of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee and senior Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan also tweeted a call for the ambassador to be forced to leave Ireland.
“I’m very proud of my Fianna Fáil colleagues who have taken consistently a proud stand for Ukraine, for democracy and against the autocracy in Russia over the years, particularly in the European Parliament, but also in the Dáil and yesterday,” Mr Byrne told the BBC on Sunday.
He indicated that such action was being discussed in the EU, but cautioned such a move would lead to a response from Russia.
“It’s under discussion, there’s no question, but it’ll be done on a European level.
“I think we’ll have much greater effect if we all make a move together. There are certain factors we have to take into account.
“You must keep lines of communication open, but also you must ensure that your own diplomats in Russia are not kicked out either because then you’re at a disadvantage, obviously then dealing with Irish citizens or other European citizens who may be there.
“So, this is certainly under discussion at a European level. My preference will be to deal with this as part of a common approach.”
According to the Sunday Independent, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told the paper that he expects Ireland to expel some Russian diplomats as part of the next set of EU sanctions, but will stop short of expelling Mr Filatov.
Mr Coveney told the paper that not having a line of communication to Moscow would be a “mistake”.
Ireland has meanwhile already moved to close off its airspace to all Russian aircraft as the invasion of Ukraine continues.