The Irish government has been warned by the United States about possible attempts by Russia to interfere in upcoming elections.
The warning was contained in a diplomatic cable that the US State Department sent last month to dozens of countries around the world considered at risk from Moscow’s election interference.
Government and diplomatic sources confirmed that Ireland was one of the recipients. The warning says Russia is increasingly using social media, espionage and other hybrid or gray-zone methods to disrupt or discredit elections in democratic countries.
“Our information suggests that senior Russian government officials, including the Kremlin, see the value of this type of influence and consider it effective,” it said.
U.S. officials have warned countries including Ireland that Russia has become emboldened and increasingly sophisticated in its interference attempts since trying to influence the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections, sources said.
The goal is not necessarily to ensure that one side wins an election, but to sow enough division and doubt to create instability and undermine social cohesion in countries that Russia perceives as hostile to its interests, Washington believes .
“Given that Ireland has been very supportive of Ukraine since 2022, it is certainly in this camp,” an Irish diplomatic source said.
The European Parliament elections scheduled for next year are believed to be a key target for Russian interference. Ireland will also have local elections next year and a general election sometime before March 2025.
Washington based its latest assessment on an investigation into suspected Russian influence operations targeting 11 elections in nine countries between 2020 and 2022, including the United States. Another 17 countries were the target of “less pronounced” attacks, according to the assessment.
In its warning, the US highlighted an unnamed European country where Russian intelligence agents intimidated poll workers, sabotaged elections abroad and used fake news websites to sow doubt about the results of a recent election.
The cable did not name any of the countries allegedly targeted, although Ireland is not believed to be among them.
An Irish government spokesman confirmed that it had held discussions with the US about possible Russian interference, but declined to provide details.
“Authorities here have had discussions with U.S. counterparts about foreign interference in the electoral processes of other states and their assessment of Russian actions in this area.”
Foreign interference in electoral systems is a common concern “as it aims to undermine democratic values and polarize societies,” they said.
“Ensuring the integrity of Ireland’s electoral process is of utmost concern to the Government and it will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure that future elections in Ireland continue to be free and fair and without interference from external actors.”
The US Embassy in Dublin confirmed the existence of the telegram. A spokesman said the US had “privately briefed each country on whether we believe Russia has attempted to undermine public confidence in the elections held in their country” but that the briefings would be kept confidential.
The Irish government spokesman referred to several Irish and EU initiatives to combat election interference. This will be one of the main tasks of the new independent electoral commission An Coimisiún Toghcháin, they said.
A spokesman for An Coimisiún Toghcháin, which was founded in February, said this week it had received no information from the US about election threats. He said a “key function” of the commission will be “monitoring and addressing potential risks to election integrity as part of our preparations for future election events.”
In June, the commission’s chief executive, Art O’Leary, said foreign and domestic threats to the electoral process had been identified. He said his job was to combat the spread of disinformation during elections, not to find out who was behind it.
“In a three-week window, we don’t have the luxury of spending time identifying actors,” he told the government’s advisory forum on international security policy.
The Russian embassy in Dublin dismissed the US warnings as part of an “anti-Russian disinformation campaign”.
Its purpose was to denigrate Russia and divert public attention from “the true and well-proven facts” of Washington’s election interference itself, a spokesman said.