Wednesday, 6 April 2022
Comhshuí de Dháil Éireann agus de Sheanad Éireann - Joint Sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas - Address by H.E. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine
I welcome President Zelenskyy. I will be brief because, as Members understand, our distinguished guest's time is obviously limited and precious. Your Excellency, President Zelenskyy, Irish parliamentary colleagues, members of the diplomatic community, Ukrainian allies and friends joining us online this morning, we are here in the seat of Irish democracy to hear from a friend and ally, whose people, whose country and whose democratic institutions are under monstrous, bloody and vicious attack.
The Ceann Comhairle continued in Ukrainian as follows:
We welcome this opportunity to hear first-hand the current challenges facing your nation, President Zelenskyy, and I now invite you to address our parliamentary community and the Irish people.
H.E. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine:
Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, Taoiseach, dear Senators and Members of the Parliament, dear people of Ireland, this night our territory was again hit by Russian missiles.It was done cunningly and it hit civilian infrastructure. The new fuel storage depot was hit. This is viewed by Russia as a target. This is their attribute. They are destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods to people. They are hitting places where we store fuel, food storage depots, agricultural equipment and fields. They are putting mines into the fields. They have also blocked all of our seaports, together with the vessels that already had agricultural cargos for export. Why are they doing this? Because for them, hunger is also a weapon — a weapon against us ordinary people as an instrument of domination. Ukraine is one of the leading food-supplying countries in the world. This is not just about the deficit and the threat of hunger for more than dozens of countries, Asia and Africa; it is about even more because there will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up. This is reality for millions of people who are hungry. It will be more difficult for them to feed their families, especially in north Africa.
They are undermining our seeding time, they are destroying our infrastructure and they are deliberately provoking the food crisis. What will happen as the result of this crisis? At the least, there will be political turbulence. At a maximum, there will be binges of violence and new refugees looking to save their lives. Russia is using this hunger weapon.
The worst thing is the city of Mariupol. This city of 500,000 inhabitants was put under siege and Russia has blocked access from the soil and from the sea. They are blocking the humanitarian cargo. They are not allowing anything to come through, neither water nor medication. While it was snowing, people could melt the snow to get water. Now they do not have even that.
They are bombing 24-7. There are air strikes and bombings in Mariupol. There is no single house left intact in a city of half a million. None. The dead and killed were simply buried in the yards of the condominiums. In many cases, they could not even do that: the bodies were just left there lying on the streets and in the remnants of the buildings and basements. We do not know how many citizens of Mariupol have been killed by Russia, but we know for sure this was part of general occupation tactics. They have done the same or they have attempted to do the same with the cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, Okhtyrka, Kharkiv, Izyum, Volnovakha and many other Ukrainian cities. Maybe you have not heard those geographic names yet but this is about millions of people that Russia has been continually trying to destroy.
When you hear these things, it may seem that this is not possible. It may seem that none in the present-day world would dare to do that, but these are real facts. The fact is that Mariupol citizens were drawing the maps of how to find the bodies of the dead who were buried in their yards. The fact is that Russian occupants were killing people on the roads when they were trying to escape. They blocked cities. Until today on the Ukrainian highways we have hundreds of shot in burned cars. The fact is that Russian soldiers were not even trying to take these bodies out of the streets. While Bucha and Irpin were under occupation, these dead bodies were simply lying on the streets, on the sideways, in the yards of the houses, anywhere. The fact is that in the 42 days of the all-out Russian war, at least 167 children have been killed in Ukraine.We do not yet know all the atrocities of Mariupol and the victims in all the areas of Ukraine where the fighting is still going on. The fact is that, as a result of Russian shelling, 927 educational institutions and 258 hospitals were damaged. The Russians even shot at 78 ambulances. They were targeting even churches and shelters where they knew for sure there was nobody but women and children. This is a fact.
The country that is doing this does not deserve to be in the circle of civilised countries. It should be held responsible for everything it has done on Ukrainian soil. The Russians have come to Ukraine as a colonising army. Their state protagonists and their politicians are not even concealing what they want. In the 21st century, they are looking at their country as a colonial empire which allegedly has the right to subdue neighbouring people, destroy the foundations of their independent life and destroy their identity, everything that makes us Ukrainians. Russian soldiers were deliberately looking for and killing teachers in the occupied districts. They are abducting local government leaders and they are killing community leaders. Together with the Russian army, there were special groups coming in who were trying to destroy any political opposition.
Now, when we are hearing new rhetoric about the sanctions against the Russian opposition, I cannot tolerate any indecisiveness after everything we have gone through in Ukraine and after everything that Russian troops have done. Today, when the world knows about the crimes against our people, we still have to convince even some European companies to abandon the Russian market. We still have to convince foreign politicians that we need to cut any ties of Russian banks with the global financial system. We still have to convince Europe that Russian oil cannot feed the Russian military machine with new sources of funding.
Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Ireland have been supporting good and have been supporting Ukraine since the very first days. This is a fact. They did not doubt starting to help us; they began doing this right away. Although Ireland is a neutral country, it has not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine. I am grateful to every citizen of Ireland. Thank you for supporting sanctions against Russia, thank you for the humanitarian and financial support extended to our country and thank you for your care of our Ukrainian people who found shelter on your land. Think about the fact that, as of today, 10 million Ukrainians have been left without shelter by Russia. They had to leave their native cities because of this war. This is something we cannot come to grips with. It means that Russia has not yet abandoned its plans. It is still looking to subdue and occupy all the Ukrainian people.
We want you to help us to make sure that Russia will start looking for peace and leave us alone. I ask you to show more leadership in our anti-war coalition. I ask you to convince EU partners to introduce even more rigid sanctions against Russia that would really make sure that the Russian war machine will stop. We have to put an end to trading with Russia. We have to cut the ties of Russian banks to the global system and cut the sources of their income from oil that they use for their weapons and for killing.There are mechanisms through which this can be done. The only thing we are lacking is a principled approach from some political and business leaders who still think war and war crimes are not as horrific as financial losses. I am sure Ireland's leadership can make a difference and change this. I am sure that the whole of Europe will be able to stop this war and bring peace and stability to the east of Europe. We cannot delay any longer. The longer Russia's aggression continues, the worse the consequences will be not only for our Continent, but for neighbouring regions.
I say to Members and to the people of Ireland that our principled approach and courage have already turned a new page in the relationship between Ukraine and Ireland. Our mutual understanding and mutual respect is already at a level whereby it is only a question of time before we can start living in a common European home. Thank you for Ireland's support for the accelerated procedure to provide membership of the EU to Ukraine. With your support, the process will be even faster and beneficial to both our nations. We need to start thinking about the restoration of our country after the war. We are inviting leading countries of the world to participate in rebuilding and restoring Ukraine. Of course, Ireland is always welcome to participate, for example, in Kherson Oblast. Ireland is known for its skill in valueing lives, its community development experience and its economic potential. Let us bring our efforts together and show that, jointly, Ukraine and Ireland can do much more than the biggest country in the world was trying to destroy. I am grateful to Ireland. Slava Ukraini.
Your Excellency, President Zelenskyy, thank you for your strong and inspiring words to us this morning. We have much to digest as this painful, awful war on our Continent’s mainland continues apace. As Ukrainian people continue to die, we must act. What we have seen in recent days and the extent of the barbaric actions visited upon the people of Ukraine is simply horrendous. We need international courts to give a transparent and fair reckoning for the bloodshed in these heinous crimes.
Your Excellency, we salute your own personal bravery over the past weeks and we salute the outstanding bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people in the face of unprovoked aggression. While Ireland is a militarily neutral country, we are not politically neutral. We do not stand idly by. We will not, as W.B. Yeats might have said, forsake the little streets hurled upon the great. We will continue to offer practical, on-the-ground support to our Ukrainian friends. We will also continue to welcome those forced to leave Ukraine seeking safety on foreign shores.
Mr. President, we Irish are aware of the pain of separation and the loss of our people to distant lands. At this challenging time, those forced to leave Ukraine are welcome here in Ireland and they will be supported and assisted until such time as they are free to return to rebuild their damaged homeland, an exercise we will help you with.Most of us here in this Chamber became involved in politics and public life because we trust in people and we believe that most people are fundamentally good. Last Tuesday at the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments in Ljubljana I called upon the 450 members of the Duma to shoulder their responsibility. The law of averages suggests that among the 450 members of that Parliament there must be people who can see through the lies, fake news, propaganda and manipulation. They must now find their courage - courage that the Ukrainian people demonstrate daily. They must speak up, speak out, take their courage and reject the leadership they currently have.
There are 143 million Russian people populating that country. Again, the law of averages tells us that many of those people must be fine, decent and honourable people who have a respect for human rights. President Zelenskyy, your people are being asked to show courage that goes beyond the bounds of human endurance. Please God, the people of Russia will now find their courage to also reject what is being done wrongly and devastatingly in their name.
In conclusion, Mr. President, thank you for honouring us and joining us today. We will continue to support our Ukrainian friends. Go gcoimeádfaidh Dia slán sibh uilig sna míonna agus sna blianta atá romhainn.
A Cheann Comhairle, a Chathaoirligh, President Zelenskyy, Ireland is resolute in our solidarity and support for Ukraine. We thank President Zelenskyy for his heartfelt, honest, clear and, indeed, historic address to our Parliament this morning. The strength of his commitment and that of the people of Ukraine to his country and to restoring its place as a free, safe, democratic and an independent country within the community of nations is both humbling and uplifting.
We heard grave testimony from President Zelenskyy this morning and we have seen ourselves the most shocking and harrowing of images from Bucha, from Irpin, from Mariupol and from across Ukraine. Russia will have to live with the shame and ignominy of what it has done in Ukraine for generations. Those responsible will be held to account. We are with Ukraine and I am certain that, in the end, Ukraine will prevail.
We are a militarily neutral country. However, we are not politically or morally neutral in the face of war crimes. Quite the opposite. Our position is informed by the principles that drive our foreign policy – support for international human rights, for humanitarian law and for a rules-based international order. We are not neutral when Russia disregards all of these principles. We are with Ukraine.
