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President reiterates condemnation of Ukraine war after row over wife’s letter

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina (Brian Lawless/PA)
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina (Brian Lawless/PA)

President Michael D Higgins has issued a statement reiterating his condemnation of the war in Ukraine following criticism of a letter written by his wife on the conflict.

President Michael D Higgins had faced calls to state unequivocal support for the Ukrainian cause and oppose Russian aggression amid the furore created by his wife Sabina’s letter.

Mrs Higgins wrote to the Irish Times last week to criticise one of the newspaper’s editorials on the conflict.

In the letter, she said the fighting would go on until the world “persuades President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations”.

Critics have suggested Mrs Higgins was drawing an equivalence between the actions of Ukraine and Russia.

Scrutiny of the letter intensified after it was reportedly published for a brief period on the Irish president’s official website. It appears since to have been removed from the site.

A number of representatives from parties in Ireland’s coalition government have voiced concern.

A statement issued to the Irish Times by a spokesperson for President Higgins said: “The record shows President Higgins has been unequivocal in his condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine from his original statement on March 1.

“He has repeatedly condemned what he has described as the illegal, immoral and unjustifiable Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“He has called for an immediate Russian withdrawal and end to the violence. He has voiced his steadfast support for the victims of this terrible conflict and met with Ukrainian refugees in Ireland and the Ukrainian Ambassador many times.

“President Higgins has stressed the importance of using every available ‘chink of diplomacy’.”

The spokesperson added: “President Higgins has also publicly commended and continues to commend people and communities across Ireland for their generosity and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

“It is heartening to witness so many people in Ireland and across the globe unite in their support for the Ukrainian people, offering shelter, food, aid and other forms of assistance to those fleeing the war.”

Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2022
The statement on behalf of President Michael D Higgins made no mention of the letter written by his wife (Brian Lawless/PA)

The President’s statement today made no mention of Mrs Higgins’ letter.

Fine Gael senator John McGahon had earlier called on Mr Higgins to clarify whether he was aware of the letter before it was published or had any role in drafting it.