Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky challenged Ireland to press for tougher EU sanctions on Russia in an address to both houses of the Irish parliament.
Zelensky also rowed back scolding comments made last month that Ireland had ‘almost’ stood with his country in the wake of Russia‘s invasion.
And though he was greeted by ovations by almost all parliamentarians gathered in the Dáil chamber, members of the People Before Profit party refused to applaud.
In a speech to a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Zelensky said: ‘Although you are a neutral country, you have not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine.
Zelensky (on screens, upper left and right) addressed the Irish parliament after 10am today
He repeated his description of Ireland as a ‘neutral country’, but said he is grateful for its help
‘You did not doubt helping us, you began doing this right away.’
Zelensky’s address followed a contentious speech to the European Council last month in which he declared Ireland had ‘almost’ taken Ukraine’s side in the conflict.
He had said on March 25 that Ireland had been a keen supporter of Ukraine – adding ‘Well, almost’.
This morning Zelensky was more positive, thanking Ireland’s politicians and the public for their ‘caring’ attitude towards Ukrainian refugees.
The Ukrainian president rowed back on a statement last month that Ireland was ‘almost’ an ally
A packed-out Dáil chamber gave Zelensky a standing ovation before and after his address
He told a packed-out Dáil: ‘Thank you for the humanitarian and financial support extended to our country and thank you for your caring about Ukrainian people who found shelter on your land.’
But Zelensky again challenged Dublin to push its EU partners for a stricter sanctions regime on Russia, saying ‘I can’t tolerate indecisiveness’ after everything Ukraine has gone through.
Zelensky said: ‘We still have to convince even some of the European companies to abandon Russian markets.
Attending guests included Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Gerasko Larysa (front right)
The Dáil then heard premier Micheal Martin predict Kyiv’s victory: ‘Ukraine will prevail’, he said
‘We still have to convince Europe that Russian oil cannot feed Russian military machinery with new sources of funding.
‘The country which is doing this is does not deserve to be in the circle of the civil countries.’
Kyiv’s president reminded the politicians and foreign dignitaries gathered of the toll taken by Russia’s invasion since February 24.
He said 927 schools have been damaged, 258 hospitals were wrecked and 78 ambulances shot at. At least 167 children have been killed since the outbreak of war, he added.
Putin has targeted Ukraine’s food supply, starving its people, he said.
Before Zelensky’s speech, Ukrainians in Dublin gathered outside the parliament building
Refugees Damir Zubchuk, five (left), and Artem Myroshnykov, six (right), arrived last month
‘For them, hunger is a weapon against us ordinary people as an instrument of domination’, Zelensky added, in comments which may have been intended to reference Ireland’s struggle with starvation in the 1840s.
‘They are blocking humanitarian access to the half-million people in Mariupol who can no longer melt snow for water’, he continued.
‘They are bombing 24/7. There is no single house left intact.’
In a speech after the president’s address, Irish premier Micheal Martin said he believes Ukraine will win its war against Russia.
The Fianna Fail leader said: ‘We are with Ukraine and I am certain that, in the end, Ukraine will prevail.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Leinster House to chant in favour of stronger sanctions
Damir and Artem were among the first Ukrainian refugees taken in by Ireland after war began
‘We are a militarily neutral country. However, we are not politically neutral in the face of war crimes. Quite the opposite.
‘Our position is informed by the principles that drive our foreign policy – support for international human rights, for humanitarian law and for a rules-based international order.
‘We are not neutral when Russia disregards all of these principles. We are with Ukraine.’
Zelensky’s speech was warmly received by People Before Profit’s four TDs Bríd Smith, Gino Kenny, Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy stood still during the ovations.
Murphy said later: ‘We don’t agree with President Zelensky’s calls for a NATO-imposed no fly zone, which would mean a hot conflict between NATO and Russia and contains the risk of nuclear war.
‘We also don’t agree with the extension of sanctions which are hurting ordinary Russian people and appear to be actually helping to bolster Putin’s support at home.’
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Irish parliament building before Zelensky’s speech, waving flags and chanting in support of tougher sanctions.