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Sabina Higgins issues statement explaining why Ukraine letter was placed on Áras website

The wife of president Michael D Higgins courted controversy after she wrote a letter in the Irish Times calling for ceasefire negotiations.

SABINA HIGGINS HAS said she condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the outset, saying she was “dismayed” that people took issue with her “plea for peace” in a letter to the Irish Times.

The wife of president Michael D Higgins has come under fire in recent days for a letter she wrote to the paper, in which she called for ceasefire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, with a view to restoring peace between the two countries.

In a statement this evening, she said: “For the last 11 years since coming to Áras an Uachtaráin as the wife of the President, I have continued my long standing interests on a number of important issues. Since 2014, I have had a dedicated section on the President.ie website.

“This section contains details of activities I have been undertaking including speeches and work towards the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, health issues, breastfeeding, issues affecting the Traveller Community, human rights, supporting the arts and a range of other issues.

Last week I had been asked about my letter to the Irish Times, which I had written in a personal capacity, by a number of people who had missed it, and had not been able to access it online. I therefore put it on my dedicated section of the website as I have done for the last number of years

The letter was published on Mrs Higgins’s section of the president.ie website – it was not visible on any other part of the website. To view the article, a user had to click on the ‘Sabina Higgins’ link from the main page.

She continued: “Having put my letter up, I subsequently took it down when I saw it being presented as not being from myself, but from the general President.ie website.

“I have from its outset strongly condemned the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine and I cannot be but dismayed that people would find anything unacceptable in a plea for peace and negotiations when the future of humanity is threatened by war, global warming and famine.”

The letter, published on 27 July in response to the paper’s editorial on the war, said: “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 Irish Times editorial “did not encourage any ceasefire negotiations that might lead towards a peace settlement between the Russians, the Ukrainian forces and the separatists”, she wrote.

The letter was met with backlash from critics who suggested it was drawing an equivalence between the actions of Ukraine and Russia.

Those critics included Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik, who described it as “under-informed” in a Newstalk interview on Friday, as well as several backbench TDs and Senators.

On Friday, Fine Gael Senator John McGahon pointed out that the Sabina Higgins’ letter had been published on the official website of The President and said it was inappropriate for the letter to be posted on the presidential website.

It was shortly thereafter deleted from the presidential website.

The president yesterday released a statement through a spokesperson reiterating his own stance on the conflict but he has not responded to criticism of his wife’s letter to The Irish Times or provided an explanation of why it was published on his official website – and then removed.

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