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Strong words as Government and opposition debate intervening in genocide case against Israel

The Government tabled a number of amendments to a Sinn Féin motion this evening.

OPPOSITION TDS STRONGLY criticised the Government in the Dáil this evening for its failure to commit Ireland to intervening in South Africa’s case of genocide against Israel for its actions in Gaza.

TD were debating a Sinn Féin motion that had called on the Government to “file a declaration of intention to intervene” in the case taken by South Africa to the ICJ. It also called for the Government to “commence the process of preparing for participation in the case”.

The Government added a number of amendments this evening to the motion put down by Sinn Féin. Voting will take place on these amendments tomorrow. 

The Government added four amendments in total. The key amendments changed the wording calling for Ireland to signal its intention to join the case to “urgently consider filing a declaration of intervention in this case with the ICJ, based on a legal analysis of the Genocide Convention, the Court’s provisional measures order and consultation with other Contracting Parties”.

It also amended the wording of the motion so that the Government would “commence the process of preparing for potential participation in the case”.

The amendments were rejected by Sinn Féin, who called on TDs to vote against them tomorrow. The Sinn Féin motion follows the defeat of a similar motion last week put forward by the Social Democrats.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs & Defence Matt Carthy criticised the Government for not supporting his party’s motion and called for TDs to “take action”.

“Our appeal to all the members of this House, is to take this action, this action which simply involves us following the very brave leadership of South Africa by making and joining the case against Israel.

I urge members of this house to reject the Government amendment, that they should support Sinn Féin motion.

At least 26,000 people – mostly civilians – have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since it launched a war in relation to attacks by the militant group Hamas on 7 October that left about 1,140 people dead.  

The vote came after the ICJ filed provisional orders last Friday about the conflict in Gaza, which Israel must comply with. It said Israel must do everything it can to “prevent the commission of all acts within the scope” of the Genocide Convention.

Israel has also been asked by the court to take “all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide”.

It must also take “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians”. 

It is expected the next stage of the case will take a number of months, as South Africa drafts a document that outlines its substantive case against Israel, during which time the Government will decide on whether to intervene in the case.

The Sinn Féin motion also noted the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and called on Israel to implement the orders from the ICJ. The Government broadly upheld the text of these calls, with an amendment adding in a condemnation of the Hamas attacks.

Strong words

Strong words were issued in the Dáil today as the motion was being debated, with key figures from all parties and Independent TDs making statements. All contributors called for the Government to press for a ceasefire and expressed outrage at Israel’s actions.

However, opposition speakers were highly critical of what they called the Government’s stand-off approach. Sinn Féin’s John Brady criticised the Government for saying that it will wait to decide whether to intervene in the case.

“Tánaiste, the Palestinian people haven’t got four months or six months, they haven’t got a week. They are dying in their 1000s The government is morally bound to support Sinn Fein’s motion here this evening,” he said.

We have heard your words of of concern of condemnation in the past. It’s time to get off the fence now acknowledge that it’s time to take definitive action and stand up for the Palestinian people once and for all. 

In response to Brady, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin defended the Government’s record that said that “all of us in this house are united in our view that what is happening in Gaza must stop”.

“I’ve been clear from the start of this horrible conflict that Ireland needs to use all the tools we have at our disposal. Political, legal, diplomatic, and humanitarian,” he said.

And that is the approach that the government has taken from the start.

Martin laid out the measures the Government had taken in relation to the conflict, and went into the detail on the specifics of the South African case and explained the Government’s rationale for waiting to intervene. Martin also explained the reasons for the Government’s counter-motions.

“However remote the possibility may seem, the only possible solution can be through political means through a process which respects the right to self determination for the Palestinian people, and which delivers peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” he said.

Martin’s comments were met with strong criticism from Opposition parties, however, with the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, Solidarity-People Before Profit, and a number of Independents all calling for the Government to intervene in the case.  

Many speakers also highlighted the recent suspension of funding by the US and others for UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency – following allegations that a number of its workers were involved on the 7 October attacks.

The move was met with strong criticism across the Dáil this evening, with TDs highlighting the essential nature of the work carried out by the agency in Gaza. Martin reiterated his statement that Ireland would not withdraw funding for the agency.

A vote on the Government’s amendments will be held tomorrow.

With reporting from Stephen McDermott