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US and Ireland must dedicate themselves to peace in Gaza, says Varadkar

US and Ireland must dedicate themselves to peace in Gaza, says Varadkar

The US and Ireland must dedicate themselves to peace in Gaza, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said during an address in Boston.

Mr Varadkar made the comments as part of his first public speech during a week-long visit for St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US.

Speaking at an event at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, he said: “The cries of innocent victims of the conflict in Gaza will haunt us forever if we stay silent.”

Mr Varadkar said Hamas’s attack on October 7 was an act of “pure evil and hatred” which could never be excused.

However, he said Palestinians could not be subject to collective punishment as he reiterated Ireland’s call for a ceasefire.

Mr Varadkar said: “We all know that there are guilty people who perpetrated unspeakable acts of terrorism.

“But there are innocent men, women and children suffering for their sins. They should not be subject to collective punishment.”

He told the audience that “no-one can avert their eyes” from the deaths of thousands of children in Gaza.

Mr Varadkar said it was “unconscionable” that children were dying due to bombing, hunger, thirst and lack of medical care.

He added: “We must dedicate ourselves to freedom and peace in Gaza as well as in the rest of the world.”

Mr Varadkar said there needed to be consistent application of international humanitarian law, adding: “Ireland will continue to call for an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and a massive and sustained increase in humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

“We will also continue to call and to work for a meaningful political pathway leading to self-determination for the Palestinian people.”

He said Irish people knew from their “own painful history” that a ceasefire does not mean surrender, weakness or forgiveness.

However, Mr Varadkar added: “A ceasefire means hope. It means breaking free of the perpetual cycle of violence, recrimination and retaliation.”

The Irish leader paid tribute to Bobby Kennedy, noting he had been assassinated by a Palestinian “blinded by hate” in 1968.

However, he recalled that Mr Kennedy had prayed for compassion and understanding instead of revenge in the wake of Martin Luther King’s killing.

Attendees at the Boston event were gathered from the fields of business, politics and technology across New England as well as local community organisations.

The Taoiseach had opened his address with a reference to an Irish legend, where a dying king bestowed a field of gold to an adviser who had always told him what he needed to hear – rather than what he wanted to hear.

He said this was an example of true friendship – a theme that permeated the speech.

Mr Varadkar said: “Ireland has always been a true friend to the United States.

“Throughout our shared history, we have celebrated your greatest triumphs.

“And we have shed tears with you when you have endured the darkest of tragedies.”

Particularly recognising the contributions of the Kennedy political family, Mr Varadkar added that the US had played more of a role than any other country in bringing about peace and reconciliation in the island of Ireland.

He said former US president John F Kennedy was a “true friend to Ireland”.

He said the then-president had “laid down a challenge to the country of his ancestors” during a 1963 speech to the Irish parliament.

“His stirring words suggested that Ireland’s destiny was to play a part in world affairs, as the ‘protector of the weak and the voice of the small’.”

Reflecting those comments, Mr Varadkar said Ireland is determined to speak out against injustice “without fear or favour”.

He said Ireland had its own history of invasion and oppression and therefore stood publicly against “Russia’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine”.

Mr Varadkar told the Boston crowd that he will tell US President Joe Biden that the EU appreciates American leadership against Russia’s aggression.

The Irish premier warned against “Ukraine fatigue” as he said commitment to the region must remain “steadfast and assured”.

Mr Varadkar reflected: “Courage in the face of crisis, unshakeable optimism in the darkest of times, faith in the future – that is the Kennedy story.”

The Taoiseach also used the speech to highlight economic, social and cultural ties between Ireland and the state of Massachusetts, where, he said, one in five people claim Irish heritage.

He held a meeting with Massachusetts governor Maura Healey earlier on Monday.

The Irish leader will hold further engagements in Boston on Tuesday before meeting President Biden in Washington later in the week.