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Statement by President Michael D. Higgins on the 35th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

Date: Sun 25th Apr, 2021 | 17:00

"On International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, 26 April, we recall that fateful day in April 1986 when the news of the nuclear disaster unfolding in Chernobyl stunned people around the globe.

The images of the emergency services fighting the fires emanating from the destroyed reactor, and of the casualties who suffered such catastrophic injuries, remain with us all, as a powerful reminder of the perils that can be associated with scientific endeavours and the ever present possibility of human error.

That day in Chernobyl cast a dark shadow which will follow us through human history. The repercussions of this tragedy – the worst nuclear disaster in history, both in terms of both human casualties and wider impact – continue to echo across people’s lives even now, 35 years later, and including so many who were not even born in 1986.

The tragedy of Chernobyl prompted, too, a remarkable spirit of human solidarity, across the world, including here in Ireland. We became one of the first countries to respond to the humanitarian crisis by providing support for, and meeting the needs of, thousands of Chernobyl’s victims. Ours has been and remains a moving connection created by the many Irish families who have opened their doors to children from Chernobyl-affected and disadvantaged areas of Belarus.

Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, I thank all those who have worked, and continue to work so tirelessly, to help the victims of Chernobyl, bringing hope, compassion and empathy as they do to those whose lives have been deeply affected by one of history’s worst tragedies.

On International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, and the 35th Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, let us all commit to ensuring that the tragedy of Chernobyl is never relegated to the realms of forgotten or neglected history, erroneously consigning this event to the past as something which no longer causes any threat. The reality is very different: ‘Chernobyl’ is of the past, and should inform present and future actions and decisions.

In remembering Chernobyl today, we not only remember the victims but express, too, our collective hope for a safer future.

Let us use our recall of the Day to celebrate the human resilience and solidarity, manifested in the aftermath of the disaster as a source for our own resolve in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic."