Giving rifle training to Ukrainian soldiers does not constitute a form of “lethal aid”, the deputy Prime Minister of Ireland has insisted.
Micheál Martin had initially promised that while his country would support Ukraine in humanitarian ways, it would not provide any sort of offensive assistance in order to maintain its military neutrality. That has been a key policy for the nation since the beginning of the Second World War.
An exposé into the matter later discovered that the island’s small military force was providing Ukrainian troops with rifle training, causing uproar among political opponents.
Martin has now claimed that training Ukrainian troops on how to properly handle their rifles does not constitute a breach of Ireland’s neutrality, despite the fact that those rifles and soldiers will likely be used in the fight against Russians.
“I think there is a degree of overstatement with some of the descriptions of this,” he said when asked about the controversy.
He added that the training could be considered as “humanitarian” aid, as it was “humanitarian to defend your people”.
“Well, I think, in the context of any group that is established to try and defend their territory, I would argue that that’s in accordance with the UN charter,” Martin said.
Ireland has been caught planning to give Ukrainian troops weapons training, despite claiming to be a militarily neutral country regarding Kyiv’s conflict with Russia. https://t.co/hUfPXOL6Zp
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) August 18, 2023
Speaking in the Irish Parliament, independent representative Catherine Connolly said she was “horrified” by Martin’s claim, expressing concern that Ireland appeared to be increasingly involved in the conflict.
Socialist parliamentarian Bríd Smith also lashed out at the senior politician over his statement, asking whether Martin would be willing to provide the same logic for militant groups in Palestine.
“If I fired a rifle, a bullet would come out of it, and if that bullet hit somebody, it is likely to kill them, yet he described it as non-lethal and humanitarian,” she said.
“Would the [deputy PM] apply the same logic to supplying weapons training, for example, to Hamas if it wants to defend its community on a humanitarian basis against the Israeli army tearing down their villages and their lives?”
Martin went on to accuse his critics of engaging in “hyperbole beyond hyperbole”, arguing that only the provision of physical weapons would constitute “lethal aid” as he defined it.
“Get real here,” he told the Parliament. “We are not providing any military support in the form of hardware or weaponry to Ukraine, nor should we suggest we are.”
Martin, along with many other members of Ireland’s ruling coalition, have increasingly aligned the country with the viewpoint of Brussels in recent years. They have abandoned major positions of Irish domestic and foreign policy in favour of closer ties with the European Commission.
Martin is said to be considering a move to Europe, with his own Fianna Fáil party speculating that he may be gunning for the position of European Commission President next year if Ursula von der Leyen decides not to seek a second term.
Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, still has his eye on the position of European Commission President, insiders have claimed. https://t.co/oweLE52BLq
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 2, 2023