The Taoiseach has said Ireland will "examine in some detail" a proposal to waive the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies to allow developing countries to produce more Covid-19 vaccines.
Ahead of discussion on the issue at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation on Friday, Micheál Martin said Ireland will support "whatever is the correct policy approach". But he did not go as far as saying what that is.
Mr Martin came under pressure from the Opposition on the issue in the Dáil, with Gary Gannon of the Social Democrats urging him to show "moral leadership" by taking a position ahead of Friday's meeting.
The Solidarity People Before Profit TD, Bríd Smith, urged the Taoiseach to make a phone call to US President Joe Biden or to the EU Commission to state Ireland's support for the proposal which has been tabled by India and South Africa, but is being so-far opposed by the US and several other countries.
The European Commission represents all EU states including Ireland on trade issues. Earlier this week, Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy said the EU's current position is that "increasing manufacturing capacity of vaccines may be better attained through voluntary licensing agreements".
In the Dáil, Deputy Smith said everyone was distressed to see the images emerging from India where there has been a massive surge in cases.
She said it makes "absolutely no sense to continue to impose intellectual property rights on vaccines in the middle of a global pandemic" and that it was driven by "a greedy, selfish cohort of capitalists who see this as an opportunity to make fast profits".
She said: "Please put Ireland on the right side of this, and make a phone call to Joe Biden and the EU."
Deputy Gannon noted comments by President Biden earlier today, that the US might share not just vaccines, but vaccine know-how.
"What is the Irish position?" he asked. "And could we communicate it in advance of the WTO meeting on Friday and show moral leadership on this issue?"
His party colleague, Holly Cairns, said the real solution to the devastating scenes in India is to allow the global production of vaccines.
"We had all hoped the pandemic would lead to a new solidarity, however the EU, the US and others are refusing to allow a waiver on vaccine patents," she said. "It is just sickening that this is not happening."
The Taoiseach responded that Ireland has shown moral leadership on the issue of vaccines, as has Europe.
He said Europe has "led the charge in terms of vaccine production and export for the entire world. Europe has done an awful lot to ensure proper research and production of vaccines, vaccines which are being distributed all over the world and the barriers have not been put up to stop it."
He said: "We will do whatever we can, whatever is the correct policy approach, we will support."