Ukraine’s political, economic and humanitarian needs are now manifold and pressing. Our efforts, as a friend and as a partner of Ukraine, are aimed at using all the levers at our disposal to bring a just end to this war - applying international pressure on Russia, pursuing accountability for violations of international law and meeting the humanitarian needs of those caught now in the midst of this terrible and immoral war.
Thousands of people have been killed. Millions have been driven from their homes. This is a humanitarian crisis the likes of which Europe has not seen since the dark years of the Second World War. This war touches us all. That is why Ireland is supporting further European Union sanctions at European level.We need a sanctions regime that brings it home to Putin and his regime that he will not, he cannot, succeed. We want the strongest possible sanctions against the Russian Federation and we will pursue those.
That is why we support the establishment of a solidarity trust fund for Ukraine, agreed by European Union leaders when we met in Brussels on 24 March, to support the Government of Ukraine now, and when the war is over to support reconstruction.
That is why I welcome and support Ukraine's application for EU membership. I reiterate our support for that application this morning in this House. It is the democratic right of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine to decide your political orientation. You have chosen to apply for European Union membership.
We know that EU enlargement has been a force for stabilisation and democratisation in the European Union’s neighbourhood. It is in the European Union’s strategic interest. It is in Ukraine’s interest. As I said to you, President Zelenskyy, when we spoke on 16 March, I will continue to support Ukraine’s case. That is why also we have committed €20 million in direct humanitarian funding, delivered through proven international agencies active on the ground and we will do more. This is to meet the urgent needs of those in need in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries - including shelter, medical care, health, water and sanitation.
As well as financial support, through a collaborative effort, we are in the process of delivering medical equipment, including ambulances, ultrasound machines, mobile X-ray machines, ventilators, and incubators. On 26 and 28 March, two despatches of urgently required medical equipment left Ireland and more will follow. That is why Ireland has contributed our full share to the European peace facility’s €1 billion military assistance package for Ukraine. We have also supplied provisions and body armour to the Ukrainian military. We will also continue to support any avenue that can lead to an immediate ceasefire.
In light of what is being revealed in the areas from which Russian troops have withdrawn, that task will now be even more difficult. I therefore especially commend your commitment, President Zelenskyy, to continuing to try, despite the enormous challenges you face. Please know that we are with you in that task, and that we stand ready to contribute to and to support any initiative that can lead to a just peace for the people of Ukraine.
I know that the people of Mariupol cannot wait for talks to conclude. Their needs are too urgent. We need to see genuine humanitarian corridors opened and implemented. Ireland, along with our partners, will continue to support any sincere efforts at the United Nations to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance.
Thousands of Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland since the start of the conflict. A Cheann Comhairle, if I may, I address these words to them. I know that the ambassador of Ukraine, H.E. Ms Larysa Gerasko, is here in the Gallery for today’s debate. To those who have arrived here from Ukraine, I hope you find in Ireland safe harbour and friendship for as long as you need it. Most of you, I know, look forward to the day when you can return to a peaceful and free Ukraine, to the family and friends you have left behind. That day will come. In the meantime, our home is your home.
The war in Ukraine has sparked a crisis the likes of which we have not seen in Europe for decades. It is no surprise to me that the Irish people have stood up to be counted in an unprecedented way in response.Over 18,000 Ukrainian people have arrived in Ireland. Dedicated reception facilities are in place to provide temporary protection and access to other services immediately on arrival. We are providing accommodation to those who have sought it and we are ramping up our efforts to meet the very challenging and increasing demands.
We are also working to ensure that other supports are available to people arriving here, including access to health, social care services and education. New arrivals are also being registered to ensure that they can access income supports as needed. The heartfelt response of people across Ireland is clear in the whole range of initiatives at community level. I would like to thank all of the people who have opened their hearts and, in some cases, their homes to people from Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy, when you addressed the European Parliament you said, "life will win over death, and light will win over darkness". Even in the face of the bleak horrors of this week, I recall your words and the hope and determination they carry. We stand with Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.
I thank President Zelenskyy for joining us today and sharing with us the heartbreaking and inspiring story of his people's courage and endurance in the face of a grotesque and appalling aggression. It is fair to say that his words moved, inspired and shamed us and the rest of the world for not doing more sooner. Thankfully, because of the brave Ukrainian resistance there is still time.
In the long history of our own country we have never invaded another, but we know what it is like to have been invaded and to have the very existence of our national identity questioned. For these reasons, we feel for the idealism of the Ukrainian people, their defiance and their determination to face down a new evil empire. As a country, we are heartbroken watching the scenes we see on television every night. We are heartbroken to see what the people of Ukraine have had to endure for 42 days. We are angry at the appalling human rights abuses against men, women and children and the terrible loss of life. We promise that we will do everything we can to aid Ukraine in the struggle and to shelter the people of Ukraine. We will stand by them in their greatest hour.
The abolitionist and civil rights leader, Frederick Douglass, liked to quote our own civil rights leader, Daniel O'Connell, who he met here in Dublin. He said the history of the Irish people could be "traced like a wounded man through a crowd, by the blood". Today the history of Ukraine can be traced through its villages, towns and cities, by the suffering of its children, women and men, by the blood.
