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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 14 Jun 2022

Vol. 286 No. 2

Address to Seanad Éireann by Members of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

I ask Members to show their appreciation for our colleagues from Ukraine.

Members rose and applauded.

On behalf of the Members of Seanad Éireann, the Senate of Ireland, it is an honour for us to have Ms Lesia Vasylenko, MP, Ms Alyona Shkrum, MP, Mr. Dmytro Natalukha, MP and Mr. Rostyslav Tistyk, MP, here today. When your President addressed the joint sitting of our Houses of Parliament a number of months ago, in my response to his passionate speech, I asked Deputies and Senators to join me in welcoming five-year-old Anastasia and her mother, Yana, whose husband, and Anastasia’s dad, like thousands of others, is in a defence unit in Ukraine, fighting to keep it free and independent for Anastasiia’s future. They have travelled 4,000 km from Kyiv to be in Dublin, having had to leave their home under Russian artillery fire. I ask Members to join me in welcoming five-year-old Anastasiia and Yana to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery.

Members rose and applauded.

We are honoured to have them here today. When the Ceann Comhairle and I were invited to Kyiv by the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, we met with President Zelenskyy, who signed a note for Anastasiia which said "Be strong, be brave". She has certainly been that. We cannot imagine what she and her fellow Ukrainian refugees have gone through, having to leave their country and seek asylum and safety in other European countries. We cannot imagine what it must feel like to have one's future become so uncertain so quickly. Anastasiia, Yana, the ambassador and our friends who have been recently externally displaced from Ukraine have joined us for the Ukrainian Members' address to our Parliament, the first address in person by Members of the Ukrainian Parliament to a chamber of another national parliament anywhere in the world since the war began. I thank them for this great honour. We welcome them as guests of our Parliament in the same way as thousands of Irish people have welcomed people from Ukraine to our country.

On the spring morning when the President addressed that historic sitting of the Dáil and Seanad, we were aware that, thousands of miles away, bombs and missiles were descending on his fellow countrymen, citizens, family, friends and neighbours, innocent Ukrainian men, women and children. War crimes have been committed by the Russian forces in Bucha and elsewhere and this has been shown to the world. We are facing a regime led by a war criminal and he must face justice like any other war criminal. Seanad Éireann recognised the invasion of Ukraine as an act of genocide. President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine have shown by their words and actions their bravery in the face of this Russian invasion.

Our Tánaiste, deputy Prime Minister, responded to the address by the Ukrainian President to our Parliament when he said: "In the long history of our own country we have never invaded another, but we know what it is like to have been invaded and to have the very existence of our national identity questioned." President John F. Kennedy spoke on the same theme when he addressed our Parliament over 50 years ago. He spoke of Ireland's condemnation of Russian aggression and oppression of its neighbours, saying: "For knowing the meaning of foreign domination, Ireland is the example and inspiration to [others] enduring endless years of oppression." President Zelenskyy in his historic address to that joint sitting of our Dáil and Seanad referred to Ireland's military neutrality: "Ireland is a neutral country but it has not remained neutral to the disasters and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine." In that previous address by President Kennedy to our Parliament, he acknowledged Irish neutrality but also acknowledged, like President Zelenskyy, that Ireland "is not neutral between liberty and tyranny and never will be." That is as true today as it was over half a century ago.

As an international community, we must never be neutral in the face of tyranny. We also work better when we work together. That is why Ireland has supported Ukraine's membership of the European Union. Our Prime Minister or Taoiseach spoke of Ireland's support for Ukraine and its membership of the EU. When President Zelenskyy addressed the Parliament, the Taoiseach said: "I welcome and support Ukraine's application for EU membership." I reiterate support for that application. It is the democratic right of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine to determine its political future.

We can and must do more. We in Ireland, Europe and the wider world must be relentless in our support for Ukraine, not just today and tomorrow but until the war is won.

Ms Lesia Vasylenko

Gabhaim míle buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. Ba mhaith linn ár mbuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí as ucht an méid atá déanta ag Éirinn ar son na hÚcráine.

It is an honour to be addressing Senators today and to have the platform of their honourable House to speak to the people of Ireland and the people of Ukraine in Ireland. I thank the Chair for this opportunity, which our delegation appreciates wholeheartedly as unique but also much needed in this difficult time for Ukraine.

This address would not have been possible without the dedication and work of two people in this room, Senators Ahearn and Ward. I thank them for having the courage to come to Ukraine a while back, witnessing with their own eyes what Russia has done to our country and the scars it has left on our people. I thank them for not being quiet on the topic of Ukraine ever since and for the support they have provided.

Today the cities they visited - Irpin, Brjanka, Bucha - are slowly healing. They are coming back to normal, with summer greenery masking the bombarded buildings and people slowly coming back. In Kyiv, life sometimes seems more than normal, until it is not and the air sirens remind you several times a night that you are still living the nightmare of all-out war, which started on that morning, 5 a.m. on 24 February this year, when Russia escalated its eight-year aggression against Ukraine to unprecedented levels, to an all-out war in the middle of Europe in the middle of the 21st Century.

Today, 20% of Ukraine is occupied. That is three times more than just under four months ago and equates to 125,000 sq. km. That is almost twice the size of Ireland. Those thousands of kilometres are not just empty fields and cliffs or whatever one might imagine as empty spaces. Rather, 125,000 sq. km. is 2,500 municipalities, including villages, towns and cities where millions of Ukrainians are forced to live under the Russian flag and thousands are forced to die for the Ukrainian flag and for the right to be Ukrainian.

Can you imagine going through the content of your phones, deleting pictures and messages that might signify you are Irish every time you want to visit a corner store in your own country? Ukrainians in occupied Kherson do that every time before leaving the house, lest Russian soldiers find anything incriminatingly Ukrainian during checks at checkpoints. Can you imagine queuing up for water rations in 30° heat and fainting or watching excavators clear up the rubble of what was your home, only to see limbs of those who were once your neighbours but are no more? Imagine not being able to bury your family or loved ones, or not even knowing where they are. This is what Ukrainians in occupied Mariupol live every day. Imagine being a mother saying goodbye to your baby who has not lived even five months. Imagine being a father having to live the rest of your life with the image of the body of your son, killed, but you survived and have to live the rest of your life. This is the reality of hundreds of Ukrainian parents from east to west.

That is a reality that I could not imagine so I chose the other difficult reality Ukrainian parents face. On 1 March I made the decision to send my children away. I am a mother of three. The youngest turned one on 1 June. Three months of her first year was spent without her mother. My other daughter is seven and got used to seeing me twice a month on weekends when I get the time to visit. Every time before I go back to Ukraine my son comes to me with the same question: why can he not go back with me? My answer is always the same: I gave you life to live.

A total of 288 Ukrainian children have been killed by Russian soldiers, while 527 lie wounded in hospitals, sometimes disabled for life. Today Putin is stealing the childhood of Ukrainian children. Russia is taking away their right to education. Instead of learning maths and science, our children are learning the difference between hiding places in case of an artillery attack or an air raid.

Instead of picking out prom dresses, partying because it is the last hours of school and celebrating graduation, our high-school children are taking photos on the ruins of their schools. As many as 184 schools have been razed to the ground by Russian forces and almost 2,000 school buildings have been damaged. Russia is stealing Ukraine's future and that is not a figure of speech. As many as 250,000 Ukrainian children have been forcefully removed from Ukraine, and from the care of their families from their homes and into Russia. That is 234,000 deported Ukrainian children to be converted into Russians. These are not just stories. All of this is evidence of an international crime - the crime of genocide - that Russia is committing right now in Ukraine against Ukrainians.

