Sabina Higgins ‘totally wrong’ in Ukraine War letter


The decision to publish Sabina Coyne Higgins’ letter about the war in Ukraine on the President’s website raises “serious questions” and she was “totally wrong to try to see an equivalence” in the positions of Ukraine and Russia, a Fianna Fáil senator has claimed.

Malcolm Byrne called on President Michael D Higgins to publicly outline Ireland’s continued support for Ukraine following the publication of the letter in The Irish Times this week.

In her letter, Ms Coyne Higgins called for a negotiated settlement to the war.

Today, President Higgins didn’t address the controversy directly when speaking at the launch of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar.

The President did, however, welcome those “seeking shelter and safety in Ireland”, and said we can learn from their culture.
Ms Higgin’sletter was later published on the President of Ireland’s website, and was praised by Yury Filatov, the Russian ambassador to Ireland. It appeared to be taken down from the President’s website today.

Mr Byrne has now called on President Michael D Higgins to make a public statement outlining Ireland’s “strong, continued support for Ukraine and opposition to the brutality of Vladimir Putin”.

“Ms Higgins is entitled to her personal opinion and to express it, although I believe that she is totally wrong to try to see an equivalence in the positions of Ukraine and Russia,” said Mr Byrne.

‘Raises serious questions’

“However, the decision to publish the letter on the President’s website raises serious questions.

“It is incumbent on the President of Ireland to now express clearly the strong support of the people of Ireland for the people of Ukraine and that we hold Russia responsible for the war and ongoing barbarism. Ireland should rightly be proud of our response to the invasion of Ukraine.” 

Meanwhile, fellow senator and former Army Ranger Gerard Craughwell has said calls for Ukraine to negotiate peace by Sabina Higgins are “naive”.

Senator Craughwell says anyone expecting Volodymyr Zelenskyy to negotiate while guns are pointed at his citizens is seriously misguided.

“Would Mrs Higgins be happy if somebody were to take half of her home in Galway and say simply because they’re bigger and greater aggressor, they’re just going to take it.

“Would she be happy to negotiate away a part of her home? I doubt very much that she would.” 

He added that “we must always remember Ukraine was invaded by Russia. It was not the Ukraine that invited the Russians in.”

In her letter, Ms Coyne Higgins said: “Until the world persuades President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations, the long haul of terrible war will go on.

“How can there be any winner? The Ukrainian people have suffered tens of thousands of casualties and are now losing up to a thousand soldiers a day, killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

“Your editorial states that in the war it is estimated that 25,000 to 27,000 Russians have been killed in the fighting. This is surely a moment of moral choice. Concerned people of the world anxious to live together in peace and sustainability must demand that this war be brought to an end so that lives are saved, and there is a lessening of the suffering, and the reconstruction of lives and livelihoods can begin.”

However, despite the call for peace, there was some criticism for Ms Coyne Higgins because her letter was praised by Mr Filatov. He told The Irish Times the call for a negotiated settlement “makes sense”.

“She’s against war. We’re all against war,” said Mr Filatov.

Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny it was likely Ms Coyne Higgins would “take no comfort” from Mr Filatov’s praise, while Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said Ms Coyne Higgins had not identified the aggressors in the war.

Brigid Laffan of the EU Robert Schuman Centre said Ms Coyne Higgins “owes the people of Ukraine an apology”, while Fine Gael senator John McGahon tweeted: “When the Russian Ambassador praises your view of the Ukrainian Invasion, it’s time to re-think your stance.”

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