War in Ukraine: a moment of moral choice

Now is the time for peace negotiations

Sir, – I was disappointed and dismayed that your editorial “The Irish Times view on the war in Ukraine: escalating to stand still” (July 20th), commenting on the war in Ukraine, did not encourage any ceasefire negotiations that might lead towards a peace settlement between the Russians, the Ukrainian forces and the separatists.

Until the world persuades President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations, the long haul of terrible war will go on. How can there be any winner?

The Ukrainian people have suffered tens of thousands of casualties and are now losing up to a thousand soldiers a day, killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Your editorial states that in the war it is estimated that 25,000 to 27,000 Russians have been killed in the fighting.

For people grieved by the suffering and longing to hear some mention of peace or negotiation it was so welcome to read the deeply concerned and thought-out article by the historian Geoffrey Roberts, emeritus professor of history at UCC, saying that now is the time for peace negotiation (“Ukraine must grasp peace from jaws of unwinnable war”, Opinion & Analysis, July 13th).

This is surely a moment of moral choice. Concerned people of the world anxious to live together in peace and sustainability must demand that this war be brought to an end so that lives are saved, and there is a lessening of the suffering, and the reconstruction of lives and livelihoods can begin.

Or the choice is to let the conflict go on, and the killing go on, with thousands more soldiers, young men and men in their prime, dying on the front line, and civilians including children threatened with death, fear and destruction of their homes, schools, hospitals and basic services.

Continuing the war of course makes the climate change crisis worse which is resulting in millions of people in Africa, and elsewhere, being put in further danger of starvation, and the endangering of the food security of so many in different parts of the world.

In our own conflicts, whose centenaries we have been commemorating, each time the fighting was ended by a ceasefire being called, followed by negotiation. This was so in the 1916 Rising, in the War of Independence, and in our tragic Civil War.

In 1916, in the first World War, the great German composer Gustav Holst collaborated with the English poet Clifford Bax to create the great anti-war peace anthem “Turn back o man, and quit thy foolish ways’'.

Their words speak to us across the century and surely are now even more relevant.

“Turn Back O Man, and quit thy foolish ways.

Old now is earth, and none may count her days,

Yet thou, its child, whose head is crowned with flame

Still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim,

Turn back, O Man, and quit thy foolish ways.

Earth might be fair, and people glad and wise.

Age after age their tragic empires rise,

Built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep.

Would they but wake from out their haunted sleep,

Earth could be fair, and people glad and wise.

Earth shall be fair, and all its people one,

Nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done!

Now, even now, once more from earth to sky

Peals forth in joy the old, undaunted cry,

Earth shall be fair, and all its people one.” – Yours, etc,

SABINA COYNE HIGGINS,

Dublin 8.