Taoiseach rules out sending weapons to Ukraine

Call for foreign fighters to assist in war against Russia taken up by 20 Irish men

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has ruled out sending any Irish weapons to Ukraine, despite pleas from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy for more military aid from western countries.

“Ireland is not a military power. Let’s call a spade a spade,” Mr Martin told reporters on a visit to the United States for St Patrick’s Day events.

“Our greatest strength is in the humanitarian side, our greatest strength is in the peacekeeping side, that’s what we do well.”

The Taoiseach – who stressed Ireland was “not politically neutral” – spoke to Mr Zelenskiy directly on Wednesday, saying that the Irish people stood fully behind Ukraine. In a phone call which lasted more than 20 minutes, the Taoiseach said everyone in Ireland admired the president’s leadership in the face of an immoral war on his country.


One of the fighters, Ivan Farina (51) from Celbridge, Co Kildare, has survived a rocket attack by Russian troops

It is understood Mr Zelenskiy was very appreciative of support from Ireland including the visa waiver, humanitarian aid and support for sanctions against Russia.

Mr Zelenskiy offered his sympathy to the family of Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski who was killed by Russian shelling on the outskirts of Kyiv.

An appeal by the Ukrainian president for for foreign fighters to assist his country’s army has been taken up by about 20 Irish men, The Irish Times has learned.

Rocket attack

One of the fighters, Ivan Farina (51) from Celbridge, Co Kildare, has survived a rocket attack by Russian troops which took place at the weekend and targeted a base where the Irish father-of-two was staying.

That attack, in western Ukraine near the border with Poland, resulted in dozens of casualties. It is feared three British men, all former members of the British army’s parachute regiment, were among the dead.

Both Mr Farina and Rhys Byrne (27) from Santry, Dublin, spoke publicly about their plans to join the Ukrainian forces before setting out in recent weeks. However, other Irish people who have gone have done so without announcing their intention to travel.

Sources familiar with the situation on the ground in Ukraine said they were aware of approximately 20 Irish people who were now part of the Ukrainian Foreign Legion having answered the Ukrainian government’s call for foreign fighters to join the war effort.

Other Irishmen, including former members of the Defence Forces Army Ranger Wing, are working as private security contractors in Ukraine. They are locating and evacuating family members on behalf of clients who have hired them.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times