The Department of Transport has issued a Marine Notice advising all seafarers that the Russian Navy will carry out manoeuvres off the southwest coast of Ireland from next Thursday, 3 February, for five days.
The Russian Federation has advised the exercises will include naval artillery and the launching of rockets.
The Department of Transport said it was advised of the exercise by the Irish Aviation Authority who were contacted by the Russian Federation.
The notice details the location of the activity and advises that given the nature of the planned exercises and presence of the naval forces, vessels are crews are advised of “serious safety risks in the operation area” and should avoid the area.
It goes on to remind mariners of their responsibilities under International Maritime Law.
The exercises have been criticised by the Government which has said they are not welcome. They are taking place in international waters but within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone.
Irish fishermen have called for these exercises to stay away from the waters used by Irish boats and are considering plans to protest.
The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said the department notice is a “disgrace”.
Patrick Murphy said the fishing trawlers are going to be in the area, weather permitting, from 1 February, when the prawn quota opens.
“If they come in contact with us, it is them who are endangering the Irish boats by their actions.”
Mr Murphy said the notice does not order them off the ground, but it does bring the validity of their boats’ insurance into question and their members are being advised to check with their insurers.
Representatives of the fishing industry are meeting with the Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, today where they hope to discuss their concerns.
The fishermen want to discuss concerns about the potential impact of the live military exercise on fish stocks and cetaceans, and possible disruption to prawn fishing from live ammunition drills in the area during the exercise.
Mr Murphy said he will explain to the Ambassador that they intend to abide by the laws of the sea and continue to fish in the area where Russia plans to conduct the exercises.
Michael Creed, the former minister for agriculture and marine, has said the situation cannot be divorced from the broader global context, which is the Ukranian crisis, and pointed out that this is the first time that Russia has sought to do a naval manoeuvre in the area.
He said the Russians are being deliberately provocative.
Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Creed said the Government does not have the legal authority to tell Russia it is not allowed carry out military exercises in the area because they are international waters.
He said it would be a dereliction of duty if the Irish Government did not warn its fishermen of the dangers it could face.
Coveney says he fully supports Chief of Staff
The Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has told the Dáil that he fully supports the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, with whom he spoke again last night.
Mr Coveney had spoken of his surprise that Lieutenant General Clancy met the Russian Ambassador last Friday.
The minister had said last night that he felt the meeting was “ill-judged” given the crisis in Ukraine,
Speaking in the Dáil today, Mr Coveney said he wanted to “address media comments” about his remarks at the Fine Gael parliamentary meeting last night.
“I have absolutely no hesitation in expressing my full support and confidence in the Chief of Staff and in his judgement,” he said.
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has expressed full confidence in the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, after last night speaking of his surprise that Lieutenant General Seán Clancy met the Russian ambassador to Ireland last Friday | More: https://t.co/LbdVhabW4I pic.twitter.com/donBsw9moj
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 27, 2022
“The Chief is holding a number of pro forma meetings” with diplomats as is usual when appointed, Minister Coveney noted.
“What I commented on last night – in response to a question – related to the timing of the meeting with the Russian ambassador, and the tweet drawing attention to it,” he said.
“I have absolutely no reservations or no questions about his actions,” Mr Coveney said, adding that he has been fully briefed by Lieutenant General Clancy.
Earlier today, John Brady, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and defence, accused Mr Coveney of “undermining” Lieutenant General Clancy with his comments.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Brady said that Mr Coveney “took it upon himself in a public way” to make these comments and that it was “poor judgement” to do this.
The matter is “another distraction”, he added, when Ireland’s focus should be on “utilising” its position on the UN Security Council to push for a de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine.
Contingency plans in place to ensure safety of diplomatic staff in Kyiv
Meanwhile, Mr Coveney has said the Government has contingency plans in place to ensure the safety of its staff at the Irish embassy in Kyiv, which was opened last year.
“We have contingency plans if people need to leave, but we don’t regard it as appropriate at this stage to bring people home,” he told the Dáil this morning.
“Should Ukraine be invaded by Russia” it would have “enormous” consequences for the relationship between Russia and the EU, the minister said.
“Through all of this, we are going to support Ukrainian sovereignty,” he told his party colleague Neale Richmond.