The President’s wife, Sabina Higgins, has broken her silence on the controversial letter she wrote, which was criticized for not condemning Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement released today, Ms Higgins said the letter was written in a “personal capacity”.
Ms Higgins said she put the letter in her dedicated section on the President’s official website for people to access.
However, she said she soon removed it when she saw it was presented “not by me but by the General President.ie website”.
“In the 11 years since I came to Áras an Uachtaráin as the wife of the President, I have continued my longstanding interest in a number of important issues,” she said.
“I have had my own section on the President.ie website since 2014. This section contains details of activities I have undertaken including speaking and working towards the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, health issues, breastfeeding, issues affecting the Traveler Community, human rights, support for the arts and a range of other issues .
“Last week I was questioned about my letter to the Irish timeswhich I had written as a private person, by a number of people who had missed it and could not access it online.
“I have therefore published it in my dedicated section of the website, as I have done for the past few years. After I hung up my letter, I later took it down to find that it was not from me but from the General President.ie website.
“I have condemned in the strongest possible terms the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine from the start and I can only be dismayed that people would find anything unacceptable in a plea for peace and negotiation if the future of mankind was torn apart by war, global warming and famine is threatened.”
Days of mounting pressure follow over the letter commenting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the letter, Ms Higgins said fighting would continue until the world “convinces Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations.”
In response to Ms Higgins’ statement today, Senator Gerard Craughwell said the President’s official website is “for the constitutional holder of the office”.
“I understand that Mrs. Higgins has issued a statement regarding the publication of her letter to the Irish times on the President’s website,” he said.
“I see no justification for a private individual having their own section of this website. We need to clarify the role (if any) of an incumbent president’s spouse or partner. We have yet to hear from the President personally.”
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 driving time Tonight, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne welcomed Ms Higgins’ statement but said he felt no need to apologize for his earlier criticism of her letter.
Mr Byrne said today’s statement “offers clarity” but that it was “regrettable” that it was not released sooner.
“I welcome Ms Higgins’ intervention, she is a woman I respect very much and I think this certainly brings some clarity to the matter,” he said.
“I think it makes it very clear that she views Russia as an aggressor, and I think she would certainly regret the fact that the Russian ambassador to the Kremlin would have used her letter as a propaganda tool.
“I disagreed with their views, there were a few elements, most notably in the letter, that seemed to imply that there is a moral equivalence between the actions of Russia and those of Ukraine.
“The second problem then was that it appeared on the President’s website and I understand what the point is, but that was clearly a political statement that was made.
“The letter was confirmed by the Russian ambassador and offended many Ukrainians.”
On Saturday, Mr Byrne said Ms Higgins was “entitled to her personal opinion” but he believed she was “completely wrong in trying to see equivalence in the positions of Ukraine and Russia”.
“The decision to post the letter on the President’s website raises serious questions,” he said.
“It falls to the President of Ireland now to clearly state the strong support of the people of Ireland for the people of Ukraine and that we hold Russia responsible for the war and the ongoing barbarism.”
Louth Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan said earlier today the President had “disrespected” Ireland and should “at the very least” apologize.
“An Uachtaráin disregarded our nation and the presidency when he published his wife’s letter—at least [sic] he needs to apologize and if he doesn’t he should definitely reconsider his position,” she said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/sabina-higgins-ukraine-letter-was-written-in-personal-capacity-and-i-condemn-russian-invasion-41885483.html Sabina Higgins: “The Ukraine letter was written on my own and I condemn the Russian invasion”