Today, President Zelenskyy showed a burning desire for freedom and self-determination, democracy and liberty, things we enjoy and sometimes take for granted. He showed a desire for a European future for Ukraine, a place in that common European home that we helped to build, and we endorse that desire and support the Ukrainian people in their wish to join the European union.
A little over 100 years ago, the woman who is perhaps Ukraine's greatest national poet captured their dreams of freedom and courage. Her words still resonate today.
I shall sow flowers of flowing colours,
I shall sow flowers even amidst the frost,
And water them with my bitter tears.
Know that the abandoned fire of your songs will burn forever in the world, it will burn at night and will burn at the daytime, it will burn forever.
We also have a message for the aggressor, for President Putin, his Government, his diplomats, his collaborators and his apologists, here and abroad.Over the past 42 days, you have violated the human rights of another sovereign people, your neighbours, your friends, your so-called Slavic brothers. You have raped and defiled the very principles of common humanity which bind us together in peace and harmony. You have betrayed your own people and your own country's rich and proud history, and your own resistance to oppression over many centuries.
We here have no quarrel with the people of Russia. We particularly admire those extraordinarily brave people who continue to oppose and protest this war on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
But for those responsible for this conflict, we have a simple message from this House. Your actions will never be forgotten. They will never be forgiven. Thanks to the power of modern media, we have seen what you have done. You have made yourselves outcasts in the international community. You have strengthened the Ukrainian national identity. You have united Europe and the West. You have made our values shine brighter ever still.
We are a small country but we have a voice. Today we say to the world that Ireland stands with Ukraine. Our hopes, our thoughts and our prayers are with the men, women and children of Ukraine today, tomorrow and forever. We know you will prevail. Slava Ukraini.
President Zelenskyy today is one of a small band of national leaders who have addressed this House over the past 100 years. I want, if I can, to take some of the words we have heard previously, starting with former United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who spoke here some 59 years ago. The words he spoke then are just as relevant today. He stated:
And no nation, large or small, can be indifferent to the fate of others, near or far. Modern economics, weaponry and communications have made us all realise, more than ever, that we are one human family and this one planet is our home.
He went on to say "Ireland pursues an independent course in foreign policy, but it is not neutral between liberty and tyranny and never will be".
That is what guides us today. It guides us in the work we do in the United Nations Security Council, to which we were elected by the small non-aligned countries of this world to stand up for the rights of individual nation states. It is in that spirit that our soldiers march to the hard conflict zones with blue helmets on their heads to try to hold the peace line. It is in that spirit that our Naval Service sails to the Mediterranean to rescue the most destitute and in need. Perhaps even inspired by this, our trawlers in west Cork were willing to head into international seas to uphold the rule of law. It is in this spirit that we have worked through the United Nations and in the European Union calling for stiffer sanctions. With real resolve we will answer President Zelenskyy's call to stop the flow of funds for the war by stopping the flow of fossil fuels, one of the weapons being used in this conflict.
I thank Senator Norris. It is great to see him here today. That is the spirit which has people from our country bringing humanitarian aid to the conflict zone, with medicines to tend to the wounded and meals to feed the hungry people President Zelenskyy spoke about. They bring defensive shields against the weapons of war. It is in that spirit that the Irish people have opened and will open their doors to provide sanctuary and shelter for women and children in particular fleeing conflict while their men stay at home. It is going to be difficult and challenging beyond compare, which we all know, but we are committed to this work.
I will quote one of the other leaders who has spoken here, former Chancellor Kohl of Germany. In addressing this House he said we are "European by conviction" and that is true. It is our conviction as a small State and nation that allows us to strengthen when we work in co-operation and collaboration with European colleagues. It is appropriate today to quote two lines from the preamble of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which governs this relationship.It states that the signatories are:
INTENDING to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries and desiring to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, [and]
RESOLVED by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts...
We heard today that just such a call has come from the people of a European nation to be part of those efforts. I agree with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste that our answer to widen and broaden the European family, on this most western outpost of Europe, is to say yes, that that ideal is not an exclusive one. It should not be constrained. It will be stronger when we spread those democratic ideals.
I will quote one last person, Nelson Mandela, who spoke here so eloquently after he had reached and achieved his freedom. He said: "Nothing can stop the evolution of humanity towards the condition of greater and ever-expanding freedom". He went on to say: "We ask that you stay the course with us, we need your support for the democratic perspectives that we represent." On that call for support for democratic systems, our European democratic system is absolutely founded in realising that it requires us to follow the rule of law, with all the conflicts, contradictions, complexities and compromises that sometimes involves. That is what we are standing up here for today and what we need to do. It may take time. We have to answer what Nelson Mandela called for us to do - to be willing to stay the course in the face of other challenges that it will present, as we stop the use of those fossil fuels and provide our homes, schools, healthcare and other social services. Staying the course will be difficult, but I expect this House and our people are up for that challenge, one of the greatest of our time.
Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Uachtarán Zelenskyy as ucht a óráid ar maidin. I want to extend our deep appreciation and gratitude to President Zelenskyy for his address on this historic day. I want to acknowledge the presence of the diplomatic corps, but in particular, our friend, Ambassador Gerasko, and her staff. I want to pay them a particular commendation for their work in these very trying times.
