Ireland’s recognition of Palestine could be ‘catalyst’ for other EU countries

Ireland’s historic recognition of a Palestinian state could be a “catalyst” for other EU nations, the Irish Government said.

Ireland’s ministers met on Tuesday and officially agreed to recognise a Palestinian state, in a joint move with Spain and Norway.

A Palestinian flag was raised at the Irish Parliament building, Leinster House, alongside the EU and Ukrainian flags.

The Palestinian ambassador to Ireland, Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, was seated in the distinguished visitors’ gallery to hear four hours of statements.

Irish premier Simon Harris said the move was “historic and important” and that the EU could be doing “a hell of a lot more” on the Middle East conflict.

Speaking in the Parliament, Mr Harris said that Palestine was “very much something that the (Irish) people have led on”, while Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that he hoped Palestine could “follow a similar path” to Ireland’s pursuit of self-determination.

Irish parliamentarians said it was a “proud day for Ireland” while also calling on the Irish Government to implement sanctions on Israel over the rising numbers of deaths and injuries in Gaza.

The leader of Ireland’s main opposition party, Sinn Fein, said Ireland’s recognition of a Palestinian state had taken “too long”, because there was cross-party support for the decision for 10 years.

“It shouldn’t have taken us this long to get here but of course it is never too late to do the right thing – and this is the right and the just thing,” Mary Lou McDonald said.

“So today we say again to the Palestinian people: ‘You are not alone, Ireland recognises you’.”

During the Dail statements on Palestine, a small group of protesters in the public gallery forced the Parliament to be suspended for several minutes as they chanted “sanctions now”.

Mr Harris told the Parliament earlier that Ireland’s action “will have a positive effect beyond our own recognition”.

“Is it possible that you get to a point during the course of this year where the majority of member states of the European Union now recognise the State of Palestine, where a majority of prime ministers and presidents of the European Council recognise the existence of the State of Palestine?

Israel-Hamas conflict
Ireland has formally recognised a Palestinian state in a joint move with Norway and Spain (Niall Carson/PA)

“What does that do in terms of positive momentum and change in policy and approach?”

Ireland will recognise a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, the culmination of months of diplomatic work that began in December.

The Palestinian Mission in Ireland and Ireland’s Representative Office in Ramallah will be upgraded to embassies, with ambassadors appointed to both.

Mr Harris said that the move “sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country” to put an emphasis on a two-state solution.

“I am conscious though, as we take this historic and important decision today, of the ongoing human catastrophe unfolding in the Middle East, in Gaza, in Rafah. I am conscious of the devastation being caused by people being deprived of food, starvation, and hunger being used as a weapon of war.

“Unfortunately we now have a new despicable and disgusting trend emerging where, every now and again, in particular when absolute horror seems to take place, the Prime Minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) comes out and describes it as a ‘tragic mistake’.

“April’s ‘tragic mistake’ was the bombing to death of aid workers trying to provide food to starving mouths, May’s ‘tragic mistake’, yesterday, was children being blown to death while seeking protection in a displaced centre.

“What will June’s ‘tragic mistake’ be? And more importantly what does the world now intend to (do to) stop it happening?”

Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin said the recognition did not represent “the end of a process; it is the beginning”, and said it could be a catalyst for other nations.

“I believe you will see more member states of the European Union recognising the State of Palestine in the coming while. I think the decision by Ireland, Norway and Spain is a catalyst for others to consider their position.”

He added: “We are deeply committed to the pursuit of peace and support for Palestinian state-building.

“Ireland has reaffirmed this commitment over many decades, through intensive diplomacy and our long-standing development co-operation programme.”

He added: “It is vital that the Palestinian Authority is given the full backing of the international community in its reform and service delivery efforts and we will redouble our energies to this end.

“In recent days, I have held substantive discussions on the path ahead with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa and engaged with European and Arab partners on the Arab Peace Vision as a meaningful way forward in achieving peace.

“Ireland will continue to work closely with the Palestinian Authority, and our EU and international partners, in creating a political path that can stop this horrific conflict and humanitarian disaster, ensure the release of all hostages, and realise the vision of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state existing alongside the state of Israel in peace and security.”