Justine Dwyer

A large crowd braved biting wind and rain last Sunday morning to show their solidarity for the people of Ukraine and protest against Russia’s invasion of the country.

Many of the local Ukrainian community attended the protest bearing signs pleading “Stop Russian Aggression” and “Help Stop Putin.” They spoke of how many of their family members were living in fear in their homeland, staying indoors and keeping all lights off as war rages outside.

Waterford City and County Council also stood united with the people of Ukraine at the weekend by lighting up city hall in blue and yellow – the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Mayor of Waterford City and County Joe Kelly said he had written to the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland, Larysa Gerasko, to express his shock and revulsion at what he described as the “unjust and unwarranted Russian invasion.”

Crowds gathered in Waterford City Centre on Sunday to show solidarity with Ukraine. Photos: Mick Wall.


“It is difficult to watch, and even more difficult to comprehend, the level of destruction and violence being perpetrated against Ukranian citizens.  All we can do is offer our support, and assure you we stand in solidarity with you, your countrymen and women. This unjustifiable war has united the world in its condemnation of the illegal actions of President Putin. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine and their families throughout the world, in Ireland and in Waterford, at this deeply worrying time.”

Waterford Independent TD Matt Shanahan has also called for the expulsion of the Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov. “I call on the Irish Government to immediately expel the Russian ambassador from Ireland as a mark of protest and solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

Deputy Shanahan added that he was also calling on the Government to support the withdrawal of SWIFT pay banking protocols for all Russian banks in an effort to create significant impact to Russia’s economy and its ability to wage further war.

“This invasion by Russian military forces of a peaceful neighbouring state is a disgraceful breach of fundamental principles of international law, it threatens the lives and wellbeing of the country’s people, including 7.5 million children who are at serious risk.”

He concluded by saying the invasion of Ukraine was a tragedy for European stability and peace: “It is an attack on innocent lives and an attack on the ideals of democracy and the freedom it brings.”

Green Party TD for Waterford Marc Ó Cathasaigh has welcomed the immediate lifting of visa restrictions between Ukraine and Ireland. Deputy O’Cathasaigh stated this week that this measure means that people who feel it’s safe to leave Ukraine can do so without needing to arrange a visa in advance and will be of considerable benefit to Ukrainian people with family members already living here.

He raised the matter in the Dáil on Thursday last while members of the Ukranian community gathered outside the gates of Leinster House in solidarity with their family and friends back in Ukraine. “Trying to relate the personal stories of the people of Ukraine at the moment is unthinkable” he said. Welcoming the announcement of the immediate lifting of visa restrictions between Ukraine and Ireland Deputy Ó Cathasaigh said: “Our news bulletins and social media feeds are full of heart-breaking scenes of Ukrainian people saying goodbye to their children, packing their cars and fleeing their homes. Ireland must do everything we can to help Ukrainian people fleeing their homeland to safety. The immediate lifting of restrictions will allow Ukrainian people with family members already living in Ireland to leave Ukraine without needing to arrange a visa in advance and will be of immense comfort for Ukrainians living here to know that they can provide safe shelter to their loved ones.”

Meanwhile in an open letter to the Russian Ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, local Independent councillor, Joe Conway urged him to “Be a man and speak the truth to the power in the Kremlin.”

Whilst appreciating that the ambassador’s job is a complex one, Cllr. Conway added that he also had a responsibility to relay accurately the mood and views of the Irish people to the Government in Moscow.

“In the week past, I have spoken to hundreds of our citizens in Waterford City and County.  Among that number, I have not encountered even one who is not revulsed by the invasion by Russia of the sovereign, independent state of Ukraine,” said Cllr. Conway.

Such aggression, he continued, was seen by all as being as unwarranted as it is malign.  “The pretext used by Mr. Putin, – that he is fighting to denazify Ukraine, is risible.  Indeed, many have said to me that it is Putin himself that is acting like the Nazis, working to devour smaller neighbours, in a narcissistic drive to crush diverse opinion.”

Cllr. Conway asked the ambassador to fulfil his second role in Ireland. “Tell Putin what we think of his aggression and invasion.  Be a man – and speak the truth to the power in the Kremlin. And, in relation to your presence here in Ireland, stay if you must – but do us the service of relaying accurately just how abhorrent we find your campaign to subjugate and slaughter the citizens of an independent, sovereign neighbour,” he concluded.