Taoiseach plays down suggestions Zelenskiy criticised Irish support for Ukraine

Micheál Martin said he ‘wouldn’t have taken the same slant as some may be taking from’ the Ukrainian president’s comments
Taoiseach plays down suggestions Zelenskiy criticised Irish support for Ukraine

Dominic McGrath, PA

The Ukrainian president has offered only qualified thanks to Ireland for its support for the country since the Russian invasion a month ago.

Addressing the European Council, Volodymyr Zelenskiy name-checked EU member states – noting in turn what he saw as the level of support the country had given Ukraine.

“Ireland, well, almost,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

The Ukrainian leader offered no further reasons for his comment.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed world leaders gathered in Brussels (Justin Tallis/PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, speaking on the second day of the European Council meeting in Brussels, played down the comments.

He suggested he does believe Ireland was being criticised by the Ukrainian leader.

While fully backing the Ukrainian push for EU membership, the State has not abandoned its position of military neutrality in the face of the Russian assault.

Mr Martin has stressed Ireland is not politically neutral and has committed millions of euros in non-lethal aid to Ukraine.

The State has also taken in more than 10,000 Ukrainian refugees, with thousands more expected to arrive after the Government removed any requirement for visas.

Mr Martin insisted Mr Zelenskiy “was actually talking in terms of the European perspective”.

He said: “I wouldn’t have taken the same slant as some may be taking from it.

“I can’t surmise in terms of what implication there is except I spoke to him last week, and he was very strongly in praise of the Irish contribution, both from a humanitarian perspective, in terms of our clear support for Ukraine’s application to join the EU, and he thanked me personally for my own personal commitment to that.

“I am not going to surmise in terms of whatever particular take you would take from the use ‘almost’ or ‘practically’.”

He said people should not read too much into the comments.

“We are a militarily-neutral country, but again we facilitated the EU Peace Facility, which has been of enormous support to the Ukrainian people.

“I wouldn’t overstate it, quite frankly.”

Speaking to European leaders, Mr Zelenskiy said he was grateful for the sanctions imposed so far.

But he told them: “These are powerful steps. But it was a little late.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Anti-war protesters outside the Russian embassy in Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

“Because if it had been preventative, Russia would not have gone to war. At least, no-one knows for sure. There was a chance.”

He asked European leaders not to delay accepting his country’s bid to join the EU.

“Do not be late. Please.”

Pointing to the events of the last month, he said: “You saw that Ukraine should be in the EU in the near future.”

EU leaders have so far resisted the call to accelerate the accession of Ukraine to the bloc.

Mr Zelenskiy has accepted an invitation to address the Oireachtas on April 6th, where he will speak directly to Irish politicians.

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