The Irish nation today is doing more than its fair share in the international efforts to prevent and stop the crime of crimes - the crime of genocide. The people of Ireland have opened their doors from the first days of war, the visas were cancelled as easy as that and people opened up their homes. To date, 35,000 Ukrainians, comprised mostly of women and children, have found refuge here in Ireland.

At the beginning of this month in this very room this House voted to recognise Russia's actions against Ukraine as genocide. We wholeheartedly thank you for this. Today, we humbly ask this House to go a step further and recognise another of Russia's acts against Ukraine as genocide. From 1932 to 1933, Russia created a man-made famine that led to the death of between 4 million and 7 million Ukrainians but Russia was not punished as it is not being punished now. As a result the Russians were inspired to do more evil. Ninety years on it is about time to restore the historic justice and send a message that the free world has no room for appeasing criminals and tyrants. The Holodomor must be called what it is - a genocide of the Ukrainian nation. Ireland can lead by example on this issue by passing, and recognising, the act and urging that other nations follow suit by recognising the Holodomor, which is the Ukrainian famine of 1932, as genocide.

We must all have no doubt that the only reason Russia is doing what it is doing now is just because it can. It is because Russia was allowed to do this. For centuries Russia has been allowed to get away with aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide but not once has Russia been punished or stopped. As a consequence of appeasement, Russia developed into the empire of evil that it is today thinking itself more sovereign than other nations, and thinking that it is okay to attack other countries and invade.

As an international community, we all have the responsibility, and moral duty, to firmly stop all of the crimes that Russia is committing. How do we do this? By securing a victory for Ukraine, which is a process that requires several steps. In the next few weeks, Ukraine's bid for candidate status in the EU will be considered. We are grateful for Ireland's unwavering support in this matter but we must ask for help to minimise any doubts in the EU member states that still have them. In the next few months we will also need victory on the battlefield. When I say we I do not mean just Ukraine. I mean all of us, Ireland, the EU and the global community. Protracted conflict leads only to more death and more wars. Russia is good at protracted conflicts. This is the game it played in 2014. Russia was allowed to get away with it and so it is trying this again in 2022. Russia's utmost aim is to decompose Ukraine and with that to decompose the very concept of sovereignty in the world. While strengthening Ukraine we ask also for efforts to be exerted and mobilised to weaken Russia.

We are grateful for the leadership that the Irish Government and both Houses have shown in pushing for sanctions against Russia, and are grateful for the non-lethal aid provided for the defence efforts in Ukraine. Like no one else, Ireland understands the need for Ukraine to be victorious and for this war to end as quickly as possible for the sake of freedom, and democracy. In the years to come Ukraine will need more help to restore and rebuild.

Ireland is leading discussions on this front too. It should not be Ireland, the EU or any other country paying because it was not Ireland, the EU or any other country in the world that has caused damage and losses in the Ukraine. It is Russia, and Russia must pay. Every euro invested in the rebuilding of Ukraine must be returned by Russia. For that to happen, Putin and his war criminals must be brought to justice.


Hear, hear.

Ms Lesia Vasylenko

In addition, a system of reparation must be put in place. Aggression stops not with the withdrawal of forces but with guarantees of non-repetition, apologies and reparations by the party that did wrong, which in this case is Russia. That is the formula for victory, and the help we need from Ireland is what we and the world need to make it happen. To celebrate the victory, we hope to welcome all of the Members of this House, accompanied by the Cathaoirleach of course, to Ukraine in a very near time.

Ms Alyona Shkrum

Gabhaim mo mhíle buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. Is mór an onóir dúinn a bheith anseo inniu. Now the hard part of my speech is truly over. It is an honour for us to be here today, and we recognise that this is an honour that is rarely given to a visitor or foreigner. Please believe me when I say that we greatly appreciate this honour. Our visit is yet another reaffirmation of the support that we have received from Irish people, Senators and everybody whom we have met in Ireland during the last horrible 111 days of war. Today, it is the 111th day, but believe me when I say that for Ukrainians all over the world, the war has felt like one horrible never-ending nightmarish day. Each morning when we read the news, no matter where we are, we feel like that nightmare continues. Last night, three more civilians were killed by Russian forces. One of the fatalities was a boy aged six who was killed while he slept in his bed by a Russian missile that hit Donbas. Last night, while I was in Dublin, the region of Dnipro, which in the eastern part of my country, was shelled by Russians using an artillery system called Hurricane. This is the region where my grandmother lives. She refused to evacuate and, fortunately, she is well and her house is okay. This is a horrible reality that I could never imagine would ever exist.

At 4 a.m. on 21 February, or 111 days ago, the war and Russian aggression started. I was in my apartment in the centre of Kyiv. What gave me the most fear was not that there were explosions going off over my head. This feeling was horribly familiar with what I heard my grandmother say when she talked to me when I was child about the beginning of the Second World War. My grandmother was five years old when the Second World War broke out. I can honestly say that I never really listened to her stories back then because I thought her stories about the atrocities that were committed during the Second World War had no place in my world, in my future or in a modern sanctuary in the middle of Europe. I did not really listen. I could not imagine that in our modern age of Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law, the Budapest Memorandum, drones, cyberwarfare and satellites that we would actually have a dictator giving orders to kill and specifically target civilians in Europe, target children and bomb hospitals, kindergartens and normal residential areas. Psychologically, I was not ready for this.

Even though we knew that a war could happen, we were not ready to see that. I am still not psychologically ready to understand that 30 km from my apartment in which I live in the centre of Kyiv, in Bucha and Borodyanka - because it is only 30 minutes' drive away - we have found mass graves containing children and women who were raped and tortured by Russian soldiers, then burned and finally buried. This is a reality I still have trouble understanding in our modern world. I think that the politics of appeasement failed when the first missile hit the wing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol. We cannot understand that happening.

Now Putin is going even further because he is planning to starve to death people on a number of continents in the world in order to re-establish his so-called Russian empire. We are not going to allow that to happen. This is something that takes the politics of imperialism and colonialism to a whole new level that we have never seen before because Putin and his soldiers are right now mining the Black Sea and blocking Ukraine's ability to take our exports of grain and food to countries all over the world, including countries in Africa, the Middle East and the EU. The UN has told us the politics of starvation and the possible food crisis and famine could affect more than 1 billion people in the world. When food is used as a weapon, I have almost no words to describe it. Unfortunately, Irish people know very well food can be used as a weapon. Unfortunately, Ukrainian people know too well food can be used as a weapon because this autumn we will commemorate 90 years since the man-made hunger that killed almost 1 million Ukrainians back in the 1930s. We should ensure together that this is absolutely the last time any dictator in the world and any country in the world uses food as a weapon. We cannot allow that to happen.

Putin made a mistake. He completely misjudged Ukrainians because while you can take a lot from us, you cannot take from us the right to govern ourselves. We are a stubborn nation, just as much as the Irish nation is.

