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Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews LEAH FARRELL

Irish MEPs say Ireland should have supported South Africa's genocide case against Israel

Ireland has refused to join the case taken by South Africa, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying it is an area where “we need to be very careful”.

FIANNA FÁIL MEPS Barry Andrews and Billy Kelleher have said Ireland should have joined South Africa in its genocide case against Israel.

The position of Fianna Fáil MEPs comes after party leader and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin suggested opposition TDs were attempting to “create division” by calling on Ireland join the case.

The case began in the International Court of Justice in the Hague yesterday. 

South Africa alleges that Israel is in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948 in three ways: by committing acts of genocide, by failing to prevent genocide and by failing to prevent and punish incitement to genocide. Israel has denied the accusations and described the South African case as an “absurd blood libel”.

Arguing its case in the Hague today, Israel’s defence team hit back at what it describes as “atrocious” allegations it is committing “genocide” in Gaza.

Ireland has refused to join the case taken by South Africa, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying it is an area where “we need to be very careful”. 

The refusal is despite significant pressure from opposition parties. 

Speaking to The Journal Andrews, Dublin MEP and former chief executive of humanitarian response agency GOAL, said he believes the circumstances in Gaza are “so grave and urgent” that action was required from Ireland.

“The circumstances currently in Gaza are so bad that if it was good enough for the Ukraine case then this is also proportionally bad enough to trigger the convention and Ireland should have joined South Africa in the case,” Andrews said. 

In 2022 Ireland filed an intervention in a case taken by Ukraine against Russia under the Genocide Convention.

Andrews said while he thinks it was the wrong decision for the Irish government not to join the South Africa case, he said “in fairness, the government has taken a lot of other progressive steps”.

“The government are doing an awful lot and I can understand to some extent the case is live anyway, it doesn’t add anything whether Ireland is in it or not, but if we did it before with Ukraine it seems to me the circumstances are sufficiently grave and urgent to do the same here,” Andrews said.

Fellow-Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher, for Ireland South, agreed with his party colleague.

He told The Journal:

Ireland should have joined the case in the International Criminal Court against Israel.”

He said the Irish state “should have supported South Africa’s case”, given its longstanding position on the conflict.

Other Irish MEPs also shared the same sentiment for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

Speaking to The Journal, Green MEP for Ireland South, Grace O’Sullivan said Ireland should formally intervene following this week’s interim hearing with an official observation. 

Leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan said this week that there are “irrefutable” points in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel but he did not signal a desire for Ireland to join the case. 

O’Sullivan said she fully supports the case brought by South Africa to investigate Israeli breaches of the Genocide Convention. 

“It is also important that the Irish government states clearly and in unison that we support all investigations into genocide in Gaza, as is our obligation under the Genocide Convention,” O’Sullivan said. 

She added that she believes it is important for the state to support the case at “this difficult hour” for the people of Gaza.

In addition to her calls for Ireland to formally intervene in the case O’Sullivan said at a European level the EU-Israel Association Agreement (which facilitates trade between Israel and Europe) must be suspended. 

“The agreement is underpinned by respect for human rights under Article 2 and this has clearly been violated by Israel in Gaza and in the West Bank.

Israel’s leaders have made it clear that they intend to ethnically cleanse Gaza.

“Time is running out for us to stop them,” the MEP said. 

Fellow-Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe said that Ireland should support South Africa’s case “either by formally intervening or by filing a separate case against Israel”.

“As a state party to the Genocide Convention, Ireland has a legal obligation to act,” he added.

Cuffe said that he hopes the court will grant South Africa’s request for provisional measures and that it demands Israel immediately cease any acts “capable of killing or causing serious harm to Palestinians”.

Cuffe said: “These measures would also ensure that the Israeli government and military are held accountable for their actions in Gaza and the West Bank.”

It is regrettable that neither Ireland nor any EU country has shown clear support for the South Africa case.”

“As members of a Union founded on the principles of human rights and the rule of law, EU countries should be playing a greater role to end the violence and deliver a permanent ceasefire. By showing leadership, Ireland may encourage others to do the same,” he added.

Outside the court in The Hague in The Netherlands yesterday, independent MEPs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace stood among protesters in support of Palestine.

GDjWdIJWQAA_5gQ MEPs Mick Wallace (L) and Clare Daly outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague yesterday. Mick Wallace on X Mick Wallace on X

In a letter the pair penned to the Taoiseach, Wallace and Daly expressed their “deep disappointment” over the remarks Varadkar had made, claiming that he went gave “examples of genocides you are willing to recognise as such, with the implication that these somehow provide a form of contrast with Israel’s actions in Gaza”.

The letter reads: “In the process you made mention of the Holocaust, during which 6 million Jews were exterminated by Nazi Germany. ‘That is a genocide,’ you stated. 

“It is beyond dispute that the Holocaust was indeed a genocide, a ‘crime of crimes.’

“However, it is dismaying to see its incontrovertible status as such used in public statements by the Irish Head of Government with the effect of minimising the applicability of the Genocide Convention to what Israel is doing in Gaza, as if the comparison made clear that what Palestinians are suffering cannot amount to genocide,” the pair argued.

“It does not make that clear, nor does it excuse Ireland, as a State Party, of its affirmative obligations under the Convention,” they added.

Speaking to The Journal, Daly said the very least the Irish government should be doing is issuing a statement in support of the South African case.

Fellow independent MEP for The Left group, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan told The Journal: “It’s beyond shameful that Ireland has not supported the South African case at the ICJ.

“We’ve had lots of huffing and puffing from the coalition leaders on the genocide occurring before our very eyes in Gaza. However when push comes to shove it has amounted to nothing,” he added.

Flanagan said: “How Ireland isn’t supporting this case is unfathomable. Our government is undoubtedly on the wrong side of history.

This stain will never fade.”

Responding on behalf of the Fine Gael Delegation in the European Parliament, Ireland South’s Seán Kelly renewed calls for a “humanitarian ceasefire and for a peaceful end to the conflict in Gaza as soon as possible”.

Kelly, who is also the longest serving Irish MEP, said: “It is appropriate for the ICJ to make a judgement on this case and we await its outcome.

“But above all, I want to strongly urge all sides to work for a peaceful resolution so that no more innocent lives, particularly young children, will be lost or damaged needlessly.”

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus told The Journal that he was “deeply disappointed” Ireland did not join the case. 

“The international community must hold Israel to account and do everything possible to achieve an immediate permanent ceasefire and work towards a peaceful resolution,” the Midlands North West MEP said. 

These calls come as a letter from over 1,000 healthcare workers to the government has called for the state to support South Africa’s case. The letter included the signature of the Irish Medical Council President, Dr Suzanne Crowe.

Dr Ola Løkken Nordrum, a specialist anaesthesiology trainee in St. Vincent’s University Hospital, told The Journal: “As healthcare workers, we have a duty to advocate for the sick, the injured, and the victims of this man-made humanitarian crisis.”

He detailed that patients, including children, are having amputations and other operations conducted without anaesthesia. “We cannot remain silent,” Nordum said.

You can read the letter, with a full list of signatures, here.

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Jane Matthews & Muiris O'Cearbhaill