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Chairman of Ukrainian Parliament tells speakers Europe 'woke to its mistake' when the war began

LAST UPDATE | 3 minutes ago

THE CHAIRMAN OF the Ukrainian Parliament, Rusian Stefachuk, told European parliamentary presidents that while Ukraine woke to bombs, Europe woke to its mistake at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament in Dublin today.

Over 60 speakers or deputy speakers are present at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament, hosted by the Oireachtas in Dublin this year, as well as around 400 delegates from around the continent and further.

Speaking in Ukrainian directly after the agenda of the conference was adopted, Stefanchuk thanked the Council of Europe for their invitation and Ireland for its “traditional hospitality”.

The chairman, dressed in black military attire, reiterated Kox’s point by saying the War in Ukraine was a war that should never have started. 

Ruslan Stefanchuk 12 Sam Boal / Rolling News Stefanchuk opened the conference's first discussion topic today in Dublin. Sam Boal / Rolling News / Rolling News

Stefanchuk said when Ukraine woke to bombs, Europe woke to its mistake.

The Rada’s speaker said the war has left deep scars on not only the land, but the hearts of the people of Ukraine and that the aggression from Russia will leave deep seeded consequences on the psyche of the Ukrainian youth.

This year’s conference focuses on three themes, with keynote addresses from national speakers. The topics include; The war in Ukraine, Democracy in Volatile times and equality and diversity in public representation.

Stefachuk and speaker of the House Of Commons in the United Kingdom, Linsday Hoyle will discuss the rebuilding of Ukraine, and the consequences of the war at the Convention Centre in Dublin today.

At the event, where Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) are due meet tomorrow morning, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó’Fearghaíl also addressed the parliamentary speakers.

Ó’Fearghaíl said the war in Ukraine represents a “failure of democracy” at the opening address to the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament in Dublin today.

Ó’Fearghraíl said: “How can we as members states and partners of the Council of Europe, who committed to upholding and protecting democracy, meet this challenge? This is the first theme of our conference.”

53219529743_14f37ba549_k Maxwell Photography Seán Ó'Fearghraíl opened the conference today and welcomed speakers from over 60 countries. Maxwell Photography

The Ceann Comhairle said he hopes the conference can help promote “the action that is needed”, within the Council of Europe and international parliaments to put an end to the war.

PACE President Tiny Kox said: “While we are gathered here at the beating heart of Dublin, war is raging in Ukraine on the other side of our continent.

There are millions of citizens had to leave their homes and even the country due to a brutal war of aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

“This war your colleagues should never have started. That has to end as soon as possible, to avoid further tragedy,” he added.

The PACE President said that the parliamentary presidents must never get used to war, then called for a minute’s silence to remember those who have lost their lives so far.

MINUTE SILENCE Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal Parliamentary presidents stand for a minute's silence to commemorate the lives lost during the war in Ukraine. Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal / The Journal

Opening the conference secretary general of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, said that the Russia’s abandonment of the common values the member states share has had devastating consequences.

“Following the events of February last year, our Committee of Ministers was swift to exclude Russia from our organization[...] that was the right thing to do,” Pejčinović Burić said. 

Since then, we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine.”

“So far, this has included providing expertise to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, as the investigations are carried out into serious human rights violations,” she added.

Addressing the conference in French, Pejčinović Burić said Russia’s aggression poses a challenge to representative democracy.

Democracy and hate speech

The Ceann Comhairle said: “The ongoing war in Ukraine is symptomatic of wider challenges facing Europe and indeed the world.”

“The stability of our democratic systems is not guaranteed, and recent global trends highlight the dangers of complacency trends such as democratic backsliding, increasing polarization and declining public face in the value of democracy,” he added.

53218340642_7cfc9abee6_k Maxwell Photography Seán Ó'Fearghraíl addressing the conference today in Dublin. Maxwell Photography

A pre-conference event, held earlier, discussed hate speech and threats of violence against elected officials with ex-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who was tasked with chairing a task force on protecting politicians from such abuse this year.

The forum discussed how the issue of hate speech and abuse against elected officials is a shared issue for most European nations and discussed methods, such as policy change and police monitoring units, to try tackle it.

Ó’Fearghraíl detailed that the threats to democracy are taking place in spaces for public discourse that are “unrestrained, unregulated, and unable to guarantee fundamental standards for democratic debate”.

Standards such as a respect for human rights and freedoms, pluralism, and above all, power.”

Pejčinović Burić said that Russia’s war in Ukraine has brought extreme nationalism which has led to the return of far-right groups, targeting minorities and feeding a discourse of hatred.

Last week, a number of anti-immigration, politically-fringe protest groups demonstrated outside the Dáil where a number of attacks took place direct against politicians and their staff.

protests dail eireann 11 RollingNews Protests outside the Dáil last week. RollingNews

Thirteen protesters were arrested and have since been charged for public order offences. Gardaí investigating the groups are using social media to determine if the group’s goal was to incite hatred, the Sunday Independent reported last week.

A number of attempts to try and regulate social media have been made by the European Union, most recently in the Digital Services Act which enforces stricter moderation of social media platforms.

“It is internationally recognized that a society is better served when there is a diverse political representation,” Ó’Fearghraíl said.

Achieving greater diversity is a long term process and requires commitment from multiple stakeholders, including government, political parties, civil society, and the general public,”

“But colleagues, and speakers, and presidents of Parliament, we must certainly have a role to play in fostering a culture of equality and diversity in public representation,” he added.

Pejčinović Burić said the international parliaments must continue to provide legislation that does not deter younger generations from entering politics and promotes gender and ethnic equality.

The event will continue throughout the day and plans to welcome parliamentary speakers and presidents who represent almost 700 million people, or 10% of the population.