The Cathaoirleach quoted the famous speech President Kennedy made in Ireland a long time ago. I will quote the poet he quoted, John Boyle O'Reilly, who said: "The world is large ... But the world is small when your enemy is loose on the other side". The Ukrainian world had become very small over the last 111 days. The world has shrunk for every mother who had to spend a night in a basement with her child when there were bombings in Bucha, Borodianka and Mariupol. The world appears to have shrunk for every woman who kissed goodbye to a soldier going to war at every railway station in Ukraine. It appears the world has shrunk for every family who fled Ukraine with just one bag of clothes to go abroad, perhaps to Ireland, not knowing when they will be able to come back.

It feels like the world has become very small to Ukraine but it also feels like the world has opened up a little bit. It has opened up, together with Ireland's help, with love, kindness, and solidarity which, honestly, we have never seen during the history of Ukraine. It is incredibly inspirational to see that. We are inspired by the way people in Ireland opened up their hearts and their doors to every refugee, to everybody who needed help. Ireland abolished visas for Ukrainians in the first week of the war and, believe us, Ukrainians know that.

We are very much inspired by Ireland's history, its strength and how it remained so humane during all those dark times because this is difficult for us to do at times. We are very inspired by this ability and the combination in the Irish character of hope, bravery and optimism. It gives us a lot of strength. Ireland's friendship and generosity will never be forgotten in Ukraine, believe us.

Ireland has literally set an example of a very high standard of moral leadership for every other country in the world, in particular for every other country in Europe, to follow. We ask Ireland to push even further. We hope Europe and the EU follows Ireland's high standard of moral leadership and example and we hope the EU gives us candidate status in the next number of days because it is our opinion that the future of a strong EU really depends on this vital decision. Ukraine will win this war.

Together with you I am sure we will win this fight for freedom against slavery, light against darkness and for our common democratic future. In Ukraine we say Slava Ukraini but today I really want to say Éire abú.

I thank Ms Shkrum. Anois, Mr. Tistyk.

Mr. Rostyslav Tistyk

Dia duit, a Chathaoirligh. Dia daoibh, a Sheanadóirí agus a chairde Gael.

It has been 111 days since the war for the independence of Ukraine started. For seven centuries the war against Russian imperialism and Ukraine's European choice has raged. Ukrainians created their state, Rus, far back in the ninth century. The powerful Christian state impressed everyone with its rich culture and strength. The majestic St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, built by Yaroslav the Wise in 1011-1018, has been the symbol of the Orthodox Church for centuries. Far back in the 15th century, Yurii Kotermak, who was born in Drohobych in western Ukraine and was a professor and later the rector of the oldest university in Europe at Bologna, used to teach astronomy to Nikolai Kopernik, who was a prominent astronomer. The military might of Cossacks was well-known across Europe. It was they who protected Europe from the horde and Muscovian troops for centuries. The first European constitution was created by Pylyp Orlyk, the Ukrainian hetman, in 1710. There is so much to be proud of. We have contributed so much to the free world and the future of Europe.

For nine centuries the love of freedom, laboriousness and wisdom of the Ukrainian people have disturbed the Muscovian horde. They are incapable of creating their own free future; they are only capable of oppressing others and ruining everything that is connected with Ukraine. Today, Putin compares himself with Peter the First, the Russian tsar who issued the Valuev Circular, which was the order that forbade the Ukrainian language, as it is the language which secures for us Ukrainians our national identity.

At the beginning of the 20th century Bolsheviks destroyed the young Ukrainian state that emerged from the ruins of the Russian empire. In January 1918, 300 Ukrainian students stood against the Bolshevik army of 4,000 soldiers. All were killed, with 27 kept in captivity and shot shortly after. In March 1919 the Ukrainian Socialist Republic was imposed by the Bolsheviks. Is that what Putin wants to repeat in 2022? Bolsheviks occupied our country in 1919 but failed to break the resistance and faith of the Ukrainian people. That is exactly why the horrible Holodomor - the genocide of the Ukrainian nation – was criminally organised. Millions of Ukrainians died of artificially created hunger. It is a terrible page in the history of Ukraine. This is exactly the experience that the successors of those Bolsheviks is attempting to use again today. They are ready to take away every grain from the Ukrainians and are threatening to doom the whole world to hunger.

Since day one of the invasion, 24 February, Ireland has been on our side, which is the side of freedom and justice. Ireland never hesitated about whether to support us. As a representative of Ukraine and the Parliament of Ukraine, I am sure every Ukrainian hugely appreciates Ireland's aid, its support and its standing with Ukraine in the times of grief and suffering when the Russian murderers came to our homes. We are grateful for the support that people in Ireland provided to those Ukrainians who were looking for shelter and found safety in this country.

However, the war is still raging. For 111 days Russia has been attacking our land. The Russists have not given up on their invasion plans and they are still terrorising our cities with their missiles and the whole world with the food crisis by blocking the sea ports in order to cause hunger, just as they did in the previous century. Hundreds of Ukrainian heroes are dying daily protecting their native country and dozens of civilians are killed daily by the Russian artillery. Thousands of Ukrainian families are destroyed and children are deprived of their parents.

Today, the whole world saw the picture of a toddler, a little Ukrainian girl on her first birthday, at the grave of her heroic father who fell protecting Ukraine. This is what grief looks like. This is the pain of the whole Ukrainian people today, which is the wound that will never heal.

Still, we stand for the future, our future and the future that will inevitably come in Ukraine. We all have to do the utmost for the sake of it, demonstrate more leadership in the coming anti-war coalition and show the whole world that Ireland and Ukraine are capable of creating much more than the biggest state on the globe intends to ruin. Ní neart go cur le chéile. Glory to Ireland and glory to Ukraine.

Mr. Dmytro Natalukha

Dear ladies and gentlemen, esteemed Cathaoirleach, esteemed Seanad and distinguished Members, it is a pleasure and a true privilege to address you in this legendary House in your wonderful country. In fact, this is my second time in Ireland. Your outstanding hospitality makes me feel more and more the time wasted that is not spent in Ireland, as Lady Gregory said. To waste time is the last thing I would like us to do, when we talk about the war Russia is waging today against the civilised world, against rules-based societies, against democracies, against freedom, against diversity and everything else that is so dear to us, to the people of Ireland and to the people of Ukraine.

We have even more things in common. We are a very proud nation, just like Ireland, and a rather stubborn one. Members might have noticed this in the past couple of months of war between a country of 140 million against a country of 40 million. In fact, a friend of mine who died defending Mariupol was ready to eat dog food and drink dirty water from puddles for months but was not ready to give up his freedom even for a second. He never did. He never betrayed the aspiration of true freedom, which is a shared European value. However, if Ukrainians are good enough to die as Europeans, we would like to live as Europeans as well. For this very reason, we would like to take this stubbornness of ours from the battlefields into economics. We intend to be as stubborn as possible in rebuilding our country in such a manner that the wildest dreams and aspirations of those who have sacrificed their lives will be realised.

What the deceased want is not revenge - our revenge will be the laughter of our children, as Bobby Sands put it - but a country of happy people living with dignity among equals, a country that is a true member of the European family, a country that is an embodiment of the triumph of western values and principles, and a demonstration that Euro-Atlantic unity and solidarity is as strong as ever. For this reason, we do not consider talks about reconstruction of Ukraine before the war ends a waste of time. We need to start immediately.

It is a separate pleasure to say this in Ireland, a country whose company Kingspan, from County Cavan, will probably be the first western enterprise to invest €200 million in Ukraine even before the war is over. It will invest and not donate. This is critical as we do not want to be a nation of beggars. We want to be a nation of partners. For this very reason, I am here to tell Members that we see the reconstruction of Ukraine as a joint venture and not as a charity project. We want to be fair and kind to everyone who has been fair and kind to us.

