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Varadkar to use St Patrick’s Day platform to lobby US on Gaza ceasefire support

Varadkar to use St Patrick’s Day platform to lobby US on Gaza ceasefire support

The Irish premier has said he will use the “special platform” of St Patrick’s Day to press US President Joe Biden to back a ceasefire in the Middle East.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he will impress upon Mr Biden, as well as vice president Kamala Harris, speaker Mike Johnson and congressional leaders the view of Irish people that they want the killing in Gaza to stop.

Mr Varadkar and a number of other ministers are currently attending events in the United States around St Patrick’s Day.

Speaking to media during a visit to Boston, Mr Varadkar said the day of Ireland’s national saint gives it “a very special platform around the world, not least in Washington DC”.

“I’ll meet with the president, the vice president, the speaker of Congress and congressional leaders, and I’ll use that opportunity to put across Ireland’s perspective on this, and tell them how Irish people feel, and that is that we want to see a ceasefire immediately, for the killing to stop, the hostages to be released without condition, food and medicine to get into Gaza and we also want to see a new peace process,” he said.

“There isn’t going to be a military solution to the conflict in the Middle East, it’s 100 years now that we have had Jews and Arabs fighting over land in that part of the world. We have to try for peace again.

“I think America, as the most important political military power in the world, can take the lead on that, and I hope they will, and of course in any small way that we can help from Europe, from Ireland we will as well.”

Taoiseach visit to the US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media outside the Boston Harbour Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Varadkar said Ireland has a “really good relationship with the US and with President Biden”.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt a president to be on our side so much as President Biden so very keen to meet him again, I’ve met him many times down the years, and he’s a real supporter of Ireland and always wants to know what he can do to help,” he said.

“What he has said in relation to Gaza in the last couple of weeks has been very encouraging. I believe he is somebody who wants to see the violence stop, someone who wants to see us develop on a pathway to peace.

“I’m not here to tick him off, I’m here to talk to him, to understand the American position and see if we can influence in a positive way.

“I think he is working towards a ceasefire, in fact I know it. The US administration has been involved in trying to put together the conditions for a ceasefire.

“For a ceasefire to happen, it has to be Israel and Hamas. I’ve been clear on that too, I haven’t called for a unilateral ceasefire, I’ve called for Israel and Hamas to agree to ceasefire and while a small country like Ireland can use our voice to call for a ceasefire, the US being a powerful country has a different role, and that is to engage in negotiations to actually make that happen, and that is what they have been doing in fairness, with the Egyptians and the Qataris. It’s clear to me that he wants there to be a ceasefire otherwise why would they be involved in negotiations to try and make it come about.”

President Biden visit to the island of Ireland
US President Joe Biden (left) is greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Ireland last year (PA)

Earlier Mr Varadkar said it is not the policy of his government to engage in boycotts.

He was asked about the decision by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media of Ireland Catherine Martin to attend the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, despite a boycott of the event by a number of Irish artists.

The artists pulled out over the event’s association with the US military and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Mr Varadkar said he had not spoken to Ms Martin about it.

“I fully appreciate that people have the right to boycott events should they choose to do so, and I totally respect that but it’s not the policy of the Irish Government to engage in boycotts,” he said.

“It’s one thing to exclude a country from an event or a competition or a sporting event, or a film festival for example, it’s another thing to exclude yourself because they weren’t excluded, and it’s not our policy to boycott. It’s our policy to engage.

“But I absolutely appreciate that other people have a different view, and as long as they are consistent in their boycotts.”

Leo Varadkar at the John F Kennedy Library in Boston
Leo Varadkar at the John F Kennedy Library in Boston (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Varadkar also said the war in Ukraine will feature in his discussions with Mr Biden.

On Tuesday the Taoiseach visited the home of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park among other engagements.

On Monday he met Massachusetts governor Maura Healey and the US special economic envoy to Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy.

He also gave a keynote address at the John F Kennedy Library where he said the US and Ireland must dedicate themselves to peace in Gaza.