Cork MEP describes experience of witnessing address by Ukrainian President to European Parliament as 'surreal' 

The Ukrainian president addressed the parliament via video-link on Tuesday “in the gap between shellings and bombardments”.
Cork MEP describes experience of witnessing address by Ukrainian President to European Parliament as 'surreal' 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (on screen) gives a live video address during a special plenary session of the European Parliament focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on March 1, 2022. Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

An Irish member of the European Parliament has described as “surreal” the experience of witnessing Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelenskiy addressing the parliament via video-link on Tuesday “in the gap between shellings and bombardments”.

President Zelenskiy told an emergency meeting of the European Parliament that Ukraine was fighting to be an equal member of Europe, calling on EU member states to prove they sided with Ukraine as the country came under renewed attacks from Russian troops.

“Do prove that you are with us,” Mr Zelenskiy urged EU leaders, a day after he had signed an official request for Ukraine to join the EU.

“Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans, and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness,” the Ukrainian president said in a speech translated to the parliament by a tearful interpreter.

Deirdre Clune MEP told The Echo there had been emotional scenes during President Zelenskiy’s speech, and parliamentarians had risen to give him a standing ovation.

“It was very strange to see him in his tee-shirt, talking to a camera, as he put it, in the gap between shellings and bombardments, with his country of 40 million people under attack from Russia, it was a most surreal situation,” Ms Clune said.

“They will fight to the end, that’s what he said, because they are defending not just their territory but also their way of life, it was very moving to hear him say that, and that he would trust us to support their application for EU membership.”

Ms Clune said Ireland would support Ukraine’s application, and she said that it was important that the EU stood with a peaceful democracy under attack by Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom she described as “a dictator”.

Ms Clune, who is an MEP for Ireland South and a member of Fine Gael, said she would not agree with her fellow Ireland South MEP, Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, who on Friday said he believed Ireland should immediately “show the door” to Russian ambassador Yuriy Filatov.

“It’s important to have someone to speak to, in terms of making representations on behalf of Irish citizens in Russia, and in Ukraine, and also it is important that we shouldn’t do anything unilaterally, that any decision we make be made in conjunction with the other member states, because that is where we are at our strongest, when we work in unison,” Ms Clune said.

Commenting on the suggestion that Ireland should send arms to Ukraine, Ms Clune pointed out that while, in this instance, Ireland was not politically neutral, it was militarily neutral, a policy she described as “very important” to the country.

“I think we shouldn’t be sending arms, but we should be sending aid, and we should continue to work with our European partners on financial sanctions, which are working very effectively at the moment,” Ms Clune said.

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