We have heard directly from President Zelenskyy, in the rawest, most harrowing and heartbreaking of terms, testimony of the vicious war crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine. We have been set a challenge. Innocent civilians have been executed with their arms tied behind their backs. There have been horrific accounts of rape and torture and the brutalisation by the powerful of vulnerable ordinary citizens in their war-torn country. These are crime against the Ukrainian people and these are crimes against humanity. Russia must be held accountable for its barbarism, and justice must be done. These human rights violations and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention demand investigation by the International Criminal Court and prosecutions to follow. The truth is that Russia has turned its back on dialogue and peace. For 42 days and nights, it has chosen war. It has chosen brutality. It has chosen the violation of international law. Russia has closed the door on dialogue and through its criminal actions it has thus far rejected avenues for diplomacy.Far from demonstrating a willingness to engage in peace negotiations, Russia has escalated its ferocious violence through the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
All the while, however, the Russian Embassy in Ireland and Ambassador Yury Filatov have acted as unwavering and unapologetic propagandists for his country's illegal invasion of Ukraine. Yesterday, in the face of evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha and other areas surrounding Kyiv, the embassy and the ambassador claimed that this evidence was fabricated. They described it as another stage of the disinformation war against Russia. This shameful response demonstrates the depths to which the Putin regime will stoop to justify the savagery of Russia's military aggression. The Russian ambassador wants us to ignore the evidence before our very eyes. Well, Mr. Filatov, we have heard the accounts of murders carried out by your soldiers reported by numerous credible sources. We have seen the aerial photographs of human remains left scattered by the side of the road. We have seen the cars carrying white flags, indicating civilian passengers, riddled with shrapnel. The evidence of such atrocities condemns Russia before the world, and the world will not turn a blind eye. It is long past time for Ambassador Filatov to be expelled from Ireland. Ba cheart ambasadóir na Rúise in Éirinn a chur abhaile anois. Caithfear an Rialtas é sin a dhéanamh gan mhoill. Yesterday Lithuania became the first EU member state to expel its Russian ambassador. It did so as an action to uphold human rights and justice. I commend Lithuania on that and believe our country should follow suit. That would be a most powerful action for us to take as a militarily neutral, non-aligned State as we too stand for human rights and justice. I call on the Taoiseach and the Government to act now.
Of course, we must do more. The people of Ireland stand with Ukraine. We strongly support Ukraine's stated desire to join the European Union. We must respond to the humanitarian crisis by providing refuge to those fleeing for their lives. As an elected member of the UN Security Council, we must use every available avenue to press for the de-escalation of conflict, for a ceasefire, for dialogue and for a Russian withdrawal and an end to this terrible war.
Ireland supports economic sanctions against Russia. We must intensify those sanctions. We should not have to convince anybody of the need to hit the Russian elites and oligarchs in every possible way. The revelations of these war crimes and atrocities demand such an intensification of sanctions. I welcome the announcement by the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, of a new round of measures, including the ban on the import of Russian coal, the transaction ban on four Russian banks and the ban on Russian vessels from EU ports. The impact of these sanctions creates a real economic challenge for Ireland and across the EU, but Russia and Vladimir Putin must feel the full weight and consequences of this invasion. Russia should not doubt our resolve or our solidarity with the beleaguered people of Ukraine, a people who, as we speak, fight for their lives, fight for their freedom and fight for the survival of their nation. They fight a war of liberation from tyranny and for the right to endure and to go on, and they will. We know that a nation is a living, breathing thing. Ukraine lives, Ukraine breathes and Ukraine will go on.Through its heroic struggle, its people have reaffirmed in all of us the values of sovereignty, justice and democracy and one day the invader will retreat, the coloniser will leave, and Russia's armies will go home. The strength of the Ukrainian people and the support of her allies will see to that. On that day, Ukraine, deeply scarred but unconquered and unbowed, will start to heal and the people of Ukraine will begin again. Shattered cities, broken homes and displaced families and communities will come together once more and shape Ukraine's destiny.
In that spirit of hope and standing on the foundation stones of our shared humanity, Ukraine will emerge once more into a new dawn of peace and freedom. Ireland stands with you now in your dark days and we will stand with you yet in the light of a victory of humanity over injustice, of light over dark, of life over death. Slava Ukraini.
Gabhaim buíochas. A Cheann Comhairle, we have been honoured to listen to President Zelenskyy's powerful address on behalf of his people today. On behalf of the Labour Party I pay tribute to his immense courage under fire and I also want to pay special tribute to our friend, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Larysa Gerasko, for her steadfast advocacy on behalf of her country. Fáilte romhat, Ambassador.
As the brutal Russian invasion continues, we learned this week about the carrying out of horrific war crimes in Bucha, about the ongoing and appalling siege of civilians in Mariupol and the atrocities that have been committed by Russian forces across the Ambassador's peaceful and democratic country.
These reports have horrified us all and show the need for an intensification of our collective response. While we in the Labour Party welcome the news of a fifth round of EU sanctions, and last week welcomed the expulsion of four diplomatic staff from the Russian embassy here, we believe now that stronger measures need to be taken. Indeed, President Zelenskyy has called upon us to do that and has told us that our leadership can make a difference. We are calling now for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador from Ireland as he continues to mount brazen denials of the truth of what is happening in Ukraine and what his government is doing to the people of Ukraine.
