Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has opposed the Government’s motion on the Ukraine in the Dáil today.
Below is the text of Deputy Crowe’s speech;
“I feel it is important that we all stand united with the Ukrainian people at this very worrying and difficult time.
“The Ukrainian people have suffered under corrupt and ineffective governments for too long.
The result has been a deterioration in socio-economic conditions and the effective bankruptcy of the state.
“In my opinion the recent problems in Ukraine stem from the EU/US and Russia playing a zero-sum geo-political game with Ukraine.
“Ukraine basically got offered to throw all its eggs in the EU basket, on the off chance, that down the line, they might possibly, in a few years, get EU membership.
“Or to throw all its eggs in Russia’s basket and continue to be under its thumb while surrounded by countries who have went the EU route.
“Meanwhile the while the country was completely bankrupt, socio-economically regressing and rife with corruption.
“Rather than trying to railroad the Ukraine down one particular political route, the EU and Russia should have been working together to create mutually beneficial and non-exclusive economic, political and social relationships with Ukraine. This is what would have been of real and genuine benefit to ordinary Ukrainians.
“There is an urgent need for restraint from all sides within Ukraine and from foreign powers, at this crucial time.
“We have not seen that from the EU, from the United States or from Russia.
“The interim government in Kiev has very little legitimacy. The country continues to be divided and attempts the EU, the United States and Russia to increase their influence is merely exacerbating tensions and making the problems worse.
“I am under no illusion of Russia’s self-interest in this region and its reasons for its recent behaviour. But the EU’s actions have been just as disastrous for the Ukrainian people.
“The EU has ploughed ahead with its Association Agreement with Ukraine, one of the causes of the escalation in the first place.
“Surely the EU should not be forcing through such an important document with an interim government which was not democratically elected?
“It is basically locking into a strait jacket future elected Government into the EU’s political and economic structures. That is completely unacceptable.
“In fact it is suggested that one of the first effects of this Agreement will see a 50% increase in domestic gas prices on the 1 May. The EU and IMF are demanding this in order to provide financial support to Ukraine.
“Before this, domestic gas prices were heavily subsidised by the Ukrainian Government, which literally ensured people did not starve or freeze to death during the winter.
“Yet the IMF, in its wisdom, believes that in order to give an aid package to Kiev it must cut this subsidy!
“Threats of other enormous spending cuts, while so many people are already in poverty and lack future prospects, are enormously unpopular throughout Ukraine, but especially in the East.
“So far these neo-liberal, austerity measures have been spectacularly unsuccessful elsewhere in Europe, including in Ireland. They have increased unemployment, emigration, the sell-off of State assets, and the destruction of social services and social protection schemes.
It will be the same in Ukraine.
“Sinn Féin tried our best to get all party support for a motion on the current situation in Ukraine and Crimea and to send a joint message of support to the ordinary people of this region.
“While we put forward some amendments to the Governments motion and were willing to compromise on others, we cannot support the motion as it stand.
“In particular, the inclusion of a line welcoming the signing of the Association Agreement, is completely unacceptable to us.
“The agenda of those unelected EU bureaucrats, wedded to neo-liberal policies and seeking to extend their influence eastwards, spreading a destructive austerity is not something we welcome.
“Another major issue of concern is the make-up of the interim government in Kiev.
Three members of the current interim government are from the far-right, neo-Nazi Svoboda party, including the Deputy Prime Minister, the Environment Minister and the Agriculture Minister, and up until his resignation last week, the Defence Minister was also from Svoboda.
“We feel that the inclusion of these far-right neo-Nazi anti-semitic politicians as Ministers in the Government, coupled with the attempts of the Government seeking to impose controversial laws, removing Russian as an official language, sends an extremely worrying signal to linguistic, religious and ethnic minorities in Ukraine.
“That the EU sees this Government as natural allies and has not spoken out against the inclusion of neo-Nazis in an unelected interim Government is extremely disappointing.
“The new opposition-led coalition has so far failed to persuade right-wing militia groups to disarm.
“Is it any wonder that minorities are living in real insecurity?
“The referendum which took place in Crimea on 16 March is another factor in this escalating crisis.
“The referendum was held under the worst possible conditions - the poor security situation, the tense atmosphere, the international pressure, the short run-in, the lack of open and democratic debate, press restrictions and the lack of dialogue preceding the referendum.
“The referendum was not in line with good democratic practice.
“I am not opposed to referendums to decide self-determination, but they must be in-line with good democratic practice.
“It is clear that there is a great deal of support in Crimea for separating from Ukraine and joining Russia.
“However, there should first be dialogue and negotiation within Ukraine, free from outside interference, with a view to finding an overall agreement on the future of Ukraine.
“Sinn Féin condemns the political, economic and military interferences in Ukraine and Crimea by the US, EU and Russia.
“There needs to be open dialogue between all sides in Ukraine, respect for human rights.
“There is a need for foreign powers to end hostilities and rising tensions by stating they will not militarily intervene and will stop meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs.
“Ukrainians are the only people who should ultimately decide their own future and self-determination through democratic means.
“The make-up of the interim Government is extremely worrying, due to the inclusion of extreme right-wing neo-Nazi’s, in key ministerial positions.
“We reject the signing of the Association Agreement with this interim Government, which is unelected and therefore has no mandate to sign such an agreement.
“The austerity measures that the EU are imposing as a condition for providing aid will slash pensions and public services, and will increase unemployment and further impoverish the people.
“All efforts need to be placed into de-escalating the crisis and allowing the people of Ukraine to discuss and seek agreement on its future.
“The more Ukraine improves it socio-economic development, the less likely it will be that the country can be used as a geo-political football, like it has been for so long.
“This should be the focus of all efforts and support.”