‘Essential not to lose focus’ on war in Ukraine, Varadkar warns

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits the memorial to the Heavenly Hundred at Maidan Square, following a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, in Kyiv, Ukraine (PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits the memorial to the Heavenly Hundred at Maidan Square, following a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, in Kyiv, Ukraine (PA)

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said it was “essential” to not “lose focus” on the war in Ukraine as global attention focuses on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The Taoiseach was speaking ahead of a two-day meeting of the EU’s 27 leaders in Brussels on Friday.

Mr Varadkar said on the first day of the summit that some countries wanted attention to be drawn away from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and towards the threat of an escalating conflict in the Middle East.

“Because of all the other things that are happening in the world, not least in the Middle East, it’d be very easy to lose focus on the war in Ukraine, and it is essential that we don’t do that,” he told reporters on Friday.

“We need to continue, if not continue, double down on – our support for Ukraine, in terms of political, military, financial and other support.”

He said European leaders will also discuss migration but there is no expectation of any new conclusions.

He added: “We have a very strong view that Ukraine has a right to defend its sovereignty, its independence, its democracy.

“If we don’t stop (Vladimir) Putin in Ukraine, he won’t stop there.

“So it is a threat to all of us and Ireland will continue with support for Ukraine until victory.”

His comments come as the Irish government debate on how to change their offering to the thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war and arriving in Ireland.

As of this month, 96,338 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland since the start of the war in February 2022.

The Government has said that as a further 30-50,000 are expected to arrive in the next year, it must change the current open-ended accommodation it is offering, and potentially reduce entitlements to social welfare supports.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

There were disagreements at Cabinet this week after it was proposed a three-month limit would be placed on the period the state would be obliged to provide accommodation to Ukrainians.

Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has said any change to state provisions for Ukrainian refugees must be “sustainable”, while cautioning that no decision had yet been taken.

The minister, who is attending the EU summit in Brussels in his capacity as president of the Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers, said cabinet would come to a decision soon.

“This is an issue that’s already been discussed at many different levels within government, it’s been discussed a number of times in the Ukraine cabinet sub-committee, and we regularly discuss policy issues in relation to migration and our support for the people of Ukraine who are facing this terrible war and the discussion that happened in cabinet earlier in the week is just part of that deliberative process,” he said.

“So I’d expect that it will conclude soon.

“The Government has not made a decision on that.

“This is a complex matter.

“The Irish people, the Irish state have shown a remarkable ability to support nearly 100,000 people that have come to our country in the last two years.

“We just need to consider how we can continue to do this in the future and do so in a way that is sustainable.

“Government hasn’t made the decision on the matter.

“We’re aware of the many consequences of any decision that we make.

“And I’d expect that in the next few weeks the matter will be considered again,” he said.