A controversial letter from the President’s wife on the Ukraine conflict has been described as a “slap in the face” to thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have settled in Ireland.
Local resident Michael D. Higgins was urged to unequivocally support the Ukrainian cause and oppose Russian aggression amid the furore sparked by his wife Sabina’s letter.
Mrs. Higgins wrote to the Irish times last week to criticize one of the newspaper’s editorials on the conflict.
In the letter, she said fighting would continue until the world “convinces Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations.”
Critics have suggested that Ms Higgins is drawing an equivalence between Ukraine’s and Russia’s actions.
Scrutiny of the letter intensified after it was briefly published on the Irish President’s official website. It appears to have since been removed from the site.
Today Mr and Mrs Higgins attended the opening of the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann but did not address the controversy.
The President made no mention of the matter in his speech at the event in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, although he gave a “particular” welcome to those who have come to Ireland “to take shelter with us and seek safety with us”. .
“On behalf of myself and my wife Sabina, I am delighted and very privileged to be back when we kick off the All-Ireland Fleadh 2022,” he said.
President Higgins and his wife declined an opportunity to address a large group of reporters after his 20-minute speech and allowed themselves to be whisked away to the All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Final.
But in the meantime, Fine Gael Senator John McGahon urged Mr Higgins to clarify whether he knew about the letter before it was published or whether he played any role in its drafting.
“She is a private person, she has the right to express any kind of opinion she wants, but she is married to the President of this country, she lives in Aras an Uachtarain (the President’s official residence in Dublin) and officiates there official events run by the state,” Mr McGahon told RTÉ Radio One In this week Program.
“And given the high-profile nature of her position, I believe her views on the Ukrainian invasion are open to criticism. I think they are open to criticism.”
Mr McGahon claimed the letter established a “moral equivalence” between Russia and Ukraine.
“If you read this letter, you would think that this is a dispute between two countries over a disputed piece of land,” he said.
“These are Russian tanks that rolled into Ukraine. It’s Russian missiles that have leveled Ukrainian cities. It is Russian soldiers who have murdered women and children in the streets of Ukraine.
“And I think the comments she has made are a slap in the face to the 47,000 Ukrainian refugees who have come to this Irish island seeking safety and refuge.”
On Saturday, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne questioned Ms Higgins’ position.
“Ms. Higgins is entitled to represent and express her personal opinion, although I believe she is dead wrong in trying to see equivalence in the positions of Ukraine and Russia,” he said.
“However, the decision to post the letter on the President’s website raises serious questions.
“It falls to the Irish President now to clearly state the Irish people’s strong support for the Ukrainian people and that we hold Russia responsible for the war and the ongoing barbarism.
“Ireland should be rightly proud of our response to the invasion of Ukraine.”
There was also support for Ms Higgins.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett tweeted: “The attack and censorship of #SabinaHiggins is disgraceful. Every effort should be made to achieve a ceasefire and an end to the slaughter in Ukraine. The idea that either side can have a ‘victory’ in this war is a recipe for tens of thousands more deaths.”
The Office of the President has been contacted for comment.
https://www.independent.ie/news/sabina-higgins-letter-a-slap-in-the-face-for-ukrainians-but-president-fails-to-address-controversy-at-fleadh-41880416.html Sabina Higgins’ letter is “a slap in the face” for Ukrainians, but the President does not address controversy in Fleadh