We are calling for strong support for Ukraine's expedited accession to the EU; a full embargo on Russian oil and gas to join with the welcome move on coal; urgent initiation of investigations into Russian war crimes against civilians, including crimes of sexual violence against women about which we are hearing such appalling reports; the speedy passage into law of Deputy Howlin’s Magnitsky legislation that we in the Labour Party pushed for and brought forward in this House last December; the exclusion of remaining Russian banks from the SWIFT system and measures to ensure that secondary sanctions cannot be sidestepped; and a ban on all Russian ships docking in Irish ports in a week when we see worrying reports of a Russian-registered vessel docking in Dublin Port this week.
Let us be clear. Putin has shown that he wants to wipe Ukraine off the map. He wants to abolish Ukraine's culture and its history. Putin must fail and will fail.
At the outset of this illegal and brutal invasion nearly six weeks ago, I called a protest against the Russian Embassy. I called then for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador and I spoke about our solidarity as Irish people with Ukraine. Since then the solidarity here in Ireland has strengthened. We have seen it evident at the funeral of the brave journalist, Pierre Zakrzewski, who died in Ukraine, killed by Russian forces. We have seen it in communities across Ireland who have rolled out such a warm welcome and have offered sanctuary to so many refugees fleeing terror and war in Ukraine. We continue to show that solidarity and it is real. We stand with Ukraine now as you battle barbarism. We will stand with you as Ukraine is rebuilt, as we see the cities of Mariupol, Bucha, Kharkiv and Sumy being rebuilt and as an independent and united Ukraine becomes part of a better, stronger Europe. We stand with you in your current struggles and in your hardship and devastation. We will be with you as you rebuild your country which is so close to our hearts and so close to the future of Europe.We stand with you, Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.
I thank President Zelenskyy for his historic address to the Houses of this Oireachtas at this time of great peril for him personally and for the people of Ukraine. The strength, courage and resilience of President Zelenskyy and of the Ukrainian people have been an inspiration, not just for us here in Ireland, but for people all over the world.
If Putin had imperial ambitions when he invaded Ukraine, those ambitions lie in tatters. Putin has not increased Russia's prestige or its power on the world stage. His despotic leadership has sapped its influence, destroyed its economy and turned Russia into a pariah state. It will remain a pariah state as long as Putin remains in power.
Thursday, 24 February 2022, the day Russia launched its barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine, is the date that will live in infamy. Since then, the Ukrainian people have faced a relentless barrage of bombs, bullets, missiles, mortars and rockets. War crimes have been committed on a daily basis. Maternity hospitals, schools, care homes and residential buildings have all been targeted. They have tried to wipe whole cities, such as Mariupol, off the map. The latest horrors revealed in Bucha, the torture and summary execution of hundreds of innocent civilians, are a gross affront to all of our collective humanity.
Ireland stands united with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people against this callous barbarism and depravity. Putin's lies and propaganda hold no sway here. He and his regime must be held accountable. An unprecedented array of co-ordinated international sanctions have been unleashed to crush Putin's regime, including his oligarch acolytes and to destroy his ability to fund his murderous war. We must go further. We must ensure that those sanctions are absolutely copper-fastened.
The EU must now also wean itself off Russian oil and gas, Putin's last economic lifeline. While Russia is starved of economic support, financial support from the international community must flow into Ukraine. What Putin has destroyed, Ukraine's allies must help to rebuild. Humanitarian relief and support for the unprecedented number of refugees fleeing the war must also be sustained, unwavering.
This support from the Irish people was instantaneous and overwhelming. They have welcomed thousands of Ukrainians into communities throughout Ireland and will continue to do so. The history of this country, the struggles of its people and the fight for our own sovereignty mean the Irish people empathise with Ukraine and the battle for democracy, freedom and the right to self-determination. Putin's murderous aggression will fail, but the empathy, friendship and solidarity between Ireland and Ukraine will strengthen and endure.
I thank President Zelenskyy for his address and extend the solidarity of People Before Profit to the people of Ukraine. We must all join in condemning the barbaric invasion by Vladimir Putin's forces of Ukraine and we must demand accountability for the horrific crimes against humanity and war crimes of which he is undoubtedly guilty. There can be no doubt that the horrific scenes we saw in Bucha and are seeing in Mariupol and elsewhere are war crimes and Vladimir Putin should be held accountable for them.
The people of Ukraine are victims of a barbaric and unjustified imperialist invasion. Russia should end this bloody invasion and allow the people of Ukraine to determine their own future.It is absolutely right that we extend refuge to those who are fleeing Putin's bloody war in Ukraine. Indeed, we should assist Ukraine in the reconstruction that it will need after this bloody invasion by immediately cancelling the debt of Ukraine, which will be a significant obstacle to that reconstruction.
