DUBLIN — The Irish president’s wife is facing accusations of pro-Kremlin bias and promoting a false sense of moral equivalence after calling on Ukraine “to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations” with Russia.
Sabina Higgins’ intervention first flew under the radar when she appeared on the Irish Times Letters page this week using only her name and Dublin postcode – not the fact that she plays a leading role as a representative of Ireland.
The nation once noticed the man from Moscow in Dublin, Ambassador Yuri Filatovsaid his letter “made sense” and aligned with Russian goals.
Filatov said Higgins “suggests that everything be done to end hostilities as quickly as possible” and mirrors Moscow’s assertion to counter “a US-NATO proxy war.”
“She is against the war. We are all against war,” Filatov told the Irish Times.
Although Higgins did not directly endorse Moscow’s view of events, she placed equal responsibility for ending the war on the shoulders of Russian and Ukrainian presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. She also welcomed a University College Cork historian’s assessment that NATO is “pouring arms into a losing battle” and that Ukraine should agree to cede territory seized by Russia.
“There will be no peace, or even a ceasefire, if Ukraine does not agree to demilitarize and give up all ambition to join NATO,” wrote Geoffrey Roberts. Higgins called his views “deeply concerned and thoughtful”.
The government and the office of President Michael D. Higgins declined to comment. Behind the scenes, government officials expressed dismay that the office of the president – a ceremonial head of state meant to avoid divisive political debates – was undermining Ireland’s pro-Ukrainian stance.
Like many with deep roots on the Irish left, the president has traditionally cast a cold eye on capitalism and NATO, and sympathizes with socialist regimes. For example, he praised Fidel Castro after the Cuban dictator’s death in 2016.
Last month, Higgins angered the government by criticizing its failure to address a housing crisis characterized by sky-high prices and rents amid massive investment by foreign property funds.
Government officials said they were alarmed to see Sabina Higgins following her husband’s apparent lead, pushing Irish political traditions further into uncharted partisan territory.
“His letter gives the impression that the Ukrainians are at the gates of Moscow. This is appallingly naive on his own terms and totally inappropriate given his position,” a government official told POLITICO.
But the government can do nothing to limit the Higgins under a 1937 constitution that enshrines presidential independence.
And Higgins, an 81-year-old elf who waxes lyrical about poetry and indigenous culture, enjoys higher public approval than any Cabinet minister.
While Irish politics has been dominated for decades by centre-right parties, Higgins has won elections twice, in 2011 and 2018. His current term runs until 2025.
From the start, his wife enjoyed high profile as the presidential wife, standing in for her husband at events and contributing to presidential podcasts, including his reading of an anti-war poem which also concluded his letter. on Ukraine.
Politicians and commentators shared Sabina Higgins’ view on Ukraine.
“When the Russian ambassador praises your views on the Ukrainian invasion, it’s time to rethink your position,” said John McGahon, a senator from the ruling Fine Gael party.
“Other European governments will notice that the Russian ambassador praised our president’s wife,” said a Dublin lawyer, William Quill.
And Professor of Politics at University College Dublin Ben Tomra saidif the president’s office addresses the controversy, it should avoid expressing “regret” because Sabina Higgins wrote the letter “with deliberate intent.”