People Before Profit TDs refused to clap for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday following his address to a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Mr Zelenskiy’s speech amid his country’s invasion by Russia was met by thunderous applause from TDs and senators in the Dáil chamber, with the notable absence of four People Before Profit TDs.
The party said its members had refused to clap due to disagreement with Mr Zelenskiy’s calls for Nato involvement in the war, as well as demands for more sanctions on Russia and a “decision to ban opposition parties” in Ukraine.
Party TDs Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Bríd Smith came in for criticism over the decision, with Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond slamming the move.
“The fact that certain members of this house couldn’t have the good grace and courtesy to clap a man who is leading his country against a vicious war machine was absolutely reprehensible,” he said.
“The whataboutery and the sheer mental and ethical gymnastics put in place to accuse this lack of dignity is one that made me ashamed, for a brief moment, to be a member of this house.”
Video footage from the Dáil chamber shows that the four People Before Profit-Solidarity TDs stood, but did not applaud, following the address by Mr Zelenskiy.
The party has defended the decision not to clap for the address, with Mr Murphy telling The Irish Times that he and Mr Boyd Barrett had “stood for the people of Ukraine and stand with them in the struggle against the Russian imperialist invasion”.
However, he added: “We can’t applaud calls for more sanctions which are hurting ordinary Russians and only bolstering the Putin regime at home.”
Mr Murphy also criticised steps taken by Mr Zelenskiy’s government in domestic politics, which has suspended 11 political parties in Ukraine over links to Russia, as a “worrying attack on democratic rights which undermines the struggle against the invasion.”
1/2 Richard Boyd Barrett condemning Putin's war crimes, supporting refuge being extended to all Ukrainians who need to come here, calling for cancellation of Ukrainian debt.
RBB also opposes NATO escalation which would add fuel to fire & risk all out war between nuclear powers. pic.twitter.com/m39zkVEXm2
— People Before Profit (@pb4p) April 6, 2022
Mr Murphy said that he and Mr Boyd Barrett had also not applauded Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s declaration of support for Ukrainian membership of the European Union.
He said EU membership was a matter for the Ukrainian people and if they wanted to join, his party would not be in favour of blocking them.
“But it’s no secret that we aren’t fans of the undemocratic nature of the EU, its neo-liberal policies and the current drive to militarisation”.
TD Bríd Smith said the party “stood in solidarity and respect for Ukrainian people and for their president; and the war crimes they are suffering at the hands of Putin but we disagree with calls he made previously for Nato involvement which we think would escalate an already dangerous situation and the call for further sanctions which we fear will weaken the opposition to Putin in Russia. Also concerned about decision to ban opposition parties in Ukraine.”
In his speech on Wednesday morning, Mr Zelenskiy thanked Ireland for supporting sanctions against Russia and asked the nation to try to convince other EU countries to introduce more rigid sanctions.