I will finish by re-phrasing Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, an outstanding Irish woman and true patriot of her country, with the following:

I recognise no [concessions]. I recognise it as no crime to be in my own country. I would be ashamed of my own name and my murdered [friends'] name[s] if I did.

Long live Ukraine and long live Ireland.

Go raibh míle maith agat. Senators Ahearn and Ward will lead the responses. I commend the Senators on their initiative in going to Ukraine and on their leadership in making sure this historic event happened, where Members of the Ukrainian Parliament have been the first to address a national parliament since the war began.

Ar dtús báire, cuirim fáilte roimh ár gcairde uasail ón Úcráin. I extend a very warm welcome to our friends from Ukraine. I congratulate them on making the journey because what we have learned from them over the past few days has been so important. As the Cathaoirleach knows, Senator Ahearn and I left Ireland to visit Ukraine on 4 May. It is a process getting to Ukraine at present. I learned a great deal on that trip. It was not my first time to visit Ukraine but I discovered a very much changed country, a much quieter country, and a much less vivacious country than the one I visited on a number of occasions.

As a small country, in the same way Ukraine is a small country relative to Russia, we have an emotional response to what we see happening in Ukraine and an emotional response when we see a larger country picking on a smaller one. That is natural. It was not until I got to Ukraine, however, that I saw the strength, depth, preparedness and determination of the Ukrainian people. It was not until I got there that I was convinced they can win this war. I believe the Ukrainian Members when they say this. I believe it will come to pass that Russia will be defeated in its campaign in Ukraine and will be repelled. I praise the generosity, bravery and steadfastness of the Ukrainian people in that regard.

Although most of us have that emotional reaction and most of us see what is happening for what it is, the terrible thing is there are still politicians who insist on peddling Kremlin propaganda, including Irish politicians, who just last week described the first 100 days of the war as 100 days of hysteria. They bring nothing but shame upon the polity of Ireland and we reject them. It does not require a great deal of insight to spot the aggressor and the aggressed. It is never Ukraine's fault that it has been invaded by a larger and more aggressive power. It is never Ukraine's fault that it is the victim in this war. It is not Ukraine's fault that its ports in the Black Sea have been blockaded and the food that sits in ships in ports such as Odessa is being taken away from communities in Africa and throughout the world, creating hunger and future famines by using food, as was said, as a weapon of war. That is not Ukraine's fault.

Let there be no mistake about whose fault it is. It is Russia's fault. It is Russia's manipulation and abuse of its power to use food as a war tool against countries that have nothing to do with the war. These are countries in Africa that have no ability to respond and where citizens will go hungry and die from famine as a result of this. That is no one's fault but Russia's. It is very important to state this is victim blaming in a way we would reject anywhere in Ireland. It is victim blaming in respect of Ukraine as well. The Ukrainians are the victims. They are the aggressed and not the people who need to account for it. I support Ukrainians and Ireland supports them. They have our full support in every respect we can give it.

There is a phrase used quite often in Ukrainian politics that states this is not how they normally do things. This is not how we normally do things and this is not how this normally comes about. I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing it to happen. I thank Ms Bridget Doody, the Seanad team and Ms Sheila Ryan in protocol. How this came about was unusual and I acknowledge on the record what they have done to make it happen.

Ms Vasylenko spoke about genocide in her contribution.

The definition of genocide is displacing of families. This is how we see it given what we have heard from eastern Ukraine about parents being murdered, children being taken away and brought to Russia, and their identity taken away.

Ms Lesia Vasylenko has touched on her own situation where on 1 March she had to make a decision to send her own three children to the UK, who are now being cared for by a UK MP. Lesia's youngest girl was nine months old and celebrated her first birthday on 1 June. That is a good story and a happy story because they are alive, they are being looked after and Lesia knows that they are well. No nine-month-old child should be displaced from his or her mother. That is the reality of the world they are living in. I look around this Chamber and I see our new friends who are living in Ireland. They are so welcome to our country, but we can see pain on their faces and we see the struggles they have gone through to get here. Lesia has her own story. Ms Alyona Shkrum has a story. Mr. Rostyslav Tistyk has a story. Mr. Dmytro Natalukha has a story. Every Ukrainian citizen who has come into this country has his or her own unique story, just like Lesia. We make decisions as a Parliament and it is amazing that this is the first time Ukrainian MPs have spoken to a parliament, anywhere in the world, in person. It is incredible that they are doing so in a Parliament where we as parliamentarians called out what Russia did as genocide. I acknowledge the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government in general for doing that.

The message here, and certainly the message that our friends from Ukraine want to get across, is an acknowledgement of what we have done and the recognition that it needs to continue. As parliamentarians, we need to reinforce why we are doing this. The messages of people's personal lives and what they are going through is nothing in comparison to the challenges we have, and we do have challenges.

With regard to Ireland's future and how we are viewed around the world - we are very lucky in how we are viewed around the world; people love us - the decisions we make today will reflect on the future of our children. We need to continue supporting Ukraine until this war is won. I ask that as parliamentarians we would continue to support Ukraine and continue to emphasise why it is we are supporting them and why it is we are putting money into it, while acknowledging all of the time the sacrifices people are making to make sure freedom comes to Ukraine. We should do that until the very end. Slava Ukraini.

I join with colleagues in welcoming our parliamentary colleagues and friends from Ukraine. I also welcome all of our distinguished visitors and friends. I acknowledge in particular that we have with us here today the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Larysa Gerasko, who has been a wonderful friend to those of us in the Seanad. The ambassador has done enormously positive work in Ireland and she has been an extraordinary ambassador for her country. We are very appreciative of her work and that of her team. I have visited Kyiv. Ukraine is a beautiful country and I can be quite certain that we will take up the invitation to return to Ukraine and to help in the rebuilding of that beautiful country.

"Solidarity" is a word that carries enormous importance. When we consider European history, "solidarity" is a word that really speaks to our European values. Our history teaches us that we need to look out for each other and that we need to stand up when our brothers and sisters across Europe are being oppressed. We must stand up for those values that we share and regard as important, such values as democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law. I assure our guests, that among all the parties here they have our full support, our full solidarity and our full friendship at this time. I thank our guests for sharing their personal stories with us. Yes they are politicians, but they are also parents, sons, daughters and friends.

That personal struggle does impact on their work. We are very grateful to them for sharing that. We can only imagine the kind of suffering they have experienced, including the story that Senator Ahearn has shared, and the difficulties that many families continue to experience in Ukraine. We are really appreciative that our guests have shared those stories with us.

I would hope that on their visit to Ireland, and all of those who are now living in Ireland, Ukrainians have found a very warm welcome. Across Europe we have realised the importance of extending that welcome and the importance of brotherhood and sisterhood being shared with our European neighbours. I reiterate the points made by Senator Ward about that small fringe minority that continues to echo Putin's speaking points at a European level. They do not speak for the politicians of Ireland and they do not speak for the people of Ireland.

