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Russia’s actions will never be forgotten or forgiven, Tanaiste warns

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar addresses a joint sitting of the Irish Parliament (Maxwells/PA)

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has warned Russia that its actions against the Ukrainian people will never be forgotten or forgiven.

In a powerful speech to the Irish Parliament, Leo Varadkar said that through modern media, the world has seen the atrocities committed during the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

He made the remarks following an historic address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Zelensky’s words “moved and inspired us and shamed us” and the rest of the world for not doing more sooner.

In a direct message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his government, diplomats, collaborators and his apologists across the world, Mr Varadkar said they have violated the human rights of the Ukrainian people.

“You have raped and defiled the very principles of common humanity which bind us together in peace and harmony,” he added.

“You have betrayed your own people and your own country’s rich history and culture, your own resistance to oppression over many centuries.”

Mr Varadkar said Ireland will do all it can to help Ukraine in its struggle, and to shelter refugees who have fled the country.

“We will stand by them in their greatest hour,” he added.

“In the long history of our own country, we have never invaded another but we do know what it’s like to have been invaded and to have the very existence of our national identity questioned too.

“For these reasons, we feel for the idealism of the Ukrainian people, their defiance and their determination to face down a new evil empire.

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“As a country, we are heartbroken watching the scenes we see on television every night and we’re heartbroken to see what the people of Ukraine have had to endure now for 42 days.

He added that Mr Zelensky showed a “burning desire for freedom and self-determination, for democracy and liberty”.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said Russia should be prosecuted for human rights violations against Ukrainian civilians.

She told the Dail that Mr Zelensky outlined the atrocities against his country in the “most harrowing, most heart-breaking” of terms.

“We have heard testimony of the vicious war crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine, and we have been set a challenge, and innocent civilians have been executed with their arms tied behind their backs,” Ms McDonald added.

“There have been horrific accounts of rape and torture, the brutalisation by the powerful of vulnerable ordinary citizens in their war-torn country.

“These are crimes against the Ukrainian people and these are crimes against humanity, and Russia must be held accountable for its barbarism and justice must be done.

“These human rights violations and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention demand investigation by the International Criminal Court and prosecutions to follow.”

She said it is “long past time” that the Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov should be expelled.

Independent TD Cathal Berry, who is a former deputy head of the Army Ranger Wing, urged the Government to hand over the anti-tank weapons currently stored in the Curragh military camp in Co Kildare.

It is understood there are hundreds of anti-tank bazookas.

Mr Berry said: “One hour’s drive from here, in the Curragh Camp, there are hundreds of anti-tank rockets, nearing the end of their shelf-life, that can very easily be transferred to the Ukraine defence forces.

“The reason that is so important is that we know the Russians are preparing a massive offensive in the east and that this offensive is likely to be successful, but it does not have to be this way.

Mary Lou McDonald speaking after Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, addressed the joint sitting (Maxwells/PA).

“Taoiseach, I would urge you to send protective defensive weapons to Ukraine, that we stop the Russia advance and that we drag them to the negotiation table and together we alter the course of history.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said stronger measures need to be taken against Russia.

She also repeated her calls to expel the Russian ambassador to Ireland.

She accused Mr Filatov of denying the truth of what is happening in Ukraine.

“We are calling for strong support for Ukraine’s expedited accession to the EU, have full embargo on Russian oil and gas, to join with the welcome move on coal.

“Urgent initiation of investigations into Russian war crimes against civilians, including crimes of sexual violence against women that we are hearing such appalling reports about.”

Speaker of the Dail Sean O Fearghail said Ireland salutes Mr Zelensky’s “outstanding bravery” and the resilience of the Ukrainian people.

“While Ireland is a militarily neutral country, we are not politically neutral. We do not stand idly by,” he added.

“We will continue to offer practical, on-the-ground support for our Ukrainian friends.

“We will also continue to welcome those forced to leave Ukraine seeking safety on foreign shores.

“Mr president, we Irish are aware of the pain of separation, the loss of our people to distant lands.

“At this challenging time, those forced to leave Ukraine are welcome here in Ireland, and they will be supported and assisted until such time as they are free to return to rebuild their damaged homeland.”

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