President Michael D Higgins has said it is time to have well informed debate in Irish society about Ireland’s neutrality, in the wake of the war in Ukraine, as he called for an accelerated timetable for EU membership for Ukraine.

He was speaking at the start of a two-day visit to Austria, following talks with the country’s President Alexander van der Bellen.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Oireachtas this morning that Ireland, though a neutral country, had not remained neutral on the issue of Ukraine as war with Russia enters its sixth week.

President Higgins called the war in Ukraine immoral and unjustified and an abuse of power by Russia, saying there can be no impunity for the events which have taken place in Ukraine.

He said that everyone would benefit from an informed debate about Ireland’s neutrality, particularly as part of a broader debate about the future of the European Union.

The President pointed out that from the 1970s and 80s there were significant shifts in views on neutrality, seeing it as "positive neutrality" rather than a weakness or an absence of strength.

He said he believed EU membership status should be speeded up for Ukraine as he spoke of the uncertainties which can be created for countries who wait a long time for EU membership to be ratified.

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Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said Ukraine is going through ''hell'' right now and the idea that some politicians would not stand and applaud President Zelensky's courage, bravery and leadership is ''extraordinary''.

''I'm glad to say the vast majority of people, both senators and TDs, stood and applauded in respect,'' Simon Coveney said.

He said that the people who did not, can speak for themselves.

Mr Coveney added that some people in the Dáil today were trying to make a point by not applauding.

''I think that says a lot about those people,'' he added.