Dail Statements on 22nd anniversary of Srebrenica

Issued 11 July 2017

Ceann Comhairle,

I welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Labour Party.

These statements are in keeping with the European Parliament resolution of 2009.

That resolution called on the Council and the Commission to commemorate the anniversary of the genocide, and to support the recognition of 11 July across the European Union as a day of commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre.

Two years ago, the Labour Party spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Senator Ivana Bacik organised a commemoration in Leinster House with representatives of the Bosnian Irish community.

I am glad that the Ceann Comhairle has built on that tradition, and has committed to ensuring we do not forget the horror that was visited on the people of Srebrenica not so long ago.

It is at the heart of our shared humanity that we do not forget such atrocities;

That in honour of those who didn’t survive, we remember what was done to them.

Over 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were brutally killed when the UN ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica fell to Serbian forces, led by Ratko Mladić, on 11th July 1995.

This massacre has been recognised as genocide by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

It is the worst single atrocity to have been perpetrated on European soil since the Second World War.

As the horrific events of World War Two fade out of living memory, it is even more important that we pause to remember that genocide has happened in Europe within our lifetime.

As we in Ireland know all too well, peace is a fragile construct.

It must be carefully tended, and never neglected.

We see war continuing not far from our European borders.

In Syria and Ukraine, we see the human cost.

I know the Bosnian community in Ireland has been active for many years in commemorating Srebrenica.

And their actions are more than acts of commemoration.

They still seek justice for the victims of this genocide, and of other atrocities which occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s.

It is fitting that they have received cross-party political support in Ireland

The theme of the Srebrenica commemorations in 2017 is 'gender and genocide'.

It gives us an opportunity to recognise the courage and strength of Bosnian women, who have been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that the world remembers Srebrenica.

In Ireland, Bosnian women have played a key role in raising awareness about Bosnia-Herzegovina, through organising memorial events, informing Irish people about their country, and fostering intercultural understanding.

Just over 20 years ago, Ireland established a resettlement programme in response to the war in Bosnia.

More than 1,000 Bosnians arrived at our shores and our doors as a result.

They came after experiencing appalling horrors.

Many of the victims of ethnic cleansing efforts, including at Srebrenica.

As we commemorate the genocide that took place in Srebrenica, we remember all the loved ones of members of the Bosnian community in Ireland who were killed.

We must remember, but it is hard for those of us in this chamber to begin to imagine the lived experience of those who survived the conflict.

But survive many of them did. And they overcame the trauma somehow, and successfully integrated into Irish society.

They serve as an inspiration to us all – particularly as we once again seek to open our shores and doors to those fleeing newer conflicts.