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Leinster House relief as Russian ambassador declines invite to Zelenskiy address

Inside Politics: Modest proposal to increase carbon tax cuts little ice with Opposition or public

Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks via a video link to the Romanian parliament in Bucharest on Monday. The Ukrainian president is due to address the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday. Photograph: EPA

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy did not mince his words yesterday when walking through the devastated streets of the town of Bucha following the departure of Russian troops from the area. Bodies of what appeared to be civilians were found, some with their hands bound, apparently shot by Russian soldiers.

As we report, Zelenskiy had no doubt about what this amounted to: "These are war crimes, and will be recognised by the world as genocide," Mr Zelenskiy told media amid ruined buildings and the husks of destroyed vehicles, as he visited Bucha tightly surrounded by Ukrainian military personnel.

US president Joe Biden has also portrayed Russian president Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. Taoiseach Micheál Martin added his voice to the chorus of international condemnation by describing what has happened in Bucha and the port city of Mariupol as "appalling and barbaric crimes".

He accepted that the war was having an economic impact on Ireland and Europe and has had a negative effect on the cost of living. However, he stood firm behind further sanctions against Russia.


“This war is having an impact but we cannot be blind in the first instance to the appalling human trauma and death that is being visited upon the people of Ukraine,” he said.

On the eve of Mr Zelenskiy's address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas, it must have come as some relief to TDs and Senators that Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov has declined an invitation to attend the event.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl invited all of the diplomatic representations based in Ireland to the event.

The Oireachtas said on Monday night 45 missions had indicated that their diplomats would attend Leinster House for the occasion but the Russian Embassy was not one of them. The invitation had indicated the “close of business” on Monday as the deadline.

It means Mr Filatov will not be present in the Dáil chamber to hear the speech from the Ukrainian president.

Under Oireachtas protocol, all accredited ambassadors to Ireland are invited to sit in the public gallery during the event. Mr Ó Fearghaíl confirmed at the weekend the invitation was sent to Mr Filatov under that protocol.

The invitation to Mr Filatov had caused anger among TDs from all parties. On Monday evening, moves began for a cross-party campaign to withdraw the Russian ambassador’s invitation.

Sinn Féin whip Pádraig Mac Lochlainn wrote to the whips of all other parties and groupings in the Dáil – including Government parties – asking them to support the withdrawal of the invitation to Mr Filatov.

Mr Mac Lochlainn told The Irish Times earlier on Monday he had written to his counterparts in all other parties and groupings seeking to have the invitation rescinded.

Climate Change and Carbon Tax

The other big story touching on politics is climate change. In a different way, it also impacts on the cost of living. The war has jeopardised security of supply of fossil fuels. Global warming puts pressure on governments to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. That also imposes upward pressure on prices and the cost of living.

The latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is stark. As Kevin O'Sullivan reports, the worst impacts will not be avoided unless greenhouse gas emissions do not start falling within three years.

The report says drastic cuts to fossil fuels combined with scale-up of renewable energy is the single most effective option.

Not to sound too pessimistic a note about it, to turn all that around in three years is just not possible. Evolving technology can change habits very quickly but the reality is that it will take a decade at least for the technology and infrastructure to be right to effect the global change that’s needed – and that’s with all Governments being on the same page on this issue, and putting their money where their mouth is.

Domestically, the issue is playing out as a row over carbon tax, with the latest increase due at the end of the month. This increase – deferred since the Budget - applies to home heating costs including oil. The Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan has argued that the increased cost will be modest, no more than €1.50 a month and the proceeds will go to aiding those most at risk of fuel poverty, as well as towards insulating homes of lower income families.

But that has cut little ice with the Opposition or the public. As we report, the Government will likely go ahead with the increase but will look to some other measures to soften the blow.

Ministers told us yesterday that while the increases were small, the negative publicity and messaging around them could be potentially very damaging to the Government and it would need something to “lance the boil”, as one Minister put it.

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Sarah Burns reports that diasporas have huge potential to help their native countries from abroad if the conditions are right.


One of the big decisions at Cabinet this morning is the green light for the proposal to give artists a basic income. It comes from the Green Party side of the coalition. It has for decades argued for a universal basic income for everybody – now Minister for Arts Catherine Martin will make it a reality for artists. This might be a little problematic when it comes to defining who is an artist and who is not.

Dáil Éireann Leaders’ Questions are at 2pm.

Among the motions to change Standing Orders is one that will cut the number of votes on the order of business from three to one each week. Seemingly it was cutting into the time TDs got to put their questions to the Taoiseach on promised legislation.

The Electoral Reform Bill 2022 will be the main piece of legislation debated today. Among its many proposals are a long-awaited Electoral Commission and a new Register of Political Parties.

Sinn Féin has a private members motion on childcare fees. It looks like it has nipped in there to steal the thunder of the Labour Party. Ivana Bacik went big on this issue in the first few days of her leadership.

Seanad Éireann will hear statements on the Carbon Budgets as well as on the tourism industry.

At Committee, the Mental Health Amendment Bill is undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny by a sub-committee on health.

The Environmental and Climate Change Committee will hear from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland on how it plans to implement the ambitious national retrofitting plan for 500,000 homes. So far only two companies have been registered as full one-stop shops providing all the services required.

There will be an interesting session in Foreign Affairs where former TD and minister Alan Shatter will be one of a number of invitees who will be defending the Israeli state and its actions. The committee is continuing its consideration of an Amnesty International Report which contends that Israel practises apartheid against Palestinians.