In an address to the Irish Dail, Ms. von der Leyen said that Ireland “knows what it means to struggle for the right to exist.”
In a speech in Ireland, Ursula Von der Leyen seemed to compare the UK and Putin’s Russia, comparing Ukrainian independence fighters to the IRA. Her statements have drawn criticism for jeopardising the Good Friday Agreement and the peace in Northern Ireland.
The European Commission President told Irish MPs: “Today, I would like to dwell on five Irish virtues that will help our Union to face our common challenges ahead.
“First, the Irish passion for freedom. This country knows what it means to struggle for the right to exist.
“Today, another European nation is fighting for independence. Of course, Ireland is far away from the front line in Ukraine.
“But you understand better than most why this war matters so much to all of us. Just like our friends in Eastern Europe, you know that in Ukraine there is more at stake than the future of one country alone.
“Ukraine is fighting for freedom itself; for self-rule; for the rules-based global order. And Ireland has gone above and beyond in its support to Ukrainians.”
Her speech was delivered while the UK and EU were at odds over the Northern Ireland protocol and European efforts to split the province from Britain.
Brexit supporter Baroness Hoey, a former Labour Europe minister from Northern Ireland, said: “Her words show the clear EU bias for the Republic of Ireland and her ignorance about the Belfast /Good Friday Agreement.
“She may not have directly mentioned the IRA but she did not condemn terrorists who killed so many innocent Protestant and Catholic people in Northern Ireland all in the name of Irish freedom. How dare she equate their violence with the struggle of the Ukrainian people against Putin.”
With Sinn Fein now the biggest party in Northern Ireland and eyeing power in Dublin, former Brexit minister David Jones issued a warning that her remarks would be divisive.
He said: “It is extremely worrying that President Von Der Leyen should make such a statement, apparently without considering the potential consequences.
“The Belfast Good Friday agreement was hard won. It has preserved the peace for almost 25 years. It would be easy to destabilise it.
“The last thing the people of Northern Ireland need is to hear unwise, provocative comments such as this.
“She really ought to know better.”
One member state broke ranks this week and accused Ms. von der Leyen and Brussels bureaucrats of pursuing “Brexit revenge” as the UK and EU continue to disagree over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Speaking to the express Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said: “What the European Union should push for now is to try to minimise the loss caused by Brexit.
“But instead of a rational and mutual respect approach what we are seeing now is Brussles is making steps which bring us further away not closer.”
The most recent negotiations in London, according to Ms. Von Der Leyen, had brought in a “more pragmatic approach” on both sides.
But once again, she made an attempt to place the responsibility on the UK and made it seem as if it must face the repercussions of its decision to leave the EU.
She said: “But the consequences of Brexit and the kind of Brexit chosen by the UK cannot be removed entirely. The solutions we find must ensure the Single Market continues to function, in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU. If both sides are sensitive to this careful balance, a workable solution is within reach.”