Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has spoken of his surprise that the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, met the Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, last Friday.

The minister said he felt the meeting was ill-judged given the crisis in Ukraine, even though the Lieutenant General explained it was just one of a series of meetings he was holding with ambassadors having just taken on the new role of Chief of Staff.

Mr Coveney made the comments at tonight's meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said his department is examining the impact of EU sanctions on Russia, should the country invade Ukraine.

He told the Fine Gael parliamentary party that his officials are also looking at any potential counter sanctions.

He said his department is profiling how such international measures would affect businesses in Ireland.

Mr Varadkar contended that the experiences of Covid-19 had shown how businesses can be helped in a shock.

He added that the planned Russian naval exercises off the Irish coast are very unwelcome and a matter of concern.

Separately, Mr Coveney told his party's TDs and senators that up to 1.7 million passport applications will be made this year - the previous record was one million.

To facilitate this, 775 people will be working on passport applications by the end of this month. Last June, it was only 460.

The number of employees is scheduled to increase to 900 by the end of March.