“The first tears that dry are the tears of gratitude,” circus Greatest Show on Earth promoter PT Barnum famously said.
cynical words spring to mind when listening to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s assessments of support for the various EU member states.
In his ranking, Mr. Zelensky gave Ireland what sounds like a reluctant “Got to try harder”.
On the other hand, the rankings of most other EU countries – apart from Poland at the forefront and the three Baltic states constantly threatened by Russia – offered little to bask in.
Addressing an EU summit in Brussels via video link, Zelensky lifted special praise for Poland and the three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – for their unwavering support in the fight against Vladimir Putin’s Russian invaders.
Mr Zelensky candidly said EU kingpins France and Germany could do more to help. If you read a transcript of his summary of the others, only Cyprus and perhaps Italy come through with flying colours, while comments on the others are hardly ringing endorsements.
“Luxembourg – we understand each other. Cyprus – I truly believe you are with us. Italy – thanks for your support! Spain – we find common ground.
“Belgium – we will find arguments. Austria together with the Ukrainians is an opportunity for you. I am sure.”
His statements about this country – “Ireland – well, fast” – seemed rather critical, even if the Taoiseach rejected this view of things.
Micheál Martin said the Ukrainian leader appreciated Ireland’s aid efforts and was particularly grateful for Ireland’s support of Ukraine’s bid for EU membership.
Still, many Irish people will ponder these words and genuinely wonder that they feel offended. The PT Barnum comes alive and gratitude has its appeal in this situation.
It seems reasonable to reflect with a little dismay at the lorries being loaded by Irish volunteers in every corner of the country, the over €2million quickly raised after a Late Late Show Appeal on RTÉ TV and many, many other Irish efforts.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tells us that by the end of next month Ireland is expected to take in 40,000 Ukrainians who are fleeing the war and have been displaced from their homes.
To put that in context, that number will increase Ireland’s population by nearly 1 percent in a matter of weeks.
This will be the largest humanitarian effort the state has made at a time of housing crisis and enormous ongoing public health problems.
Such efforts seem to merit little more than an “almost” rating.
Still, it’s important that we look at things from a different perspective.
On Thursday, Irish EU Commissioner Mairéad McGuinness had a video call with Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko.
“The minister has not told me where he is speaking from in Ukraine, a clear sign that he and his fellow ministers are being threatened by Russia,” Ms McGuinness said.
One of the Treasury Secretary’s duties is reminiscent of Michael Collins on the cutting edge War of Independence.
Mr Marchenko is attracting investment to sustain Ukraine’s war effort, notably by allowing EU investors to buy Ukrainian war bonds.
After talking for half an hour, Ms McGuinness said she was very impressed.
“The stoicism of the minister and Ukrainian citizens is remarkable. Despite the horror inflicted on them, morale in the country is generally strong, the minister told me,” she said.
Efforts to continue life in Ukraine continue. Despite the Russian invasion, Mr. Marchenko confirmed that the financial system is working.
Ms McGuinness also pointed out that support will be given to the agricultural sector to encourage spring planting of crops, which is essential not only for Ukraine’s economy but also for the global food supply chain.
Before we get too angry with Ukraine and Mr. Zelensky, let’s consider the bigger picture and the grim realities of the war.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/biggest-humanitarian-effort-in-irelands-history-deserves-more-than-an-almost-rating-41489089.html Largest humanitarian effort in Ireland’s history deserves more than an ‘almost’ rating