The views of former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams on the conflict in Ukraine.
The big story of the moment is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Like many of you I have been watching the round the clock news reports emerging from what is now a war zone. The television images and photographs are distressing. Burning buildings, the skeletal shell of others already destroyed. Russian tanks and armed soldiers. And terrified citizens and families, many with young children, desperate to escape. There have been images also of ordinary citizens determined to resist and fight the invader. Of people hunkered down in the street making petrol bombs.
The film footage of an elderly woman confronting a Russian soldier reminded me of many similar instances in our own experience, not least the ‘march of mothers’, many pushing prams, who swept aside British soldiers’ as they brought food to the besieged community in the Falls who were under British military curfew in July 1970. These images are a shocking visual record of the violent abuse by one state of its smaller neighbour. The response of the citizens of Ukraine and the televised images of petrol bombs being prepared or street signs being removed is reminiscent of exactly the same popular actions here during the Battle of the Bogside or in Ballymurphy or many other communities.
For many republicans the language of outrage from some sections of the Irish and international media and of the political establishments ring hollow when set against their silence or collusion in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or the plight of the Palestinian people struggling against the apartheid Israeli state. Or the struggle here in the north.
So I am quite cynical about the rhetoric and the intentions of some of the international leaders. Nevertheless this cannot be allowed to distract from the unacceptability of the Russian government invading and violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the right of the people of that country to exercise their fundamental right to national self-determination and independence.
The Irish government is a member of the UN Security Council, as well as of the European Union. It must use these important positions to argue for an end to the invasion, an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine and the intensification of dialogue to find a peaceful way forward.
STANDING UP TO BULLIES
Some politicians rarely, if ever see the irony in the words they use. Take Boris Johnson. He is currently using the dispute between the Ukraine and Russia to distract attention from the Downing Street Party-gate scandal. As more and more voices within his own party are questioning his leadership credentials Johnson is busy presenting himself as a leader on the world stage standing up for the rights of others. And so we get: “We won’t accept a world in which a powerful neighbour can bully or attack their neighbours … all people have the right to live safely and choose who governs them.”
In a short period in which two Police Ombudsman reports exposed the extent and depth of British state collusion with loyalist death squads and the families of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane and Sinn Féin Councillor John Davey marked the anniversaries of their murder through collusion, Johnson’s remarks carry a strong whiff of hypocrisy. British policy toward Ireland is the very definition of a “powerful neighbour” that bullies and attacks its neighbour.
Johnson is an English nationalist. He leads a party and a government that proudly defends Britain’s imperial past, including the invasion and occupation of countless small nations and the murder and subjugation of millions of people.
This is the same state which used bogus claims of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to invade Iraq and which is currently selling billions in weapons and bombs to Saudi Arabia. The result of these arms sales has been described by the UN and others as significantly contributing the worst international humanitarian crisis in decades. Most recently the British government rejected an Amnesty International report that accused the Israeli government of running an apartheid state and oppressing the Palestinian people. What are these actions except those of a bully and neighbour supporting other bullies to attack their neighbours?
But being a bully is about more than having a contemptible and aggressive foreign policy. The British government’s shambolic Brexit policy is also causing enormous hardship to its own people. Its Covid policy has seen billions of pounds siphoned off through corruption to friends and associates. And it is predicted that by the summer almost five million people – including two million children - will be suffering serious food insecurity.
For these citizens that means smaller meals or skipping meals entirely; being hungry but not eating because they can’t afford food or get access to food; or not eating for a full day because they can’t afford to. For many it’s about heating or eating. Isn’t this also being a bully?
This is the political establishment that unionist leaders have consistently allied themselves too and who’s economic, social and foreign policies they support. Even as Johnson stabs them in the back and the chest over Brexit, even as he is exposed as a serial liar, and breaks his commitments to them again and again, the DUP still support him. Three weeks ago a smiling Jeffrey Donaldson left Downing Street – another deal done. The next week the double jobbing scam to allow him to stand for the Assembly election while remaining an MP was scrapped by Johnson. Will unionism ever wake up to the reality that no British government is concerned for them? It is all about their self-interest.
Hopefully some unionists see this. Hopefully they are seeing beyond the short sightedness of the DUP and others.
This is a time of transition but it is a dangerous time also. Challenging those who think it’s alright to bully and bluster and treat others as inferior is always dangerous. But as we all know the only way to defeat a bully is to stand up to him. So let’s continue to do that. Together. When Mr Johnson is only a bad memory we will still be here. He is the past. We are the future.