We are very proud to have welcomed so many people from Ukraine. There were many people from Ukraine living here prior to now and contributing in an enormous way to society, but that number has obviously increased significantly. We are very proud to have welcomed all of those people. We know that many will want to return as soon as possible but we hope they will find as happy a time as possible here in Ireland, given the difficult circumstances. We are really appreciative of the contribution made to our country, to our communities and to our economy by those who have come here from Ukraine. Into the future, when Putin is beaten, we want to continue to ensure that this friendship will continue. We urge Ukrainians here to get involved with Irish community groups and organisations during their time here. We want to build up that friendship in the long term.

Half a century ago Ireland joined what was then the European Economic Community, which then became the European Union. We are celebrating 50 years of membership. Ireland was a very different country 50 years ago. In many ways EU membership allowed us to step out of the shadow of our nearest big neighbour. EU membership allowed us to grow in many ways, particularly economically but also socially. It allowed us to take our place among the nations of the world. It allowed us to punch above our weight since that time 50 years ago.

I remember as a teenager and as a student seeing some of the big changes in Europe: we saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, we saw the Berlin Wall coming down, and we saw a victory for people and the rise of democracies across central and eastern Europe. This is something that Ireland has always been very proud of recognising. When Ireland held the EU presidency in 1990 we strongly supported German reunification. We realised the importance of this for the German people and that they wanted freedom and democracy in a new Germany. We supported this in 1990.

When Ireland held the EU presidency in 2004, we welcomed ten new countries into the European Union, eight of which were countries from central and eastern Europe that were formerly under communist domination. Those are proud elements of our history as members of the European Union. I assure our visitors today that Ireland will continue to do whatever it can to support Ukraine's candidate status and Ukraine becoming a full member of the European Union. Specific to Ukraine's request, it is incumbent on all of us here within our own European political families and also at diplomatic level, to do everything we can to persuade the other member states of Europe to welcome our brothers and sisters from the Ukraine into full EU membership status.

Our friends are welcome. The ambassador is welcome. The Hague Convention defines neutrality. I trust that the Cathaoirleach will forgive me for challenging neutrality at this point in time. Ireland only ever once defined neutrality, which was in Ireland's White Paper on foreign policy in 1995, Challenges and Opportunities Abroad, in chapter 4 on international security.

Paragraph 4.5 states:

In the strict sense of international law and practice, neutrality and its attendant rights and duties do not exist in peacetime; they arise only during a state of war. Neutrality represents an attitude of impartiality adopted by a state towards the participants in a conflict and recognised as such by the belligerents. Such an attitude creates certain rights and duties between the neutral state and the belligerents, which commence at the outbreak of war and end with its cessation.

Why did I read that into the record? Ireland has never been a neutral state. The only time we have been tested before now was between 1939 and 1945, during the Second World War, when we openly repatriated members of the Allied forces who landed on our island - in our Republic - across the Border so that they could get back into the war. We are being tested now. We are facing autocracy versus democracy in Ukraine. The question is: where do we stand? We have provided medical aid, financial support, helmets and flak jackets. Sitting in a building not so far away from us right now are a substantial number of Javelin rockets that can be used to take out tanks, a substantial number of Gustaf 84 mm anti-tank weapons that can be used to take out tanks, a substantial number of AT4 anti-tank missiles that can be used to be take out tanks and other weapons. We also have a substantial number of artillery weapons that we could supply.

Failing to give the weapons to the Ukrainians to defend themselves is akin to me offering to hold someone's jacket while they fight someone else with a gun. I know that many people in Ireland feel we should not provide weapons. However, asking Ukrainians to defend themselves against a vicious and unwarranted attack and offering them nothing but money and stating that our hands tied with respect to weapons is not good enough. I am a military man. Those of us in this House and the Lower House who come from a military background believe that the only way to support a military force is by providing weapons that can be used to fight off the enemy. I make a plea here and now among my colleagues. Real support comes through providing Ukrainians with the tools to save their lives, to save the lives of their children, to maintain their cities and to stop the Russians in their tracks.

Let me turn to the issue of food. We spoke this morning about the grain and the grain stores. I believe Mr. Natalukha told me this morning it is 700 million tonnes. Is that it?

It is 25 million tonnes.

There is a substantial amount of grain in storage which cannot be brought out of Ukraine to the rest of the world. As has been rightly pointed, famine is another tool being used by one of the belligerents in this war, namely, Russia. Introducing famine into places like north Africa destabilises the entire geopolitical system.

Ireland is a member of the United Nations Security Council. I am on record as having no faith in the United Nations Security Council and very little faith in the United Nations. However, if we are truly there to protect the individuals of this world and ensure that men, women and children have access to food, then we must put in place a peace-enforcement unit in the Black Sea to open the port of Odesa and allow food to be transferred out of Ukraine to the rest of the world. We cannot sit on our hands and say we will give the Ukrainians everything they need to fight but not provide them with access to the world market and allow them to transfer food to those who need it around the world. Grain sitting in silos in Ukraine today will rot if it is not brought out. Worse still, there will be nowhere to put this year's harvest if we do not empty those silos. The United Nations must prove itself to be an organisation that represents the downtrodden and those who would be oppressed by tyrants. It must provide the necessary tools and equipment to open the ports in Ukraine and allow the food and grain sitting there to be transferred.

Across Europe we have not closed the gas and oil pipelines. We have threatened to do it and we will do it in time. We must open the ports in Ukraine. We must allow the Ukrainian people to transfer what they have which is needed by the rest of the world. When members of the delegation speak to our Ministers and when their ministers speak to our Government and other European governments, two things are needed. We need Ukrainians to be armed in order that they can defend themselves. We need Ukrainian ports open and if that takes a massive naval flotilla to go and open the port in Odesa, that is what we must do. Talk is cheap; let us see action from the United Nations and let us see it now.

I welcome our guests. It is very important that they are here to provide the testimony of their own people on the floor of the Seanad. What better way to show that we are all in this together than to watch parliamentarians from our two nations here on the floor of the Seanad. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all four members of the delegation for putting on the record of this House their testimony regarding the atrocities against their people. We have heard first-hand testimony of what is happening to their friends and families as a result of this illegal invasion. Let us not minimise that, because it is really important. It is not something that any of us could do because it is not our families. However, we are deeply impacted by that as are all Irish people. It is really uncomfortable for us to hear stories of rape, murder and illegal extraction of children, but it is the only way to get to the bottom of it and to ensure we take the steps necessary.

I had the honour of speaking to the four members of the delegation earlier. I thank Senators Ward and Ahearn for facilitating this trip for them. I also thank the Senators for travelling to Ukraine. Having spoken to both groups, I have no doubt about the importance of the Senators going to Ukraine and of our guests coming here. This is a really important thing to do because let us not forget that they will go to the UK tomorrow. They will spread the word of what is happening in Ireland and what Ireland is doing right, and then bring that to other nations in order that they can be shamed and that we can also hear stories of what others are doing and step up to the mark. We should not underestimate the importance of diplomacy. There may be a complete failure of diplomacy when it comes to Russia but let us make sure that diplomacy works when it comes to Europe so that we can really tackle this.

Sanctions have been imposed repeatedly by the European Union. We need to see action in respect of all those sanctions at this stage. Words are not good enough. Let us make no mistake about it, those sanctions are incredibly painful for the people of Ireland and throughout the world. However, they are the only way to stop what is going on. As many of the delegation have said, the protracted aggression against Ukraine is much more painful. It means that death will continue and it means low-level pain for us as well.

