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Leaders' Questions

Varadkar: 'We can’t continue to aid Palestine and trade with Israel in the way we've done in the past'

‘That’s going to have to change in some way,’ Varadkar told the Dáil.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has told the Dáil “we can’t continue to aid Palestine and trade with Israel in the way we have done in the past. That’s going to have to change in some way”.

During Leaders’ Questions, Varadkar was asked about what consequences Israel will face for their actions in Gaza in recent weeks. 

In terms of sanctions, Varadkar said he is strongly of the view that they can only happen on a multilateral basis.

He said the whole point of imposing sanctions is to do harm to the country that’s being sanctioned and not the country imposing the sanctions.

Varadkar said that is why it should be done on a multilateral basis, but added that “we’re nowhere near that point” at European or international level.

The Taoiseach said he has said it before at European meetings, “we can’t continue to aid Palestine and trade with Israel in the way we have done the past. That’s going to have to change in some way”. 

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the South African government and others have referred Israel to the International Criminal Court, calling for Ireland to do the same.

The Spanish government and the Norwegian parliament “are moving to formally recognise the Palestinian State”, said McDonald. 

“Ireland must do the same,” she told Varadkar.

She added that the Belgian government has called for sanctions against Israel, also stating that Ireland must do the same and reiterate calls for a ceasefire. 

The Taoiseach went on to state that the Irish government is using all its contacts and abilities to ensure that if there is a hostage release in the coming days, that Emily Hand is one of the first to be released.

“That’s a major priority for us now as a government,” he said. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said humanitarian workers have not been able to provide governments with the proof of life of any hostages believed to be held by Hamas, including nine-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand.

Martin said the Irish government continues to work with Israeli and Egyptian authorities to get the remaining Irish citizens and their dependents out of Gaza.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, he said: “The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have not had access to the hostages, I understand, in terms of verification and proof of life of any hostage – and that obviously remains a matter of deep anxiety for the families of all involved.”

He added: “Ordinarily, in theatres of conflict or wars they would get access to prisoners of war camps, for example.”

Martin said there has been no further information with respect to any individual hostage, adding: “Not least Emily Hand.”

Asked about the release of bodies, he said there has been “no indication of that yet”.

But he said “the bones of an agreement” on the release of hostages by Hamas exists.

“We want all hostages released. We have raised the case of Emily Hand with all of the key governments and agencies which may have influence and channels with people who could affect the release of hostages and particularly Emily Hand,” Mr Martin said.

“We have prioritised the release of children and older people and that is our focus. I hope and I pray that Emily Hand will be freed along with other hostages.

He added: “We know that the bones of an agreement is there. I think what we’re all waiting for now is the realisation of it and the release of hostages.”

Martin said “the majority” of Irish citizens have left Gaza but some are not “in a position” to leave due to personal circumstances.

People Before Profit Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach today: “When are you going to act?” He said Ireland has responsibilities under the Genocide Convention, stating that in his view, it is a textbook case.

“I think what’s happened to the Palestinian people for the past 75 years is shameful, is appalling.’ He says the international community, the West and the Arab world have ‘let them down extremely badly, and that’s putting it way too mildly,” Varadkar replied. 

With reporting by Press Association