The Dáil was in full swing as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a rallying cry for more Irish support for its war-torn nation.
Political leaders listened intently as Mr. Zelensky outlined in detail the horrific ordeal his citizens must endure Wladimir Putinthe invading Russian army.
This included the murder of at least 167 defenseless children. Russian soldiers also destroyed 927 educational institutions and hunted down and killed teachers.
He said 258 hospitals had been hit by Russia, while 78 ambulances had been shot at as they tried to help the injured during the internationally condemned war.
President Zelensky was well informed about Irish history, citing “colonization” and Russian tactics of starving the Ukrainians by targeting food supplies.
He knew that images of colonizers and famine would resonate with the Irish public.
He accepted Ireland’s neutrality and appreciated the government’s humanitarian efforts both here and in Ireland Ukraine.
“Although Ireland is a neutral country, it has not remained neutral to the disaster and mishaps that Russia brought to Ukraine. I am grateful to every citizen of Ireland,” he said.
However, he had some requests that he said would “make Russia seek peace and leave us alone.”
Mr Zelensky urged Ireland to “show more leadership” in the debate on sanctions against Russian exports and oligarchs among its EU counterparts.
He specifically said he wanted the government to “convince EU partners to introduce even tougher sanctions against Russia that would really ensure that the Russian war machine stops.”
He wanted the EU to sever the ties between Russian banks and the global financial system and cut off their sources of income from oil.
He said there are ways to make that happen, adding that the only thing “missing is a principled approach from some politicians and business leaders who still believe that war and war crimes are not as terrible as financial losses”.
The government has fully supported all EU sanctions since the beginning of the war. Other EU countries were reluctant to completely cut off Russian energy supplies.
Germany and other countries are far more dependent on Russian gas than Ireland.
A ban on Russian coal imports into the EU is proposed, but this is only a small part of Russia’s total €99 billion worth of energy exports.
The EU has hit Putin’s regime with a raft of trade sanctions and targeted his allies, but there are concerns they don’t go far enough and are having no real impact.
A clearly frustrated Belgian MEP, Guy Verhofstadt, vented his frustration at the EU’s lack of action during a debate in the European Parliament yesterday.
He was one of 212 MEPs who signed an open letter calling on the European Council to impose the toughest sanctions on Russia.
Mr Verhofstadt said the reality was that EU sanctions weren’t working because Vladimir Putin was a dictator who didn’t have to listen to the court of public opinion when making his decisions.
He said the recent ban on Russian coal was “ridiculous” because it made up just 3 percent of its exports. Mr Verhofstadt said the new banking restrictions still meant 50 per cent of Russian institutions could circumvent the sanctions.
He also called on the EU to attack 6,000 Russians close to Mr Putin, named in a document by jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
“It’s time to have a European Council as soon as possible and immediately adopt the whole package of sanctions so you can really make a difference,” he concluded.
The Irish government is not opposed to imposing the harshest sanctions on Russia, but there are also EU realities that need to be taken into account.
Ireland is not overly dependent on Russian fuel, but should other countries experience shortages, we will have to share our resources with them.
During his Dáil speech, Mr Zelensky also thanked Ireland for supporting Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU.
“With this support, the process will be even faster. Such membership will be beneficial to both our nations,” he told TDs and Senators.
The possibility of Ukraine joining the EU has been debated for decades, but there has been little if any action as the bloc has become something of a closed shop in recent years.
At the start of the Russian invasion, Mr. Zelensky ceremoniously signed papers seeking formal accession to the EU.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said publicly that he “strongly” supports Ukraine’s EU accession and he reiterated this support during his contribution to yesterday’s Dáil debate.
The Taoiseach’s view is not shared by the 27 member states, which have been reluctant to accept new members.
The government also knows that Ukraine will need the support of all member states if it is to join the bloc, and a cynic might say it’s easy to offer support for something you know is unlikely.
It is also questionable how helpful it would be for someone to join the EU amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Brussels would be forced to take far more action than just sanctions if a member state were bombed by Putin.
Undoubtedly, Ireland, along with all other EU countries, is providing significant humanitarian assistance to the war effort in Ukraine and by providing shelter for people fleeing the war zone.
The Government is concerned about our capacity to accommodate those who will be arriving here in the coming weeks. Other EU countries face similar problems, but efforts by governments and citizens to support Ukrainian refugees continue.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/zelensky-knew-talk-of-colonisers-and-famine-would-hit-home-for-ireland-41528507.html Zelensky knew that talk of colonizers and famine would hit Ireland