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Social Democrats Leader Holly Cairns Oireachtas TV

Opposition rounds on govt's 'dithering' on South African genocide case against Israel

Opposition TDs were largely united in their dissatisfaction with the government’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.


OPPOSITION TDS HAVE hit out at the government’s unwillingness to fully support a motion on the prevention and punishishment of what they call war crimes by the Israeli state.

A case has been taken by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The government has said it is waiting until the case has passed the preliminary stage before it shows support.

The Social Democrats today tabled the Motion on Gaza and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which has the backing of many TDs from various opposition parties.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue represented the government at today’s debate.

Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly described it as “disappointing” that a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs wasn’t present.

He described Israel’s actions as “a clear picture of an attempt to ethnically cleanse Gaza”.

“Indiscriminate shelling, bombing and shooting, denying food, water and medical care, hospitals attacked, debate shut down, universities taken over, children slaughtered and famine created, and rounding up people in the ghetto.

“This is not a war. It is a series of illegal attacks and there is only one actor causing the destruction, and that is Israel.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik thanked the Social Democrats for tabling the motion, and called on the government to look to Ireland’s past to understand the suffering of Palestinians.

“Israel is now imposing a famine on Gaza. A common weapon of war. My God if that doesn’t resonate with the Irish people, what will? And the Irish government wonders if it might be genocide.”

A protest will take place outside the Dáil at 5:30pm today in protest of the government’s stance.

‘Big boys club’

Labour TD for Dublin Bay North Aodhan Ó Ríordáin called on the Taoiseach to boycott the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, given the United State’s role in the conflict.

“We can’t go in six weeks time and gleefully hand over a bowl of shamrock to an administration that’s backing, that’s cheerleading it, that’s funding it, and that’s weaponising it.

“Do I say to those other political organisations in this chamber who want to go there and raise money in six weeks time, ‘You can’t do that either. You can’t take money off these people’?”

Green Party TD Grace O’Sullivan said Ireland’s credibility is “rapidly running out”.

“We’re going to wait to see what the big boys do in Europe, to see what motion can be put together,” she said.

“But we’re not part of the big boys club. We’re an independent sovereign state, and we call out when something is wrong. And this is wrong.”


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday that Ireland will wait until South Africa files its main case against Israel in the ICJ before deciding “the nature of any intervention”.

However, he described the case as “valid”.

The Tánaiste also defended the government’s stance, saying it would consider joining the case once it had passed the preliminary stages.

Micheál Martin asserted that Ireland would act the same way it did in relation to an ICJ case where Ukraine accused Russia of violating the Genocide Convention.

They examined the legal case for around 12 weeks before joining Ukraine’s case, he said.

Seemingly holding back tears as she spoke, Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster described the perceived difference in the government’s attitude to Ukraine and Palestine as “naked hypocrisy”.

She said she is “not satisfied” with children being bombed.

“Does he think the people of Palestine have time to wait around while he dithers?”

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said the preliminary ruling “could take months”.

“Meanwhile, an average of 250 Palestinians are being killed every single day.”

She noted the amendments made to the motion by the government, including the removal of reference to “20 tonne bombs” that are being dropped on civilians.

“These bombs are not used sparingly,” she said.

Cairns also accused the government of avoiding the use of the word “genocide” in reference to Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“This is despite the enormous death toll, the tens of thousands who have been maimed, the collapse of the healthcare system, the breakout of famine and the fact that the UN is now warning Gaza has been rendered uninhabitable,”  she said.

“Clearly, genocide isn’t a word the government wants to use in relation to Israel, at least not until the preliminary ruling from the ICJ gets it some cover.”

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