President Michael D. Higgins commemorates 35th Anniversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

President Michael D. Higgins commemorates 35th Anniversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has commemorated the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

He was joined by his wife Sabina for a special candle lighting ceremony held to mark a disaster unlike any ever witnessed in human society.

The event was organised by Chernobyl Children International as a way of remembering those who gave their lives trying to stop the spread of radiation from the Ukrainian power plant where two major explosions left the reactor core exposed on April 26th, 1986.

Ireland has played an important role in helping alleviate some of the pain and suffering experience by those caught up in the accident.

More than 25,000 children from the wider Chernobyl area have visited Ireland since that fateful day to rest and recuperate away from the epicentre of the disaster.

These visits have come as part of the work of Chernobyl Children International which has delivered more than €107million in aid to the region since 1986.

That funding has helped more than 4,000 people in the region benefit from life-saving cardiac surgery.

Eager to ensure the events that took place in Ukraine are never forgotten, President Higgins was the first Head of State in the world to back United Nations plans for a 'Chernobyl Remembrance Day'.

“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,” Higgins said.

“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.”