We tend to talk about the difficulties and atrocities as we should. However, it is also important to speak about what Ukrainian people have given to us in Ireland and the benefits that the 35,000 people who have come to our country have provided for us in terms of a feeling of solidarity and the joy that I know my children have when they meet Ukrainians in their schools. There is a shared sense of humanity and what it really means to care for other people who are not part of our families and who, perhaps, were not part of our communities a month ago but who now are.

I have seen some of the photographs the Ukrainian Members of Parliament have shown me of artwork done by Irish children and I have artwork done by my own children. That love and connection among children is what it is all about. That is why I am so deeply impacted by the stories they have to share about the impact of the conflict on children still living in Ukraine and those who are being moved to Russia. Let us not forget there is a deep long-lasting impact on Ukrainian children who come to Ireland. We have done a good job but there is a lot more work to do. That work must extend beyond the Department of the Minister, Deputy O’Gorman, which is where much of the work had been done up to now. It must move across all the Departments in terms of housing and education because some Ukrainian people will stay here and we are more than happy for them to stay here if that is what they want to do. We must also ensure we have long-term supports in place.

Regarding the requests of the Ukrainian Members of Parliament, in particular Ukraine's application for membership of the European Union, we stand with them on that, of that there is no doubt. With regard to their request for recognition of genocide, as they have already seen, we stand with them on that. With regard to their request for Russia to pay, we absolutely stand with them on that and I believe I speak for people across the country when I say that. I thank them again from the bottom of my heart for coming here and sharing with us and for leaving their families to do that. I thank the Senators for facilitating that.

At dtús, ba maith liom fearadh na fáilte a chur roimh ár gcuairteoirí inniu. Táim iontach sásta agus bródúil go bhfuil seal agam ár ndlúthpháirtíocht agus tacaíocht a léiriú dóibh agus do mhuintir na hÚcráine.

I welcome our Ukrainian visitors to the Seanad and thank them, in particular, for all their respectful and impressive use of our own language. Senator Clifford-Lee and I said we suspected the hand of Senator Ward in that regard but we certainly thank them for acknowledging and using their cúpla focal.

I know our visitors are here on a very short mission but I would like them to take a message home to their beleaguered people fighting the cruel aggression of the Russian Government led by Vladimir Putin. That message is a very simple one; it is a message of thanks to the Ukrainian people for their bravery, their heroic resistance and determination to oppose Russian tyranny. The people of Ireland cannot thank the people of Ukraine enough for that stance. They are in the front line of defending the democratic rights of small nations to have their nation and its national boundaries accepted and recognised, and are doing so against a much more powerful nation next to them. The Ukrainian people are teaching the Russian imperialists a lesson, which the British, the Americans and other imperialist powers around the world have been taught by those who occupied them in their time. In Ireland, we are still dealing with the consequences of British interference in Irish affairs, as I speak, but that, colleagues, is a story for another day.

Today in the Seanad, it is a day for the Ukrainian people to feel our thanks to, and solidarity with, them. Their stance, which has cost them dearly in terms of loss of life and the destruction of many of their cities, is not only protecting the Ukrainian people it is protecting the people of Ireland and the rest of Europe. Their struggle is a democratic one and it is one that the people of Ireland support and identify with. It has been Ireland’s and Sinn Féin’s privilege to support the people of Ukraine since the Russian invasion. The people of Ireland have shown to thousands of Ukrainians, who are making their home here, a céad míle fáilte. In that regard, Ireland should act. We should reopen our embassy in Kyiv not just in terms of practical work and assistance but as an important symbol of our solidarity to the Ukrainian people and Ireland’s commitment to democracy, peace building and justice. May I say, if O’Brien’s Irish pub in Kyiv can reopen, then so too should our embassy.

We give full support to Ukraine's application for membership of the EU and look forward soon, we hope, to greeting them as fully fledged members of the European family. We continue to support sanctions against Russia. We also support the International Criminal Court, ICC, investigation into human rights abuses during the invasion and the war. It is my understanding there are currently 16,000 cases in front of the ICC relating to crimes carried out in Ukraine. I know from speaking to my colleague, Deputy John Brady, earlier that our Ukrainian colleagues made a number of asks of Ireland in terms of those investigations. They would like more women investigators and specialist psychologists to be involved. Before coming to the Seanad Chamber this afternoon, we heard from representatives of the UN Women's Peace & Humanitarian Fund regarding their response to the war in Ukraine and the key role women play not only in defence of their nation but, crucially, in peace building, conflict resolution and in the aftermath of conflict. It is vital and crucial we support those efforts as we go forward.

Guilty parties must be brought to justice for crimes against humanity and violation of people’s human rights. Ireland and the EU must continue to do what they can to support the resistance of the Ukrainian people at home and abroad. This means increasing support to Romania and Moldova. The invasion by Russia has also raised issues of concern around energy and food sources and that has been referenced heavily by colleagues today. We have seen the impact of Russia’s monopoly on energy sources such as gas and oil and how millions of people throughout Africa are facing food shortages brought about as a result of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports. Russia has weaponised hunger. The war and the abuse of energy sources and food by the Russian Government is a stark reminder that the world needs to develop alternative energy and food sources capable of dealing with the crisis caused by climate change, Covid and conflict but the immediate crisis is the war of occupation in Ukraine.

I hope the Ukrainian Members of Parliament return home from Ireland in the full knowledge they have our full support and thanks. We share with them the deep desire that the war ends soon and that Russia withdraws all its forces from all of Ukraine, which will allow the people to rebuild their country and, in the fullness of time, establish peaceful, respectful relations with Russia. The heroic resistance of Ukrainian people has not only inspired the people of Ireland but the people of Europe and the rest of the world.

I am particularly keen to hear colleagues' views on how Ireland can use our position on the UN Security Council, and I am not as cynical as Senator Craughwell in that regard, and from our own lessons in Ireland of peace-building and conflict resolution to support humanitarian and justice efforts in Ukraine.

I thank our Ukrainian colleagues again for being here and outlining their case so eloquently, so well and so forcefully on behalf of the Ukrainian people. I welcome and thank all our visitors in the Gallery and the Ukrainian ambassador who is here with us today. I wish them all the very best, every success, good wish and good fortune but, above all else, I wish for peace, justice, for stability for their country and for their people. Go n-eirí go geal libh. Slava Ukraini.

I welcome our friends and colleagues from Ukraine, the Ukrainian ambassador and the people in the Gallery who are watching these proceedings. I am pleased and honoured to welcome them to the Seanad on behalf of the Labour Party. I pay tribute to the bravery of all of our Ukrainian colleagues and the Ukrainian people and their dedication to a free, fair and independent democracy.

In recent weeks I have had occasion to reread a book I read in 2018 by Philippe Sands, an international scholar of human rights law. His grandfather, Leon, came from the city of Lviv. He wrote a book about two people who were the founders and key architects of human rights law, both crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. Raphael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht both came from that great city and lectured at the University of Kyiv. As our Ukrainian colleagues sit here and call for Russian troops to be recognised in an international court for their crimes against humanity and the use of items such as food as a weapon of war against the Ukrainian people, it is ironic for them to know that those two men who came from that Ukrainian city they come from were the architects post the Second World War of those international crimes against humanity.

With every day that goes by and every moment the abhorrent Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the people of Ukraine suffer immense brutality, unlike anything most people in the world will ever know. There can be no doubt the acts of Putin and Russian forces are to destroy Ukraine, its history, lands, people and proud culture. The UN has reported that about 10,000 civilians have been killed to date at only 111 days into a war.