However, we feel duty-bound to say that we reject completely attempts by some in the Government and some commentators to suggest that the crisis in Ukraine is a reason to abandon or weaken Ireland’s military neutrality or move closer to the NATO military alliance, or we reject completely any idea that NATO involvement or escalation of this war would be anything other than a disaster that would threaten a wider European war or even a nuclear conflict.
Ireland’s tradition of neutrality means standing against all warmongers and empires and standing with the oppressed of the world, whether they are the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine, Chechnya, Georgia or Afghanistan, or whether they are the victims of US aggression and war crimes or those of its allies in Afghanistan, Palestine or Yemen. Putin is undoubtedly guilty of war crimes for his unjustified invasion of Ukraine, but so also is the United States, the UK and some of their allies for their unjustified wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which they have never been held accountable. They are also guilty of supporting the Israeli state, which has been indicted recently for crimes against humanity for its treatment of the Palestinian people by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They are also guilty of supporting the Saudi dictatorship in its brutal war in Yemen, arming that regime and blocking attempts to investigate their crimes against humanity.
We have no credibility in condemning, as we must, the crimes against humanity in Ukraine if we do not simultaneously oppose, condemn and demand accountability for all crimes against humanity, whether they are in Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan, Palestine or Yemen. We will not eliminate crimes against humanity, warmongering or imperialism by being selective in our opposition to it. We stand in the tradition of James Connolly and the founders of this State, who said we always stand with the oppressed, whether it is Ukraine, Palestine or Yemen. We oppose all warmongers, whether they are Western warmongers or Russian warmongers.
I am very grateful to contribute to this historic debate on behalf of my colleagues in the Regional Group. I would like to welcome the ambassador of Ukraine, H.E. Ms Larysa Gerasko, to the Chamber. I congratulate her armed forces on repelling the Russian attack against her capital city. When we consider the atrocities that took place in Bucha only a few days ago, we shudder to think what would have occurred had Kyiv fallen to the Russians.
I would also like to single out two ambassadors in the Gallery, the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors, both also representing military neutral states, but who recognised from the get-go the extent of the treachery that was about to unfold and provided thousands of defensive, protective anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine to protect its cities and a civilian population.
I would also like to single out the French ambassador in the Gallery for President Macron’s efforts to achieve a ceasefire and humanitarian access to Mariupol, which our present-day generation’s Srebenica, whether we accept it or not. It is not surprising that President Macron’s overtures have been turned down and have been unsuccessful.
Every single person in this Chamber wants peace and end to the conflict. However, unfortunately, the Russians do not want a diplomatic solution at this time. They want a military solution. They only way we can bring this to the negotiation table – it is unpalatable – is to defeat the Russian army in Ukraine. That is just the reality. On that basis, I very much welcome the provision of military stores direct from Irish Defence Forces stores to the Ukrainian defence forces. It is absolutely important.
Following on from President Zelenskyy’s address, he is looking for more. He is looking for more leadership.One hour's drive from here in the Curragh Camp, there are hundreds of anti-tank rockets nearing the end of their shelf life that could very easily be transferred to the Ukraine defence forces. The reason that is so important is that we know the Russians are preparing a massive offensive in the east at the moment and that this offensive is likely to be successful but it does not have to be this way. We have learned from the successful defence of Kyiv that the future is not written in stone. It has yet to be decided and it will be determined not just by fate but by decisions and actions of the people in this Chamber over the next few days. For precisely those reasons, I urge the Taoiseach to send protective, defensive weapons to Ukraine in order that we stop the Russian advance, that we drag Russia to the negotiating table and that together we alter the course of history.Slava Ukraini.
I wish to give some time to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.
First, gabhaim buíochas leis President Zelenskyy. Cuirim fáilte roimh gach duine, especially the diplomatic corp and Ambassador Gerasko, who is here and who paid a visit to my county last week and met the refugees who arrived in Cathair Dhún Iascaigh the day before. On behalf of the Rural Independent Group, I want to thank the Irish people from the bottom of my heart for opening their hearts and homes in the spirit of the meitheal, ní neart go cur le chéile as they always have done any time there was a need and they were asked. Every right-thinking person is praying to the man above, Almighty God, and his Blessed Mother too over this horrible, horrific war. It is an appalling vista. What we have seen in recent days makes it even more appalling and more difficult to imagine but the Irish people have stood neutral militarily. Being neutral has stood us in good stead. We have sent peacekeeping soldiers all over the world with the blue helmets, as has been referred to, and we are recognised for that throughout the world. We can play a huge and very important part in that role at this point in time.
I listened with interest to President Zelenskyy and his appeal for more supports. We can, and must, give more supports because, as I said, the people are doing so and we, as politicians, must do so. We must all put our shoulders to the wheel. Diplomatic pressure must be applied. More sanctions must be applied and we must try to hit the Russian oligarchs by turning off the money machine to them. I believe there is doublespeak going on. There are other conflicts that we have chosen to ignore, which are ongoing, but I am not going into that today. It is Ukraine’s day and it is important that it is.
I met a number of heart-broken people yesterday evening in St. Stephen’s Green. They gave me a little ribbon and asked me to wear it today which is why I am wearing it. They were praying for the family members they had lost. The torture they went through was unbelievable. In this modern era, it is unbelievable that we would have this vista of this bloody war so we must do everything we can in our own special way and remember people like Dan Breen, Seán Treacy and, indeed, Liam Lynch who lost his life 99 years ago this weekend.
