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Micheál Martin today in Dublin Jane Matthews
israel-hamas war

Tánaiste to speak with Israeli Ambassador and says calls for her expulsion are 'not responsible'

Martin said Sinn Féin’s statement on the issue was “playing to a populist agenda”.

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN plans to speak with the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland amid calls for her expulsion and says these calls are “not responsible” and would not help the situation. 

The Tánaiste was responding to a suggestion from Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher who said the Tánaiste needs to meet with the ambassador and lay out Ireland’s concerns. 

He said the Irish Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs should bring in the Israeli ambassador and “clearly lay out our deep concern of what’s happening in Gaza with regard to attacks on civilians, civilian infrastructure, just collective punishment and the fact that aid is being very slowly allowed into Gaza”.

“In that meeting our call for a cessation of violence should be reiterated,” Kelleher added.

The Tánaiste said he has been speaking to ambassador Dana Erlich since the outbreak of the war and said that he does intend to speak to her again.

He labeled calls to expel the ambassador in response to Israel’s bombardment on Gaza following Hamas’ on October 7 as “populist”. 

Speaking to reporters at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in Dublin today, the Tánaiste said maintaining links and channels of communications is “fundamental to international diplomacy” and added that doing so does not mean you endorse the policies of any given state.

“If we expel the Israeli Ambassador, which I do not agree with, but some advocate for, that would immediately mean the recall of the Irish Ambassador who’s working in Israel and at the moment is working at keeping contact with all of the Irish citizens in Gaza,” the Tánaiste said.

He added: “We will quickly make ourselves fairly irrelevant in the overall scheme of things if we just go for the first knee-jerk reaction… Let’s expel the ambassador,” he said.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said that the ambassador’s position is now “untenable” and that she should “no longer enjoy diplomatic status in Ireland”.

Her comments come following pressure from People Before Profit, who alongside other opposition parties, have long called for her expulsion.

The Tánaiste today said McDonald’s comments were “playing to a populist agenda” and do not represent the view of a serious party.

“Sinn Féin called for this in a press release which was headed ‘Ireland should use every diplomatic means available to bring an end to the conflict’. But how do you do that if you break off relations with one of the main actors in the conflict?

“I don’t think that’s serious. And I think it’s playing to a certain populist agenda. But it’s not serious conduct of foreign policy, and it’s not responsible in my view. And I just need to call that out,” he said.

US Influence

The Tánaiste was asked by The Journal if Ireland has been in touch with its US  counterparts – who have more sway with Israel – to encourage a ceasefire. 

Martin said Ireland has maintained contact with the US administration in respect of Israel and said “our very strong sense and understanding is that United States is doing everything it can to urge restraint and in particular, moving towards a humanitarian pause.”

“We welcome Secretary of State Blinken’s visit to the region again yesterday, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the Tánaiste said. 

He added however that there is a “concern that strategic or rational thinking isn’t applying in respect of the overall situation” but said:

“I believe the US position is more nuanced than perhaps, recognised publicly.”

Sanctions

The Tánaiste was also asked by The Journal if now is the time for the EU to implement economic sanctions on Israel given that close to 4,000 children have been killed since the onset of the war. 

He said that it would be “extremely challenging” to get agreement for such a move at EU level and that the best mechanism for getting Israel to stop the bombardment of Gaza is to maintain diplomatic channels and pressure.

“The main focus is to stop the bombardment of Gaza,” he said, adding that there are different strands of opinion across the EU on how this can be achieved.