Opinion

Who came up with the bright idea of expelling a Russian diplomat?

It makes no sense at all for Ireland to expel a Russian diplomat, irrespective of what happened recently in England.

The only long-term consequence of this action will be a hardening of attitudes in the Kremlin towards Ireland.

And this may well have a serious impact on our farming and food sectors down the track.

Last time I checked, Ireland is part of the European Union (EU). So surely the decision by Brussels to withdraw its ambassador to Moscow gave Ireland all the cover it needed to stay out of the ‘spy poisoning’ story that has taken over the news agenda over the past couple of weeks.

But, by taking its own unilateral action, Ireland now runs the risk of poisoning relationships with Russia for many years.

The reality remains that Russia is one of the world’s largest food importing nations. A quick reflection on the impact of Moscow’s decision to ban a number of EU food imports in the wake of Brussels cosying up to Ukraine back in 2014 is clear confirmation of this reality.

This single decision was one of the factors that brought about the subsequent crash in dairy and pig prices right across the EU.

But it’s also worth pointing out that infant milk formula was not included within the scope of the import ban.

Potentially, Russia could be a huge market for Irish food. But I sense that we have done ourselves no favours in this regard, given the developments of the past week.

No doubt, Bord Bia representatives are already getting a fair bit of flack as they try to fly the flag for Ireland in places like Moscow in the wake of Ireland’s decision to expel a Russian diplomat.

Russia will, almost certainly, respond in some way to the move made by Ireland. And it’s not beyond reason to believe that Ireland’s agri food sectors could be affected in such circumstances.

Given the fact that Brexit is only 12 months away, Ireland needs all the trading partners in the world that it can possibly secure. And I would strongly suggest that poking Moscow in the eye with a stick is hardy the most effective way of achieving this objective.

At some stage in the future, the UK, EU and Russia will start speaking to each other again. This is the way of the world. And trade will be very much on the agenda.

So let’s just hope that a Russian diplomat with a long memory of his or her enforced exile from Dublin is not in a position to thwart any gestures of reconciliation from Dublin to Moscow at that stage.