We want to thank President Zelenskyy for his presentation today. I thank Ambassador Gerasko for being here and I thank her and her staff for the excellent work they have been doing over the last number of weeks. The Irish people and the Irish Government have been to the forefront in standing up and saying we will put our shoulders to the wheel and we will do everything collectively that we can do to support the people of Ukraine, the people who have had to come here literally with what is on their backs and the bags they can carry. We never thought that we would witness such an event in our lifetimes but I thank the Government, the Department of Education and all the agencies of the State for doing everything they can do. People are working night and day in their Departments. They should be acknowledged by all the parliamentarians here today from both Seanad Éireann and Dáil Eireann. We should thank those people because they are working long, extended hours trying to help those people.
In County Kerry, in Cahirsiveen, Killarney, Glenbeigh, Tralee and Tarbert, people have opened up their homes. People are working to try to ensure people have a safe, secure place for themselves and their children.I commend the teachers who are doing everything humanly possible to facilitate those young people and to keep them busy in their time here, to continue with their education and ensure they have the happiest time they can have in the circumstances. The Government deserves to be commended on the leadership it has shown in the last weeks in this horrendous event.
I welcome Ambassador Gerasko to the Oireachtas today. I thank President Zelenskyy for his courage, leadership and ability to inspire confidence and hope in the Ukrainian people. Most especially, I thank him and the Ukrainian people for their defence of liberal democracy, something too many of us take for granted.
We sit comfortably in our seats in Dáil Éireann today as Ukrainian members of Parliament vow to defend their country and their people by all means necessary. There could not be a greater contrast. When this debate ends, we will go back to our offices and our lives while members of the Ukrainian Parliament and the Ukrainian people stare down the face of Russian aggression and terror, as they remember and mourn those who have been tortured, raped, executed and murdered, as they prepare to further defend their homeland.
However, I believe we will carry the words of President Zelenskyy with us as we seek to continue with and expand our response and assistance to Ukraine. For many hundreds of years geography was not our friend in Ireland; now it is, as we sit on the western flank of the EU, part of the greatest peace project ever. In that context I strongly support EU membership for Ukraine. As a former member of the European Parliament I met many Ukrainians who looked to the EU as a place where they belonged and I know Ireland supports that stance. It would be beyond selfish of us to share in the benefits and security of EU membership, yet deny it to the Ukrainian people.
To all Ukrainians, I say we have an old tradition in Ireland of lighting a candle in the window of our homes to show hospitality and welcome to the stranger. Metaphorically speaking, many tens of thousands of those candles have been lit and are burning in Irish homes and hearts as we welcome Ukrainians fleeing war and terror into our homes and our communities. I am wearing a Sligo badge below my badge depicting the Irish and Ukrainian flags as a symbol of our common humanity and connectedness, as we welcome more than 130 Ukrainians to Sligo in these days.
The huge fundraising efforts and the massive mobilisation of medical and other supplies to Ukraine continue day after day. Government assistance coupled with a massive voluntary effort has forged a chain between Ireland and Ukraine and I believe those strong links will hold. I believe Ireland will not be found wanting in strongly promoting and supporting humanitarian and peace initiatives, because all wars must end and our focus must be with the Ukrainian people in finding a pathway to a lasting peace.
On behalf of Seanad Éireann, I ask colleagues to join me in welcoming five-year-old Anastasia to the Parliament of our Republic.Laskavo prosymo do Irlandiyi. Anastasia is here with her mother, Yana. Her husband and Anastasia's dad, like thousands of others, is in a defence unit in Ukraine, fighting to keep it free and independent for his daughter's future. They have travelled 4,000 km from Kyiv to Dublin, having to leave their home under Russian artillery fire. We cannot imagine what they have gone through. We cannot imagine what it must feel like, having, like millions of their fellow Ukrainians, to seek safety in European countries. We cannot imagine what it must feel like to have your future so suddenly change. Anastasia and Yana, we welcome you here, along with your ambassador and the other refugees who join us here today, and the other members of the Ukrainian community who have been here for many years and who are now assisting their fellow citizens who are fleeing war. We welcome you as guests to our Parliament, in the same way as thousands have been welcomed to our country.
We are many thousands of kilometres away this spring morning from their country and we are all aware that, as we sit here in Dublin, bombs and missiles are descending on those who remain - their fellow citizens, their family, their friends, their neighbours, innocent Ukrainian men, women and children. In recent days, there is evidence of war crimes in Bucha that has been shown to the world. What we are facing is a regime that is led by a war criminal and he must face justice like any other war criminal.
President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people have shown, with their own words and their actions, their bravery in the face of the invasion of their country. In a previous address in this Chamber nearly 60 years ago, another President also acknowledged Irish neutrality but also acknowledged that Ireland is not neutral between liberty and tyranny and never will be. That is as true today as it was over half a century ago. As an international community, we must never be neutral in the face of tyranny. We work better when we work together. We can and we must do more. We must be relentless in our support for Ukraine, not just today, not just tomorrow, but until the war is won. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.