Protest over Aleppo bombings held at Dublin’s Russian Embassy
Minister rules out expulsion of Russian ambassador to Ireland as a response to atrocities
Protesters outside the Russian Embassy in Dublin against the killing of civilians in Aleppo. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Hours after the UN special envoy for Syria warned eastern Aleppo could be destroyed by Christmas, more than 40 people stood outside the Russian Embassy in Dublin, demanding the country end its support of the city’s bombing.
With life in Ireland so far removed from the Syrian city, people cannot emotionally connect to the situation and therefore do not take action, said Lukasz Pasich.
“I would love the street to be full of people... We are not loud enough,” said Mr Pasich, who was moved to act by recent pictures of Omran Daqneesh, a child pulled from rubble after an air strike in Aleppo.
Many cars that drove by the group did make noise, honking their horns, cheering from their windows and giving protesters - holdings signs reading “Stop the bombs” and “Save Aleppo” - the thumbs up.
Although turnout was double that of an August 27th protest, demonstrators said they were disappointed larger organisations like Amnesty Ireland were not joining them on the streets.
Protest organiser Michael Lenehan and veteran activist Brendan Butler acknowledged that Amnesty globally had taken a strong stance against the violence in Syria but they said they expected more support from the group’s Irish branch.
“It’s depressing really, in that sense that I would expect an anti-war group, a human rights group, would come on board on such an important issue,” Mr Butler said.
“Groups like that should be the leader in a movement like this, in exposing this, calling them to account. In actual fact, it’s turning out to be the opposite: people like myself are turning out to organise.”
Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty Ireland’s executive director, said he was saddened to hear the protesters’ discontent.
While Mr Lenehan said the Irish Syria Solidarity Movement had advised Amnesty Ireland about the Thursday demonstration, the human rights advocacy group said its records did not show direct communication about the protest.
“Obviously we support it, without doubt,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Just because we’re not able to attend this evening, doesn’t mean we’re not supportive. We absolutely are.”
Mr O’Gorman said purely practical reasons kept Amnesty representatives from the demonstration, including a bi-monthly board meeting.
“I would see us being part of organising future protests,” he said.
On Monday, the US abandoned talks with Russia over the failed ceasefire in Syria, ending prospects for a political settlement anytime soon.
Mr Lenehan said the view that the Irish protests were automatically pro-American because of anti-Russian sentiment would be misguided.
“We’re humanitarians,” he said. “We couldn’t care less whether it’s Russia or the US, this just needs to be addressed.”
As the demonstration took place, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil he was ruling out the expulsion of the Russian ambassador to Ireland as a response to the war in Syria.
Mr Flanagan said “our foreign policy has always been based above all on the resolution of conflict by dialogue”.
He expressed his horror and revulsion at events in Aleppo and said that reports of families sleeping together so that they could survive or die together in a bombing were beyond imagining.
But the Minister told the Dáil that “in diplomatic language expelling an ambassador or calling for his removal means that we are no longer interested, at least for the moment, in dialogue”.
“The corollary would be to see the expulsion of our ambassador from Russia, which would diminish our presence in that vast country.”
Confirming the government would donate €1.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, Mr Flanagan also announced €1 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency to assist Palestinian refugees affected by the Syria crisis.
The State has already given €5 million to the Turkey refugee facility and its total contribution since 2012 has risen to €67 million.
Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin, who raised the issue in the Dáil said Russia seemed to have contributed to “some horrific instances and possible war crimes”.
He expressed his horror at the huge number of children in particular who had been killed and maimed in the conflict and pointed to the 250,000 people trapped in Aleppo. “The world cannot simply ignore the plight of these people.”
The Kerry TD said “this conflict probably rivals anything in the history of human conflict in its viciousness and the extraordinary losses incurred by civilian populations”.
Mr Griffin said “in future we need to consider the possible expulsion of diplomats from countries involved in such atrocities to send a signal to the world of our protestations”.
Mr Flanagan had a lengthy discussion on Thursday with EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides about the EU’s extensive provision of relief to the Syrian population.
He said “on behalf of the Irish people I urge Russia to use all its influence in Syria to end these inhumane actions against a defenceless civilian population”.