Protest in Dublin against Ukraine war: ‘We need to do so much more’

Ireland should expel Russians from their Dublin ‘bunker’, Ukraine’s ambassador says

For a few surreal moments on Thursday evening, an air raid siren cried out over the Russian embassy in Dublin. Behind the tall iron gates, it was impossible to gauge the reaction to this symbol of the daily terror experienced by Ukrainian civilians thousands of kilometres away.

Many of them, having travelled to seek refuge in Ireland, joined the hundreds of demonstrators who gathered outside the embassy on Dublin's Orwell Road.

They were draped in the yellow and blue of their flag. They held the hands of children and wept as their national anthem rang out from a temporary stage on the far side of the road, facing a flank of gardaí.

"I want to go home," said Olesia, a 27-year-old refugee who arrived alone in Ireland two weeks ago and now stood within yards of Russian officialdom. "We need to [protest]. We need to scream to the whole world about what's going on in Ukraine. It's a genocide."

Later, Yuliya Tosca, who moved from Luhansk in the east of Ukraine 18 years ago, showed that time and distance did little to soften the visceral connection to a country besieged by war.

“It’s heartbreaking. I can’t stop crying since it started,” she said and, as if on cue, welled up. “I am sure Ukraine will win, of course, but so many people have died. Even this win will not make me happy.”

The demonstration was organised by Irish trade unions, voicing solidarity with the Ukrainian people from within earshot of the Russian diplomats. There were repeated calls for their expulsion and for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, ruled out by Nato.

Dignified event

With the exception of a couple of visible officials who wandered out into the embassy's grounds toward the end of proceedings, there was no sign of a response from inside. Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists appealed for a dignified event, and it was delivered.

Ukraine's ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko, who spoke for seven minutes without notes, delivered a damning appraisal of Russian military conduct in her country and of her people's expectations from the international community.

Ireland, she said, should expel the Russians from their Dublin “bunker” – she would not use the term diplomat – following the example set by the Polish government which ordered 45 Russian officials to leave on Wednesday. She repeated calls for a no-fly zone over her country and for the unilateral closure of European ports to Russian ships.

"There is no international law for Russia, " she said, exactly one month since the onset of hostilities, "Russia violates everything, not only international law… Russia commits crimes against humanity".

They continue to destroy cities and kill Ukrainians, she said. Two hundred children so far.

The ambassadors of Poland, Georgia and Lithuania also addressed the crowd, invoking memories of past Russian aggression in bordering countries and repeating warnings of what might still follow.

Rallying call

Ian McCaffrey from Dublin, who had heard the rallying call for global protests from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he felt moved to grab his Ukrainian flag and bring his son to see the response. When talk turned to the killing of children, however, he brought his son home. “I would like to see 10 times more people,” he said of the crowd.

Fiona Lee, an official from the Irish Federation of University Teachers, who had arrived with her daughter Ciara, considered the Irish response to the war and the arrival of its refugees in Ireland.

“It’s very hard to know because it’s such a tragic situation out there,” she said. “I think as things stand we are doing as much as we can. But we need to do so much more.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times