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20 May 2022

'It is gunboat diplomacy': Kildare TD and former soldier weighs in on Russia-Ukraine tensions

'It is gunboat diplomacy': Kildare TD and former soldier weighs in on Russia-Ukraine tensions

Pic: TD Cathal Berry on an overseas mission with the Army Ranger Wing

A former soldier with the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) and Independent TD has weighed in on the renewed political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

It follows after the Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs recently said that Ireland said that plans by Russia to host missile drills 240km off Ireland "are not welcome."

Dr Cathal Berry TD, who was previously a Line Infantry officer and served for six years as the second-in-command (2IC) of the Irish Army's Ranger Wing, said that he has concerns over the potential environmental damage that Russian missiles may cause to Irish beaches, namely through fuel leakages.

He also said that he fears for a possible energy crisis in Europe if tensions between Russia and America, along with the EU, escalate.

In addition, Dr Berry is concerned that other countries are "appeasing" Russia, citing how "the world stood by" when Russia briefly annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine in 2014.

Dr Cathal Berry, Independent TD

Dr Berry has since doubled down on his stance, when he was asked if the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) is keeping an eye on the situation off Ireland's coast.

"Absolutely... and not just the UK, it is also being monitored by the US, France, Germany and Portugal at the moment," he replied.

"This is an Achilles' Heel area; it is gunboat diplomacy that is taking place in what is virtually Europe's backyard," the Waterford native added.

When asked about Ireland's status as a neutral country, Dr Berry said: "Ireland is pretending to be a neutral country: we may think we are, but we are not."

He pointed to the fact that the US military are allowed to refuel their aircraft in Shannon Airport, but insisted that this is allowed under Ireland's membership to the United Nations (UN).

"This measure was put to a vote... Russia had the opportunity to challenge (it), but it appears they didn't: if they were to complain about the presence of the US in Shannon Airport, they would only have themselves to blame."

Dr Berry also noted that Ireland has three military attachés: one from the US, one from the UK and one from Russia.

"This shows that Ireland is important to Russia," he added.

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