That is a conservative estimate of what is happening on the lands of Ukraine. It is clear that no matter how many buildings are broken down and bombed, the spirit of the Ukrainian people is not dampened and will not be broken. The international community has offered strong solidarity to Ukraine but the current measures are not sufficient and need to go further. We in Ireland and in the broader international community must do more, particularly when it comes to food security and holding people to account for using food and rape as weapons of war, as they are doing in Ukraine. We must do all we can to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

We continue to call on the Government and the European Union to strengthen sanctions against Russia, including, from Ireland, the expulsion of the Russian ambassador, strong support for the accession of the Ukraine to the EU and the enactment of Deputy Howlin's Magnitsky Bill, which will target Russian oligarchs and their ill-gotten gains.

Nearly 5 million Ukrainian refugees have spread throughout Europe from home. Across Ireland, we have welcomed Ukrainian refugees into towns, villages and cities. While I am sure many hope they will have the opportunity to safely return, as Philippe Sands's grandfather understands, often that does not happen in the case of refugees and they have to build their lives elsewhere. We need to make sure Ukrainians who have come here have safety and security in creating a home, whether temporary or permanent, in the coming years. We must put in place supports, educational, medical, residential and otherwise, so that Ireland is a safe, stable home for all refugees, including those from Ukraine. It has been 111 days since the brutal, illegal invasion of Ukraine began. That is 111 days of war crimes against humanity, unbelievable suffering and equally unbelievable strength demonstrated by the Ukrainian Members and their people. We stand with the people of Ukraine and will stand with them into the future to rebuild Ukraine as a free, independent and democratic nation.

I warmly welcome the Members of the Ukrainian Parliament and thank them for taking the time to address and listen to us and, most important, for putting the work of sovereignty into practice and demonstrating Ukraine as a sovereign state through its Parliament and parliamentarians and the continuation of Ukrainian Members' work representing the people of Ukraine in Kyiv and here. The proof of sovereignty is when the representatives of the state speak as they have and are strong in their voice, as they have been today.

It is right and proper that a few months ago this House passed a motion that unequivocally expressed our solidarity with Ukraine and condemned the Russian invasion as a breach of international law and the UN Charter. It was an imperialist act which breached the UN Charter, particularly the right to self-determination of nations. That charter is a fundamental document that came not out of wishful thinking but out of a moment of full understanding of the horrors of war following Second World War, much as the European Union structures came into place at that time. It has as its first line the commitment to do all we can to protect future generations from the scourge of war. Fundamental for Ireland and the reason Ireland has a strong voice and can achieve things that other countries might not be able to is that Ireland is a voice on international law and the principles thereof. That was put in place because of knowledge of what war can do in its worst face. Ireland being a neutral nation is not an apathetic thing. It is an active role Ireland has had as a champion of international law which engages on issues of principle and pushes, as I have experienced as somebody who engages internationally as a parliamentarian.

In prior years, some aspects of the Russian Government have worked to undermine international multilateral spaces, international negotiations and those common languages. There are those in Russia who would be comfortable with us moving back to a world of big powers and might. That is why we must use every instrument of international diplomacy and of our multilateral structures, including the United Nations. It is not just about the Security Council, where we are hitting blocks; the UN General Assembly and the European Union are all parts. We need to use every diplomatic and international legal tool we have, including the International Criminal Court, and diplomatic measures such as sanctions, which are an effective hard diplomacy tool that could and should be used with more strength. This is somewhere Ireland can push and contribute.

I note two of the Ukrainian Members present are members of economic and finance committees and will be aware of the importance thereof. Our finance committee in Ireland is looking at section 110 companies and at the financial structures in Ireland and many countries which may allow oligarchs to hide their assets and indirectly contribute to the funding of war and the machines of war.

Regarding the arms industry, a strong action we could take would be to stop funding arms in the Russian state. That is important and significant. Ireland has had a role. We saw horrifying reports last week from Amnesty International on cluster munitions. They breach international law and must be prosecuted in international courts. Ireland, as an example of where our neutrality has been tested, was the country that negotiated a global ban on cluster bombs. Only a handful of countries, including Russia, have not signed up to that ban. The fact that such horrific tools that target civilians are an exception rather than the rule is thanks to the power Ireland was able to exert.

It is especially important now when we see blockages at the UN Security Council that we have General Assembly motions on humanitarian corridors. Ms Shkrum's past is in working with refugees and she has worked with displaced people around the world. The importance of that humanitarian work is fundamental, especially now when we face the humanitarian crisis of refugees and that being visited by the immoral use of food as a weapon of war. That is never acceptable, whether in Yemen, Eritrea, Ukraine or in those countries Senator Ward described as being held hostage to this war and the manoeuvres of big powers. It must be condemned and acted on. These are things we can do.

I will finish with a comment on the future. That quote on the laughter of the children is very powerful. Ireland should, can and must accelerate the accession of Ukraine to the European Union but there is other work of peace, including the role of women in peace negotiations and the 13-25 principle. We know that is what makes peace negotiations work They must be strongly in it. President Zelenskyy mentioned community development when he addressed the Oireachtas. That long work of peacebuilding is there. We will be there to support Ukraine in all of that and look forward to a future where children will be laughing and there will be a strong, independent sovereign Ukraine, fully part of every aspect of the European Union and our shared world.

Mr. Dmytro Natalukha

It has been an honour and a pleasure. I am privileged, as we all are, to be here. Senator Higgins mentioned cluster bombs. There are also phosphorus bombs. The Senator who has military experience is, unfortunately, not here any more. Those present probably do not know the way to protect oneself from cluster or phosphorus bombs.

There is no way. If such a bomb falls on you, it burns everything to the ground. Even if you are in a car or covered by a roof, it will literally not stop burning.

These things are what is called unsolicited knowledge. We never wanted to know them, just as our children never wanted to know how to distinguish the sound of different arms and weapons. Unfortunately, this is the brutal and ugly reality we have to face, even today. The good news in all of this is that, while the war has clearly and very frankly shown who our main enemies are, it has also shown who our main friends are. My heart is warmed to be in this room full of friends and people who care and who show that care not just in their words, but in their actions, their courage in coming to Ukraine and Kyiv, their incredible hospitality and the actions they have undertaken through different platforms including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and all other institutions and bodies. We do not doubt who our true friends are for a second. It is truly an honour and a privilege for me to be here today in this great House among friends. I thank the House again. Glory to Ireland.

Mr. Rostyslav Tistyk

I again thank all the citizens and people of Ireland. We are very grateful. We really feel that they are thinking about us. Despite Ireland's own problems, its situation and so on, which we understand, its people think about Ukraine all of the time. I want to thank them one more time. I understand that it is tiring and that Ireland has tried to give us every last thing but it will help people, including children, into the future. They can say that Ireland made the biggest effort at this time. In the near future, Ireland will be considered the first among our friends because it has been our real friend despite the distance between us. We will win this war and we will be the best of friends in our near future.

Ms Alyona Shkrum

I thank the Senators for raising all of the points they have made. To be honest, it was not an easy decision for us to come here. It is never an easy decision to leave Ukraine. You feel an amount of guilt when you are somewhere safe abroad. You receive a lot of messages from soldiers, volunteers and others and you miss some of them. It is not only us who feel this guilt. Every Ukrainian feels it sometimes when they are in a safe environment abroad. However, moments and discussions like this and being beside friends like this make every minute of this trip, which is not easy, worth it. This is incredibly important for us. We will bring with us the new strength, inspiration and power to fight and to do as much as we can back to Kyiv and to Ukraine.

