Sunday 25 September 2016

Nuclear threat still haunts us despite the horrors of Chernobyl

Published 25/04/2016 | 02:30

'Just over the Irish Sea, only a seagull's commuter flight from our east coast, nuclear power is seen by some as an accident waiting to happen' Stock photo: Depositphotos
'Just over the Irish Sea, only a seagull's commuter flight from our east coast, nuclear power is seen by some as an accident waiting to happen' Stock photo: Depositphotos

Thirty years ago, the errors led to carnage. And 30 years on, the suffering still goes on. Chernobyl went on fire and the world wept but our leaders are still building nuclear power stations.

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Just over the Irish Sea, only a seagull's commuter flight from our east coast, nuclear power is seen by some as an accident waiting to happen.

As many see it, radiation pays no respect to the borders between nations. And we all put up with the clear and present danger to the health of our people and the fellow citizens of the planet.

They will tell you that it's safe. Safe? Of course it's safe. Isn't that what they said in Chernobyl 30 years ago almost to the day? That was on the day before doomsday.

Disasters are usually the result of not one mistake but a collection of smaller errors, each of which is not fatal in itself but when compounded as part of chain of unlikely events, then there's no planning that can foresee such a catalogue of catastrophe. The film director Mel Brooks had it all figured out when he said: "As long as the world keeps on spinning, people will fall off."

We all make mistakes but some mistakes are bigger than others. The history of all of us going back forever is full of errors. Would Hitler have taken over Great Britain if he stayed away from Russia in bad weather? Funny how the very mention of Hitler got me onto day-dreaming of Donald Trump.

It turned into this terrible nightmare where Don woke up as his alarm went off and as he reached out to turn it off, he accidentally hit the nuclear missile button, which he had inadvertently left open for use on the bedside locker.

In a world in which we all make mistakes, the benefits of cheap power are obvious, but one must also think of the potential cost. You have to factor in terrorism, insanity and natural disasters, as well as incompetence.

We need to protest, and not just at EU meetings between the relevant ministers. Why should we who have never embraced nuclear power suffer as a result of the actions of neighbouring states?

The protest movement won in Carnsore Point back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was largely a young people's movement with a touch of Woodstock about it all. Christy Moore made a ballad and there was long hair, beads and flowing dresses. And they won. But we still have nuclear stations just a few kilometres away from Carnsore.

We march nowadays over water charges and, whatever your opinion might be, there are surely greater and more pressing causes, such as the end of nuclear power. We need to revive the spirit of Carnsore. I would be in favour of doing away with water charges if it leads to us taking on issues for the greater good that aren't primarily about the loss of personal revenue.

The response here to Chernobyl was humanitarian-based. There's this huge contradiction in us as a people. We can vote selfishly for whoever promises us the most money, but then we will give our last cent to a good cause.

There are many tales of individual heroism. I know of a woman who was looking after kids while the parents were working and she sewed every penny she earned into the dresses of the Chernobyl kids she took in every summer. Thanks to Adi Roche, who protested at Carnsore, the Chernobyl kids were taken out of the fall-out zone every summer. They became known as the Chernobyls, with Irish mothers treating the kids as their own.

Fiona Corcoran works with the Greater Chernobyl Cause. The nuclear poison was spread over a vast area after the accident, and Fiona looks after the forgotten and the far away. Fiona was so moved by the death of a Chernobyl child in Cork, she dedicated the rest of her life to helping the people of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The kid who died in Cork didn't die easy.

The pictures of children with swollen heads as a result of the fall-out from the hundreds of nuclear tests carried out in Kazakhstan would break your heart.

Fiona and her team set up an orphanage, did countless good deeds and recently opened a hospice and respite home for the aged. Her story is hardly known, yet she has been decorated by all three governments for her work.

The Moyvane branch of the Irish Countrywomen's Association (ICA) knitted hundreds of blankets for Fiona's loved ones in Kazakhstan. The blankets are works of art in themselves. Multi-coloured and bright as a sunny day they are, and soft and downy as a mother's gentle touch. The blankets took months to knit. Labours of love every one.

Naturally enough, because it was the ICA, we had tea, scones and the finest crispy-crust apple pie I have ever eaten. The ladies who knit are full of compassion and there were long sighs when Fiona told us her stories of the dispossessed, the maimed and the depressed.

By the time you read this, the blankets will be wrapped around the old people in a place called Semey in deepest Kazakhstan. You can imagine the brightening the blankets will bring into the often grey lives of the sufferers from man's carelessness and stubbornness, all those years ago.

And every day, innocent children are born with terrible afflictions from the safe nuclear power station of Chernobyl.

Donations can be made to Greater Chernobyl Cause via greaterchernobylcause.ie.

Irish Independent

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