Credit: @dublin14weather, via twitter

Why was the Russian embassy undefended?

Foreign diplomats are guests on Irish soil. Not only that, but foreign embassies are not even Irish soil, in the strictest sense of the word: When you visit the British Embassy in Ballsbridge, you are, legally, stepping on to the sovereign territory of Queen Elizabeth. The same thing applies to Irish embassies across the world: There is a piece of land in Paris that is legally Irish. Foreign police cannot enter an Irish embassy legally, or enforce foreign laws on Irish embassy soil.

The attack on the Russian embassy yesterday was, then, an attack on Russia itself:

It is understandable – and in my view right – that public opinion towards Russia in Ireland is at an all time low. But that does not excuse behaviour like this. After all, things like this set a precedent: Why the Russian embassy, but not the Israeli embassy? Or, next time we have a Republican President, the American embassy?

The Russians in Dublin are here as our guests, to facilitate diplomacy. Frustrating as it may be, diplomacy is even more vital than usual at a time like this.

The Irish Government should be mortified by this action. Perhaps it was not carried out in their name, but it certainly was carried out on their watch. It is a remarkable failure of policing that, at a time of heightened tension, the Russian embassy was not protected.

This should not, really, be a surprise, either: Since the war in Ukraine began, there have been multiple attacks – if you want to call them that – on the Russian embassy. It has been daubed in paint. Political slogans have been written on its walls. It has been a focus for protest. Here, for example, is an Irish cabinet minister, protesting outside the embassy over the weekend:

Where else in Ireland would be a focus of anti-Russian sentiment? It was only ever going to take one hot head. In this case, we are lucky that it was just an attack on the gates. Would it have been shocking had this person decided instead to use his truck to ram a Russian diplomatic car exiting or leaving the embassy?

The consequences of this kind of thing is very dangerous: For example, do you think people in the Irish embassy in Moscow feel more, or less safe, this morning? This is the kind of incident that could easily feature heavily on Russian news broadcasts, making Irish people and Irish diplomats in Moscow and the rest of Russia a target for unpleasant reprisal. If this happened to an Irish embassy in, say, Tel Aviv, how would Ireland react? With outrage, one might suspect.

For most people, of course, an attack like this will be a matter for jokes, and the driver will get many “fair plays” and “well done that man’s” and all the rest of it. In some ways, he’s done a service: Perhaps Ireland might start taking the security of foreign embassies safely.

Unpleasant as it is, this fellow should get a jail sentence. He has potentially endangered Irish people abroad, and also done significant damage to this country’s diplomatic engagement with a nuclear power. Protesting is legitimate, yes. This kind of thing is not.

The Gardai should be embarrassed that it was allowed to happen.

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