Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sinn Fein put on defensive over refusal to censure Putin

Party accused of being part of 'pro-Russia alliance' after snubbing war crimes motion

Russian President Vladimir Putin Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Sinn Fein has come under fire for refusing to sign a Dail motion condemning Russia's involvement in the Syrian conflict which has cost thousands of innocent civilians' lives.

Sinn Fein last week declined to sign the motion tabled by Fianna Fail which stated that Russia may have committed war crimes in Syria after a wave of bomb attacks on hospitals in the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

The Fianna Fail motion said the actions of the Syrian government and the Russian military showed "complete disregard for the most fundamental principles of international human rights law".

It called on the Government to condemn the "deliberate attacks on essential services such as hospitals and the attacks that have killed or injured people providing humanitarian assistance".

However, Sinn Fein, along with the Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit- (AAA-PBP), decided against signing the proposal.

Fianna Fail's foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien, who submitted the motion, said there was "something strange" about Sinn Fein's stance on Vladimir Putin's Russia.

"It seems quite curious to me that Sinn Fein time and time again find it impossible for some reason to make any type of criticism of Russia," Mr O'Brien said.

"If you look at the type of bombardment that is going on in Aleppo it is mainly perpetrated by the Russian air force."

Mr O'Brien said he believed Sinn Fein would not sign the motion because it "singles out" Russia.

The Labour Party did sign the motion as did Independent TDs Stephen Donnelly, Tommy Broughan and Mattie McGrath.

Sinn Fein's foreign affairs spokesman Sean Crowe said his party did not support the Fianna Fail motion because it was not consulted before it was submitted.

Mr Crowe also said Sinn Fein had a number of concerns with the motion including its failure to condemn jihadi terror group Isil or Turkey's involvement in the war.

"The motion only specifically says that the Syrian government and Russian military are disregarding international human rights law," Mr Crowe said.

"The UN has said all parties are disregarding the norms of international law. We would have wanted that reflected."

Speaking in the Dail last week, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin accused Sinn Fein of being part of a "pro-Russia alliance" in the Dail.

"We saw the same thing when Russia invaded, partitioned and started a war in a neighbouring country because people in that country wanted to get away from Russian dominance," Mr Martin said.

"In this House deputies trotted out the most sinister disinformation and moral relativism. In Europe, Sinn Fein even refused to condemn the partition of a sovereign country and repression against a national minority."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said his party had "consistently condemned imperialism from all quarters, including Russian imperialism".

"Interference by any state in the affairs of any other state, including the awful military assaults going on at this time, are to be condemned, and are by our party," he said.

On Thursday, the Dail debate on the conflict in Syria descended into a political row between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.

Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin, who has called for the Russian Ambassador to Ireland to be expelled for his country's role in the conflict, said he was disappointed the debate had degenerated into "political point scoring".

"There are serious issues at stake here and the debate seemed to be more about the two parties attacking each other," he said.

Sunday Independent

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