Achill Island man killed battling Russian forces in eastern Ukraine

Finbar Cafferkey (40s) was military volunteer with previous combat experience in Syria

An Irishman has been killed while battling Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Finbar Cafferkey (40s), a native of Achill Island, Co Mayo, was a military volunteer and had recently travelled to Ukraine to assist local forces.

Mr Cafferkey had previous combat experience in Syria where he assisted Kurdish militia in their battle against Islamic State.

Reports of Mr Cafferkey’s death were confirmed by his father, Tom, at the family home in Cashel, Achill, on Thursday afternoon. Mr Cafferkey declined to elaborate on the circumstances of his son’s death.


“We are grieving ... it’s a private matter. I don’t want to say anything further,” he said.

It is understood the family will be issuing a statement later on Mr Cafferkey’s death.

Locals on Achill Island said that reports began to emerge on Wednesday that he had been killed and spoke of Mr Cafferkey’s commitment to humanitarian and environmental causes.

“Now that his death has been confirmed we are absolutely devastated,” one person said.

He took part in the Shell to Sea protests against the Corrib Gas project and, in later years, worked in Copenhagen on a construction project.

“Finbar was a man of principle,” one islander said. “I know that about eight years ago he worked on the border between Greece and Macedonia assisting [refugees] coming off dinghies.

“It came as a bit of a surprise when we learned from newspaper reports that he had been fighting in Syria. Nobody around here, except perhaps his family, knew he was in Ukraine.

“I know that relatives have been concerned for his safety over the years. His family have been particularly worried.”

The dead man’s parents, Tom and Celine, are being comforted by close relatives and neighbours. Tom is a former publican, who now works as an auctioneer.

Campaigners who opposed the Corrib Gas terminal and pipeline expressed their condolences to the Cafferkey family and the local Achill community on their sad loss on Thursday evening.

“It’s really sad news,” said Pat O’Donnell, a prominent member of the Shell to Sea campaign.

Mr O’Donnell recalled Mr Cafferkey as “a good guy, good craic”.

He added: “Finbar regularly attended our protests. I remember he was a good singer. He composed a mighty song, ‘The Lovely Glengad Strand’ which he sang at a protest rally outside Castlerea Prison while I was locked up there.”

Meanwhile, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe has voted that the forced detention and deportation of children from Russian occupied territories of Ukraine is “genocide”, at a session on Thursday.

A resolution on “deportations and forcible transfers of Ukrainian children and other civilians to Russian Federation or to Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied: create conditions for their safe return, stop these crimes and punish the perpetrators” passed with 87 votes in favour, meaning an overwhelming majority. One representative voted against and another abstained.

In its resolution, the assembly called for “immediate and urgent action to be taken to halt the practices of unlawful forcible transfer and deportation currently being carried out by the Russian Federation against the Ukrainian population, and especially its policy and practices relating to the removal of children from their families and homes and their subsequent absorption into Russian citizenship, identity and culture.” It added:

“The assembly highlights the need for the recording and monitoring of individual cases, both in order to permit mechanisms for rapid redress, and to collect evidence of accountability in order to bring the perpetrators, at all levels of responsibility, to justice.” The assembly called for the practice to stop “immediately and unconditionally”. It also demanded Russia give access to NGOs and charities, as well as information about where the children now are.

The international criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin in March in relation to the “unlawful deportation” of minors.

The resolution claims that Russia began moving children from the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk before its invasion on February 24th last year. In a report earlier this month, the Ukrainian government said it had collected reports of more than 19,000 children who had been deported.