A Cheann Comhairle, a Chathaoirligh, President Zelenskyy, Ireland is resolute in our solidarity and support for Ukraine. We thank President Zelenskyy for his heartfelt, honest, clear and, indeed, historic address to our Parliament this morning. The strength of his commitment and that of the people of Ukraine to his country and to restoring its place as a free, safe, democratic and an independent country within the community of nations is both humbling and uplifting.
We heard grave testimony from President Zelenskyy this morning and we have seen ourselves the most shocking and harrowing of images from Bucha, from Irpin, from Mariupol and from across Ukraine. Russia will have to live with the shame and ignominy of what it has done in Ukraine for generations. Those responsible will be held to account. We are with Ukraine and I am certain that, in the end, Ukraine will prevail.
We are a militarily neutral country. However, we are not politically or morally 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.
Ukraine’s political, economic and humanitarian needs are now manifold and pressing. Our efforts, as a friend and as a partner of Ukraine, are aimed at using all the levers at our disposal to bring a just end to this war - applying international pressure on Russia, pursuing accountability for violations of international law and meeting the humanitarian needs of those caught now in the midst of this terrible and immoral war.
Thousands of people have been killed. Millions have been driven from their homes. This is a humanitarian crisis the likes of which Europe has not seen since the dark years of the Second World War. This war touches us all. That is why Ireland is supporting further European Union sanctions at European level.
We need a sanctions regime that brings it home to Putin and his regime that he will not, he cannot, succeed. We want the strongest possible sanctions against the Russian Federation and we will pursue those.
That is why we support the establishment of a solidarity trust fund for Ukraine, agreed by European Union leaders when we met in Brussels on 24 March, to support the Government of Ukraine now, and when the war is over to support reconstruction.
That is why I welcome and support Ukraine's application for EU membership. I reiterate our support for that application this morning in this House. It is the democratic right of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine to decide your political orientation. You have chosen to apply for European Union membership.
We know that EU enlargement has been a force for stabilisation and democratisation in the European Union’s neighbourhood. It is in the European Union’s strategic interest. It is in Ukraine’s interest. As I said to you, President Zelenskyy, when we spoke on 16 March, I will continue to support Ukraine’s case. That is why also we have committed €20 million in direct humanitarian funding, delivered through proven international agencies active on the ground and we will do more. This is to meet the urgent needs of those in need in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries - including shelter, medical care, health, water and sanitation.
As well as financial support, through a collaborative effort, we are in the process of delivering medical equipment, including ambulances, ultrasound machines, mobile X-ray machines, ventilators, and incubators. On 26 and 28 March, two despatches of urgently required medical equipment left Ireland and more will follow. That is why Ireland has contributed our full share to the European peace facility’s €1 billion military assistance package for Ukraine. We have also supplied provisions and body armour to the Ukrainian military. We will also continue to support any avenue that can lead to an immediate ceasefire.
In light of what is being revealed in the areas from which Russian troops have withdrawn, that task will now be even more difficult. I therefore especially commend your commitment, President Zelenskyy, to continuing to try, despite the enormous challenges you face. Please know that we are with you in that task, and that we stand ready to contribute to and to support any initiative that can lead to a just peace for the people of Ukraine.
I know that the people of Mariupol cannot wait for talks to conclude. Their needs are too urgent. We need to see genuine humanitarian corridors opened and implemented. Ireland, along with our partners, will continue to support any sincere efforts at the United Nations to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance.
Thousands of Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland since the start of the conflict. A Cheann Comhairle, if I may, I address these words to them. I know that the ambassador of Ukraine, H.E. Ms Larysa Gerasko, is here in the Gallery for today’s debate. To those who have arrived here from Ukraine, I hope you find in Ireland safe harbour and friendship for as long as you need it. Most of you, I know, look forward to the day when you can return to a peaceful and free Ukraine, to the family and friends you have left behind. That day will come. In the meantime, our home is your home.
The war in Ukraine has sparked a crisis the likes of which we have not seen in Europe for decades. It is no surprise to me that the Irish people have stood up to be counted in an unprecedented way in response.
Over 18,000 Ukrainian people have arrived in Ireland. Dedicated reception facilities are in place to provide temporary protection and access to other services immediately on arrival. We are providing accommodation to those who have sought it and we are ramping up our efforts to meet the very challenging and increasing demands.
We are also working to ensure that other supports are available to people arriving here, including access to health, social care services and education. New arrivals are also being registered to ensure that they can access income supports as needed. The heartfelt response of people across Ireland is clear in the whole range of initiatives at community level. I would like to thank all of the people who have opened their hearts and, in some cases, their homes to people from Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy, when you addressed the European Parliament you said, "life will win over death, and light will win over darkness". Even in the face of the bleak horrors of this week, I recall your words and the hope and determination they carry. We stand with Ukraine. Slava Ukraini.