Adi Roche to address UN on 30th anniversary of Chernobyl

Plight of Chernobyl ‘liquidators’ who battled to contain radiation leak from nuclear plant to be highlighted

Founder of the charity Chernobyl Children International Irishwoman Adi Roche will address the United Nations General Assembly later this month at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Ms Roche has been provided with speaking time at the UN General Assembly discussion by the Belarussian Government in recognition of the international role played by the charity in helping the victims of the Chernobyl disaster on April 26th, 1986.

Ms Roche, a native of Clonmel in Co Tipperary who is to be honoured with the Freedom of Cork city next month, described the invitation to address the UN General Assembly as "the greatest possible honour to speak on the highest world stage about an issue that has been my life's work."

According to a statement from Chernobyl Children International, Belarus has asked Ms Roche to be the lead speaker during their allocated time so she can give her own first-hand account of the impact the Chernobyl nuclear accident has had on millions of people in Belarus and neighbouring countries.


Ms Roche said that she plans to highlight the heroism, plight and continuing needs of the 700,000 Chernobyl “liquidators” who were sent to Chernobyl to undertake the deadly task of trying to contain the leaking radiation from the crippled nuclear reactor.

“These were the soldiers and civilians, the helicopter pilots, the firemen, the miners and the engineers .... Many died, others have had to live with radiation induced lifelong illnesses and almost all struggle with medical, psychological and financial difficulties.

Ms Roche revealed that last week on her 30th visit to the still radioactive contaminated "zones of alienation" around Chernobyl, she again met groups of the "liquidators" whose action in the first 48 hours after the explosion saved Europe from an even greater nuclear disaster.

“They appealed to me to bring their stories and their voices to the United Nations and I will be upholding that pledge to them. During the General Assembly session, I will make a special appeal for additional global support to help meet their ongoing health care needs.”

Ms Roche said she will also press for the speedy completion of the $1.5 billion sarcophagus that is being built to make Chernobyl safe for the next 100 years and which is being funded by some 40 countries, including Ireland, but which has been subject to many delays.

“On this the 30th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history, it is a chilling reminder that the effects of this catastrophic nuclear accident are far from over. The radioactive contamination is still having an adverse effect on the lives and health of the people of the Chernobyl regions.

“For many people 30 years ago is like reading ancient history, however for the victims it remains an unfolding tragedy,” said Ms Roche, adding that new research shows that the rate of thyroid cancer has doubled since 2000 among children caught up in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

“Chernobyl is not something from the past. Chernobyl “is forever”. The impact of that single nuclear accident can never be undone. Its radioactive footprint is embedded in our world forever and countless millions of people are still being affected by its deadly legacy,” she said.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times