Russian diplomats tonight vowed to ensure an Irish charity keeps on caring for its orphans despite being caught up in a passport for spies scandal.
The Russian Ambassador to Ireland met charity founder Debbie Deegan to discuss how a passport belonging to a volunteer with To Russia With Love was compromised.
A spokesman for Ambassador Mikhail Timoshkin said Irish authorities have been in touch with its office over reports up to six passports may have been used by a spy ring uncovered in the US earlier this year.
He stressed embassy officials will continue to support Ms Deegan in her work in whatever way possible.
“We expressed our regret and our respect to Ms Deegan for everything she has done, is doing right now, and is going to do,” said the spokesman.
“We have great respect for her. She really is doing a great job in our country by helping abandoned children.”
Three people have been caught up in the diplomatic scandal, including a Donegal firefighter and his wife, and Catherine Sherry, a volunteer with To Russia With Love.
Garda detectives suspect up to another three passports may have been copied by agents and data stolen for forged documents. Investigations are ongoing.
Ms Deegan, who founded the charity over 12 years ago, said while she appreciates the seriousness of the case, her priority remains with the children in her care in orphanages in Russia.
“The Ambassador said he does not know how this happened and his main concern was that we wouldn’t be hurt by this,” she said.
Ms Deegan confirmed the charity’s computer system has not been tampered with and revealed Ms Sherry last travelled to Russia three years ago. She has since holidayed in different parts of the world with the same passport.
“She does not know how her passport was compromised,” added Ms Deegan.
It is the second forged passport scandal to hit innocent Irish citizens after an alleged Israeli assassination squad from the Mossad intelligence agency killed Hamas militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Some of them travelled on cloned Irish papers.
In the Dáil Sean Barrett, Fine Gael’s foreign affairs spokesman, said the government has learnt nothing from the controversy.
“This is a matter of grave urgency in view of the fact the integrity of Irish passports is being brought into disrepute as a result of this ongoing failure on our part to guarantee security of a passport,” he said.
“The UK have dealt with this matter by other arrangements and we seem to have learnt no lesson from the Dubai affair.”