Ireland: An outspoken European supporter of Palestine

Ireland has always been an outspoken European supporter for the Palestinian people and their rights.

The overwhelming chorus of unwavering support Israel receives may seem to come from every Western nation, but Ireland stands out as a champion of Palestinian rights.

The Taoiseach (head of the Government or Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar, described the assault on Palestine as “approaching revenge”.

The foreign minister, Micheál Martin, called it “disproportionate”, while opposition politicians went much further in calling it mass murder.

Some of the representatives even wore the Palestinian keffiyeh in parliament.

Pro-Palestinian commentators 

Pro-Palestinian commentators have hailed the statements as an example to the rest of Europe on how to denounce an offensive that has reportedly killed more than 13,000 Palestinians.

Genocide supporters on the other hand have called Ireland’s responses blinkered and a negation of Israel’s so-called right to defend itself.

Israel’s heritage minister, Amichai Eliyahu, commanded Palestinians to “go to Ireland or the desert”.

The outburst emphasised a perception that Ireland is an outlier in the European Union.

Pro Palestine demonstrations 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations broke throughout Ireland, and some parties have attempted, but failed, to force the government to expel Israel’s ambassador, Dana Erlich, and to refer the country to the International Criminal Court.

Moreover, a letter signed by over 600 academics urged universities to cut institutional ties with Israeli institutions.

“Irish people are passionate about Palestine, they really understand what’s happening,” Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, the Palestinian ambassador to Ireland, said in an interview at her mission’s office in Dublin. “I’m privileged to be here.”

She praised the government’s campaign for a ceasefire and said she had been honoured by a rapturous ovation at a Sinn Féin party conference, where delegates chanted “free Palestine”.

She added that the Palestinians do feel the support of Ireland.

Sympathy for Palestinians is deep-rooted in Ireland’s history, said Niall Holohan, a retired diplomat who was based in Ramallah from 2002 to 2006 as the Irish government’s representative to the Palestinian Authority.

“We feel we have been victimised over the centuries. It’s part of our psyche – underneath it all we side with the underdog.” he added.

Jane Ohlmeyer, a Trinity College Dublin history professor and the author of Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World, said Ireland had been Britain’s oldest colony and an outline for Palestine.

“This has undoubtedly shaped how people from Ireland engage with postcolonial conflicts.” she added.

The European Union’s position 

Ireland was the first EU state to endorse Palestinian statehood – in 1980 – and the first to publicly criticise the Hungarian commissioner, Olivér Várhelyi, after he individually announced on social media that all funding for Palestinians would be suspended.

Varadkar also accused Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission chief, of “lacking balance”.

Ireland got public support from Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s outgoing foreign minister.

He told reporters this week that for the past decade EU member states “didn’t give a fuck” about Palestinian statehood – with two exceptions.

“There were two countries here that tried to put it on the agenda, me and the Irish.” he added.

Ireland strives to push the EU towards “a more just” position but avoids solo runs, said Holohan.

He also noted that France and other members had echoed its call for a ceasefire.

“We want to remain within the European consensus.” he said.

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