I am still a big believer in international law even though it completely failed me and my country at the beginning of the war. I studied international law at Kyiv University and Cambridge University. I worked with refugees through the UN Refugee Agency, UNCHR. I was a big believer and an idealist. When Putin sacrificed everything that had been done in international law over the past 70 years, I felt that I had done something wrong. I felt that I had taken the wrong job and that nothing worked. However, since then, there has been a domino effect of bravery starting from small things in Ukraine such as President Zelenskyy not leaving the capital. He was almost forced to leave at the time but refused. At 5 a.m. on 21 February, we were together near the centre of President Zelenskyy's Administration and where our committee meets. It was still very cold and quite dark and bombs were exploding. We were waiting for the Parliament to open. We made a decision to vote in the Parliament in the centre of Kyiv rather than to go somewhere else that was more secure, despite having a secure shelter where there would be no bombing. However, the decision was made unanimously by all parties to be in Kyiv, at the centre and near the President's offices because we had to show our people and our army that we were not afraid to be there. Since the beginning of the war, we have had more than ten open sessions of our Parliament like that in the centre of Kyiv. We never moved the Parliament anywhere else. This was also part of the domino effect of bravery we received from the army and from volunteers.

This effect spread to many different countries all over the world. I am sure it was not an easy decision for Ireland to abolish the requirement for Ukrainians to hold a visa and to just let everybody come. It was a brave decision and it is still moving. This effect is still going all over the world. It is incredibly inspirational to see. It restores my faith in international law and international humanitarian rules. I pray that all of us, as rules-based societies, and international humanitarian law all over the world will emerge stronger from this horrible war.

The first time I was in the theatre, I was probably 11 or 12 years old. It was a theatre in the centre of Kyiv, near the Parliament, called the Ivan Franko Theatre. It is named for one of our famous writers. The play was George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. I did not understand anything, but it was a very funny play. It was great. I kept going back to it because all of our most famous actors, who are now on television, were performing in this play in the theatre. Through some very hard times, such as when I broke up with a boyfriend, I would come back to the theatre to see this play. It was a great tradition. I cannot do it right now. The theatre is not functioning and some of the actors, including some very famous ones, are volunteering on the front line. I just got a message that the theatre will reopen. It will start to put on plays again. It would be wonderful to see many of the Senators there in the centre of Kyiv after the victory watching George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion or any other play in summer. We invite all of the Senators to join us and thank them for their friendship.

Ms Lesia Vasylenko

There is a lot that we, as a group, will take back home from this discussion. We will definitely take back the confidence Ireland has in the victory of Ukraine. We know we will win. We have no other choice. It is the only way forward for Ukraine and for Ukrainians. However, it means a great deal to know that we have a friend who has our back and who is willing to speak up for us, to root for us and to cheer for us. Ireland is that friend. We will take that confidence Ireland has in the victory of Ukraine back to our constituencies and our people.

It will help us to fight. It will give us the strength. We will continue to fight; believe me. We have done this for the past 111 days. We have done it for eight years. We have done it for centuries. Today is yet another battle that Ukraine is fighting. It is a battle between right and wrong, autocracy and democracy, empire and freedom. We all know what must win. Right, freedom and democracy must win. We fight, and by "we" I mean all of us here together, for these universal values. Each of us does our bit.

Ukraine is fighting on its land with its own human resources. We are sacrificing a lot. What Ireland and the other freedom-loving countries of this world can do is to give the instruments with which Ukrainians can fight and defeat Russia. Although it may seem that sanctions cost a lot, that weapons are expensive or impossible, all of us are deciding what the world of tomorrow will look like, what legacy we will leave to the generations of the future and what kind of world order our children will live in. That is not expensive. That is an investment we are asking the rest of world to make with us now for the world of the future. What the world of the future really cannot afford, as well as the world of the now, is to live with an aggressive and terrorist Russia in it. To allow for freedom to win and to allow for victory, each of us has our own task. We owe this victory to each other.

Glory to Ireland and glory to Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.

This evening has been one of those wonderful, exceptional occasions we have in the Seanad. It is one we will remember for many a day. The memory of it will stay with us. I welcome Ms Vasylenko, Ms Shkrum, Mr. Tistyk and Mr. Natalukha. They are exceptional ambassadors for their country and do their country proud. Their presentations were moving and filled any deficit of information anyone here might have had.

I welcome the new Ukrainian Irish to the Gallery. They were accompanied earlier by Councillor Grainger, who put through a major motion in her council yesterday in favour of Ukraine.

I salute the Cathaoirleach and Senators Ward, Ahearn and Dooley for travelling to Ukraine. That was an important initiative. They displayed courage, empathy and solidarity in doing that. I congratulate them.

I will reference a point made by Mr. Natalukha with regard to investment by Kingspan in Ukraine. My colleague, Senator Wilson from Cavan, and I have strongly supported that initiative by Kingspan. We have urged Kingspan to publish it so that it may encourage other investment in Ukraine.

Ukraine is the victim of an illegal and barbaric war. That has been manifest on many fronts. There has been genocide. There have been sexual crimes of horrific proportions. Children have been kidnapped. Those are aspects of a dreadful, illegal and barbaric war. In the face of that war, Ukrainians have displayed an indomitable spirit and extraordinary courage. We stand in awe of them. They are a resourceful and resilient people.

I had the privilege of being the first Irish person to speak at a debate at the Council of Europe on the expulsion of Russia. I opened with a phrase that said it all: Russia has expelled itself. That is effectively what Russia has done. Russia has expelled itself from European values, Christian norms, objective morality, international law and international bodies.

I have had the privilege in the past of visiting beautiful Kyiv and spending a few very happy days in Kharkiv. It is shocking to witness what is happening now in those places.

There is something in our DNA in Ireland that makes us understand the people of Ukraine. We suffered, as did the Ukrainians, a shocking famine. We lost 1 million of our people in the period of the Famine, from 1840 to 1850. During that time, 1.4 million people left our shores. There were 1.4 million displaced persons and another 1 million were the subject of a genocide. It is in our DNA. We empathise, we get it and we understand. We salute the people of Ukraine and are in solidarity with them.

We in Ireland strongly support the sanctions on Russia, which must be implemented to the letter of the law. They must be stepped up. We in Ireland must be willing to make sacrifices. There are clear sacrifices for us in the implementation of the sanctions. We must support Ukraine's candidate status and its accession to the EU. It must get candidate status immediately. As a country, we strongly support that. As I said earlier, we must support the rebuilding of our guests' wonderful country. There must be international support for the investment in that rebuilding.

I consider this one of the most unique, wonderful and moving occasions there has been in our Seanad. I salute my two colleagues who were at the forefront of organising this session, with the support of the Cathaoirleach. All I can say is Slava Ukraini.

In quoting Irish patriots, I will quote Terence MacSwiney, who said it is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will prevail in the end. Another wise quote states that it is not the scorn of my enemies but the silence of my friends that hurts the most. In Ireland, our guests will not hear any silence with respect to Ukraine. We will finish the session by saying Slava Ukraini.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 5.47 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 5.55 p.m.
Sitting suspended at 5.47 p.m. and resumed at 5.55 p.m.