August 12, 2022
Irish president’s wife furious at calls for Ukraine-Russia talks

Ireland’s president and his wife have sparked controversy in a letter briefly posted to the president’s website after First Lady Sabina Higgins called on Ukraine and Russia to negotiate an end to their war.

The letter, published in the Irish Times last week, was praised by The Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, told the newspaper the argument “makes sense”.

But some politicians criticized the letter for putting Ukraine and Russia on the same footing instead of casting Moscow as the aggressor in the war that began in February.

“Unless the world persuades Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to agree to a ceasefire and talks, the long haul of the terrible war will continue,” President Michael D. Higgins’ wife wrote,

The government of Ireland, which has emphasized that it is militarily but not politically neutral in the conflict, has sought an end to the Russian invasion.

The letter from Sabina Higgins, who has campaigned against the wars, was slammed as a “propaganda victory” for Russia by Cormac Smith, a former adviser to Kyiv’s foreign ministry.

The letter has been removed from the President’s website. The Irish President’s Office did not immediately respond to a request to explain why it was posted and then withdrawn.

The row follows other EU messages that have angered Ukraine’s government, including a comment by French President Emmanuel Macron in June urging the West not to “humiliate” Russia’s invasion. .

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for a ceasefire, but has not repeated such calls until recently.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called for a ceasefire in May and called for international pressure to bring Moscow to the negotiating table. Draghi was under pressure from coalition allies, who claimed that Italy’s supply of arms to Ukraine was fueling the conflict. Draghi has insisted that any peace deal must be acceptable to Ukraine.

Higgins’ office said in a statement to Irish media that the president was “clear in his condemnation of the Russian invasion”, describing it as “illegal, immoral and unfair”, and called for an “immediate Russian withdrawal and an end to the violence”. ,

Erin McGreehan, a senator from Fianna Fáil, part of Ireland’s ruling coalition, said publishing Sabina Higgins’ letter was an “insult to our nation” and urged the president to apologise. “If he doesn’t, he should definitely consider his position,” McGreehan wrote on Twitter.

The president has taken a controversial stance in the past. In June, he slammed Ireland’s chronic housing crisis as “our great, great, great failure” and a “disaster”.

Last year, he refused to attend an event to mark the centenary of the Partition of Northern Ireland. Dublin Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said at the time, “President Higgins is the kind of person who makes his own decisions.”

In a statement Tuesday night, Sabina Higgins defended the letter.

“I have strongly condemned the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine from the very beginning and I cannot be disappointed that people will find anything unacceptable in the plea for peace and dialogue when the future of humanity is threatened by war, global warming and famine. is,” she said.

She said she had posted the letter in her dedicated section of the president’s site, but “I later took it down when I saw it being presented out of the ordinary, not from myself. President. ie Website”.

Additional reporting by Amy Kazmin in Rome and Guy Chazon in Berlin

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