Mixed views over Mick Wallace voting against EU condemnation of invasion

‘He should have voted in favour. One child being murdered is one too many’

Standing off Wexford's historic Bull Ring, where a one-man protest over Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been taking place this week, James Watts believes local MEP Mick Wallace likes to be "the odd man out".

"I just feel he likes to be contrary," says Watt about Wallace, who voted against a European Parliament condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "I like him, but I just feel he does it for the sake of it sometimes."

Defending himself on South East Radio on Wednesday, Wallace said 13 MEPs, including Dublin’s Claire Daly, had shown courage by voting against the motion supported by 637 MEPs.

Saying he has stood by past election pledges, Wallace said: "You'll even see it in my leaflet. We said that we will oppose the militarisation of Europe lock, stock and barrel, that we would work for peace and that we would challenge all war."

Today Watts, who voted for Wallace in Dáil elections previously, says he is “numb” at the positions now taken by the MEP. “Maybe here he was a big fish in a small pond, and now it’s the opposite.

“[He] has various issues that would be important but it is a bit lost on me,” he went on, though careful to add that he accepts that he has only a “surface level” understanding of some of them.

Acknowledging Wallace's "militarisation argument", retired civil servant Sean Crowe nevertheless wondered: "What are you supposed to do when the aggressor attacks a country? Are you supposed to forget about the right to defend your country? I don't accept it, to be quite honest about it."

Jim Breen, the man holding the protest with a "Russia, Get Out of Ukraine" placard beneath a statue commemorating the pikemen who fought in the 1798 rebellion, is adamant that Wallace is wrong.

"He's voted wrong," says Breen, a former Labour Party supporter. "He should have voted in favour. One child being murdered is one too many. I would vote with my conscience.

“I did vote for him in the past and I might do so again. But on this he’s wrong. People in Russia can’t do what I’m doing here – I was able to take a notion to come down here with my sign,” he told The Irish Times.

Civilians

Back at the Bullring, Kyle Kemp (30) also feels Wallace made the wrong call.

"I do get his thoughts around Nato. They're a pack of bullies, in my opinion, but you have a situation where civilians are being bombed."

He said in the past he admired Russian president Vladimir Putin. "He was a man's man, someone a young man like myself could look up to. I was taken in by the propaganda, basically."

However, he believes there has been "hypocrisy" in the way in which the Ukrainian invasion has been covered compared with that given to Syria, or Yemen. It is down to the "skin colour of people involved".

Even though he shares some of Wallace's views, Kemp did not vote for Wallace in the past. Asked for his preferences, he lifted up his top to reveal tattoos of Patrick Pearse and an Easter lily. "I'm a Sinn Féin supporter."

Meanwhile, Helen Foran does not sympathise with Wallace, and believes other countries "should be going in to help" Ukraine. Yet she also fears it could spark World War three. "I just feel so sorry for the people," she says.

Not everyone is a critic, though. Three older men seated outside a coffee shop declined to be quoted, but said Wallace had their full support for his stance, and they also criticised coverage of the invasion.