Irish Parliament suspended as protesters call for sanctions on Israel

The Irish Parliament was suspended briefly after several protesters interrupted statements on Palestine to call for sanctions to be imposed on Israel.

The protesters in the public gallery chanted “sanctions now”, “stop arming Israel” and “close Shannon to the US military”.

One man held up a sign that said “divest”, while another person carried a large Palestinian flag.

After being ushered out of the public gallery and out of the grounds of Leinster House, the protesters told the PA news agency that while they welcomed the recognition, they wanted Ireland to implement sanctions on Israel.

They also called for the enactment of the Occupied Territories Bill and the Settlements Divestment Bill.

“We are eight months on and the bombs are still dropping,” said Anne Conway, who is involved in the Donnycarney Palestine Solidarity campaign.

“The women and children of Gaza are still being slaughtered, we’ve seen it yesterday in Rafah, and the international community have done nothing.

“We feel we’re making the voices of the Irish people heard when we did that.

“We do welcome the fact that they’ve recognised Palestinian statehood, it is a welcome thing.

“But it really won’t make any difference because Israel will not be brought to the negotiating table unless there’s massive sanctions introduced against them. Ireland has the standing to do that in the international community.”

Michelle Hayes of the Teachers For Palestine group said it was “really shameful” that the Irish premier Simon Harris and Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin “got up and left” the Dail chamber immediately after delivering their speeches.

“There are parallels between our struggle, and to see people who we have voted into government, who are representing us, to stand up, make a speech and then walk out in front of a packed gallery of Palestinians, it was shameful. I’m really, really, really so, so disappointed in the Government.”

Kate Scanlan of Mothers Against Genocide said: “We refuse to be silent when Palestinian mothers are trying to identify their children in mass graves from scraps of their clothing.

“They’re trying to find their children buried under rubble. We just can’t sit here and do nothing.

“While we’re happy with the state being recognised today, that’s not enough. It needs to go further. We need immediate sanctions against Israel, and we are going to continue to push our Government and that’s why we’re here today.”

A number of Palestinians were watching from the public gallery who were not involved in the brief demonstration.

Palestinian ambassador to Ireland Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid listened to the statements from the distinguished visitors’ gallery and was applauded by TDs when they ended.

During the debate in the Irish Parliament’s lower house, some politicians called for an EU trade agreement with Israel to be suspended.

Labour’s Aodhan O Riordain said US President Joe Biden “has to do better”, while Sinn Fein TD Thomas Gould said he hopes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “burns in hell”.

Opposition politicians called on Irish premier Simon Harris’s Fine Gael party not to support Ursula von der Leyen for another term as European Commission president.

Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen (Chris Jackson/PA)

She is leader of the EPP, which is Fine Gael’s political group in the European Parliament.

“She’s someone who gave Israel her unqualified support for their war crimes, and yet you’re happy to recommend the re-election of this person as the European Commission president,” Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns said during Leaders’ Questions.

“Do you really think that Fine Gael MEPs and candidates in the European election are representing their voters on this issue?”

Independent TD Catherine Connelly said that although it was “a proud day for Ireland”, there was “very little” left of a Palestinian state to recognise.

“It is time for us to act, and the most basic thing is not to support von der Leyen, who from day one said she would stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel,” Ms Connelly said.

Mr Harris responded: “It is the clear position of von der Leyen that she wants to see an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East. We need to see an immediate ceasefire.”

Earlier, Mr Harris said there is an onus on every country and on the European Union “to use every lever at our disposal” to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza.

“I welcome the decision of the Belgian presidency to convene a meeting on the EU-Israel Association Agreement,” he said.

“The human rights clauses in that agreement are and must be meaningful and when they’re not being adhered to, that too must have consequences.

He added: “Formal recognition of the State of Palestine here today is an act of powerful, political and symbolic value. I hope it sends the Palestinian people a message of hope that in this, their darkest hour, Ireland stands with them.

Deputy premier Mr Martin said he is confident other European countries will join Ireland, Norway and Spain in their recognition of the state of Palestine.

“It has long been my view that recognising Palestine would be most impactful if done in a co-ordinated manner with other partners,” Mr Martin told the Dail.

“That we have taken the decision to recognise the state of Palestine together with Norway and Spain – and in the wider context of a regional peace initiative – is important.

“I am confident that there is a growing consensus among like-minded partners that Palestinian statehood can no longer wait until the end of a process of final settlement negotiations between the parties.

“I anticipate that other European partners may decide to recognise Palestine in the coming weeks and months.”

Mr Martin and Mr Harris also praised Ireland’s ambassador to Israel, Sonya McGuinness, who was summoned to the Israeli foreign affairs ministry and reprimanded over Ireland’s decision.

As proceedings started, Ms McGuinness was shown footage of Hamas that Israel claimed was filmed on October 7 which Mr Martin said “fell far short of what we would expect from any country, irrespective of our political differences”.

“I have and will continue to treat Israel’s ambassador to Ireland with professional courtesy and respect. I expect the same in return. We wish to maintain functional diplomatic engagement and dialogue with Israel,” he added.

Ireland’s transport minister Eamon Ryan said he “prays that Palestine could, in time, follow a similar path to” Ireland’s journey to autonomy.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that the British establishment made “similar” warnings years ago that “the Irish were not fit to govern themselves, that anarchy would surely follow if they were given the chance”.

He also addressed the Jewish community in Ireland and said he shared their frustration over the “one-sided approach” that some people are taking to the conflict on the Middle East.

“Our dearest wish is that establishment of a Palestinian state solidifies your (Israel’s) existence and allows you to prosper and flourish in peace and harmony with your neighbours.

“I particularly want to offer reassurance to Jewish friends living here in Ireland, the last seven months have not been easy, and many may feel that there is a change in attitude towards them or people of their religion.

“We need to assure them they are welcome here, they belong here, they are as Irish as all of us.

“Long may Ireland be a home to Jewish people so they can continue their outstanding contribution to our nation in art, in science, in business and in politics. This house has benefited so much from people from our Jewish community.

“I share their frustration at the one-sided approach that some people take to the conflict. That some would appear to think that Israel’s government’s appalling actions mean they can be silent on Hamas’s atrocities – I do not.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that Palestinians in Gaza are enduring “horror on an unimaginable scale” and that world leaders “continue to draw a false equivalence between the impoverished occupied and the oppressive occupier”.

She accused Israel of “brazenly, repeatedly breaking” international law, adding: “Palestine is a nation threatened by annihilation.”

The Dublin TD added: “The world was always going to face a moment of reckoning on Palestine, and as Israel continues its brutal onslaught on the refugee population of Gaza and launch horrific madness and attacks on Rafah, I believe the moment of reckoning is now.

“Recognition of the Palestinian state can’t be the end, it has to be just the beginning: a new departure in pursuing freedom and justice for the Palestinians.”