Wednesday 26 September 2018

'I'm an ordinary citizen and I just want to be a voice for the voiceless'

Adi Roche
Adi Roche

Supporting the young victims of Chernobyl has become a life's work for Adi Roche.

The Cork woman established Chernobyl Children International (CCI) in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster 30 years ago.

To date, it has raised more than €100m for cardiac programmes, day care centres and other services for children in Ukraine and Belarus and brought 25,000 children to Ireland for rest and recuperation.

"Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and say, 'It's definitely 30 years'. When I look back, it sort of went by in the blink of an eye," Ms Roche told the Herald.


"While the impression is that it is a past event which happened a long time ago and probably poses no threat now, the reality is very different.

"The word 'Chernobyl', which wasn't known to anybody before 1986, is a word which has now come into our language.

"Only 3pc radiation was expelled into the atmosphere at the time, leaving behind 97pc which is still there.

"One of the issues that makes Chernobyl relevant today is exactly that point - how can we contain that 97pc of radioactivity that is there and how can we make the site safe for generations?"

To mark the 30th anniver- sary, Ms Roche has been invited to speak at the United Nations tomorrow, when she will call for speedy measures to make the area safe for generations to come.

She is also going to request that April 26 be named UN Chernobyl Day.

"People realise with Chernobyl that it's a different type of tragedy. It's different because it has this very long, deadly legacy that shadows into future generations because of the genetic issues.

"What we're doing for the 30th anniversary is saying Chernobyl is, sadly, for ever."

Ms Roche said Ireland has been a torch-bearer in offering support and aid to those affected by the disaster.

"The people of Ireland have opened their hearts, their homes, their purse strings," she said.

"There's not a crossroads, a town, a city in Ireland that isn't doing something to commemorate the 30th anniversary or to prepare for groups of children coming in the summer.

"I just think that is extraordinary despite our economic climate, despite the fact that we actually don't have a sitting government, that people still get on with the work in hand.

"The fact that I've been invited to speak at the highest platform of the world is recognition of Ireland's role in this issue."

She also commended her 'twin', Ali Hewson, who is a board member of the charity. Together they worked on the Oscar-winning documentary Black Wind, White Land: Living With Chernobyl in 1993.

"Ali has been a stalwart all these years," said Ms Roche, who remains humble about her own work.

"I am an ordinary citizen and I want to be able to be that voice for the voiceless. I carry a heavy load going to the UN because it's a huge, enormous task to actually be able to encapsulate in one single speech all of the anguish and the suffering many of these people feel."

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