Evacuating the remaining 60 Irish citizens from Afghanistan will be “complex, dangerous and very high risk”, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin said the Government will have to examine other routes and mechanisms to remove those who remain there, following a devastating terror attack outside Kabul airport on Thursday.
An emergency consular aid team left the country on Thursday after completing its withdrawal of diplomats and military personnel, with 36 citizens evacuated.
Speaking on Friday, Mr Martin said: “After yesterday, and the appalling atrocity that was committed, and the fact then that essentially the exodus or the operation at Kabul airport is coming to a close, those citizens who remain across Europe, Irish, we will have to look at other mechanisms to assist them in leaving Afghanistan.
“It’s a very, very serious situation.”
He added: “We will have to look at other routes and mechanisms now to facilitate Irish citizens and those families and so on, who are connected to citizens living in Ireland.
“That we can facilitate their leaving of Afghanistan, but it’s complex and it’s dangerous, and it’s very high risk.”
The Taoiseach also praised the personnel who have assisted Irish evacuation efforts so far.
“I want to pay tribute to our emergency consular aid team that went out there, it was a high-risk mission” he said.
“I think it was in the very best traditions of public service, in terms of Army Rangers and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and we appreciate the work that they did in facilitating those that have been able to leave Afghanistan.”
Jeffrey Donaldson meeting
The issue was discussed with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson in a meeting with the Taoiseach on Friday in Dublin.
He raised concerns that humanitarian workers from both the Republic and the North remain in the country.
Mr Donaldson said: “How we can ensure that those people are able to return safely to their families, whether they are from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland?
“I am working closely with the UK Government on this, but I recognise that the Irish Government is also involved and so I was exploring with the Taoiseach where we can ensure there is good co-operation between Dublin and London to ensure that those citizens are returned safely to their families.”
Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Ireland will continue to support and help its citizens who remain in Afghanistan, even as the evacuation effort at Kabul airport ends.
He insisted on Friday that the Government has done all it can.
Some 60 Irish citizens and family members remain in the country and are hoping to leave, as well as a further 15 Afghan citizens with Irish residency.
Statement by Minister @simoncoveney providing Situational Update on Emergency Consular Assistance Team (ECAT) mission to Kabul. The pre-planned process of the withdrawal of our ECAT mission to Kabul is now complete. Full statement: https://t.co/8Z6wyqYqm5 @dfatirl pic.twitter.com/EPKo2cKNFy
— Department of Defence (@IRLDeptDefence) August 26, 2021
Mr Coveney said: “In truth, the operation to evacuate civilians out of Kabul Airport is effectively closed.”
He said Ireland had made the correct choice in sending a diplomatic and military team to Afghanistan to support the evacuation, but stressed that efforts will continue.
“We will look at all the decisions that we’ve made over the last 10 days, but I think, given the evidence we had at any given time, we made the right decisions,” he said.
“There is ongoing work to do to support Irish citizens that remain in Afghanistan.”
Thursday’s bombings near Kabul’s international airport killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 US troops in the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
In an emotional speech US president Joe Biden blamed the incident on the affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, Isis-K – a far more radical force than the Taliban militants who seized power less than two weeks ago.
Mr Coveney said the Government will remain in contact with the Irish citizens and residents still in the country.
“We will be working with all of those who want to leave Afghanistan to help them find ways of doing that,” he said.
“The truth is, this is going to be an effort that many, many, many countries are involved in. It will be an international community effort to ensure that foreign nationals who are in Afghanistan who want to get out will be facilitated in doing that.”
Mr Coveney added that that work will continue in the days and weeks ahead.