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Tánaiste Micheál Martin. Sam Boal/

Tánaiste: Calls for govt to join genocide case against Israel are 'trying to create division' in Ireland

Micheál Martin said that Ireland’s position on Palestine is “very strong” internationally.

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that some opposition parties are trying to “create division” in Ireland by calling on the Government to join South Africa in their genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

The first day of hearings in The Hague today saw South Africa accuse Israel of committing “genocidal” acts in Gaza, charges the country’s president dismissed as “atrocious” and “preposterous”.

Israel will set out its defence tomorrow.

A number of opposition parties have repeatedly called on the Irish government to join South Africa in its ICJ proceedings. 

Today, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Matt Carthy welcomed the country’s decision to take the case under the Genocide Convention. 

“As a signatory to the Convention, the Irish government is also legally obliged to take action to prevent genocide and, in Sinn Féin’s view, they should reverse position,” Carthy said.

“The people of Ireland will be closely watching the hearing now underway at The Hague. They will rightly be demanding that the Irish government shows leadership on the international stage in standing up for the people of Palestine against these outrageous war crimes.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett also urged the Irish government to join South Africa’s case, along with Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns, who wrote a letter to the Taoiseach urging him to join the case or to initiate separate proceedings against Israel. 

Speaking to reporters in Colombia today, the Tánaiste said that Ireland’s position on Palestine is “very strong” internationally. 

“I was taken aback by some of the commentary of the opposition during the week just on the specific issue of the Genocide Convention, which is in itself a complex issue and shouldn’t be portrayed as something that’s very simple,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s good enough, frankly, and we can agree to disagree with the opposition on that, but this kind of approach of trying to create division within Ireland is one that I don’t think is a correct approach, and is fair either in terms of the assessment of Ireland’s position in respect of the Middle Eastern issue in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

“And indeed, we know how Israel views Ireland in terms of the stances that we’ve consistently taken in respect of this.”

Martin said that while the Government believes Israel should be held accountable for its actions in Gaza, he said it’s equally important that Hamas is held to account for “some of the horrific violations that they have engaged in”.

“As I said, I’m in no doubt that there have been breaches of international humanitarian law. There has to be accountability, and Israel will have to be held accountable, but the immediate focus has to be on a humanitarian ceasefire.”

During his visit to Kosovo today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told reporters that Ireland could play a role if the ICJ issue an order to half the conflict while the case is still being considered.

“The South African case might allow the International Court of Justice to make an order calling for the fighting to stop while the case is considered over the next number of years, and I think that’s where Ireland could play a role, if the ICJ issue such an order,” he said.

“But also bear in mind, they have issued such an order in relation to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Russia took the decision to ignore it, and I would be afraid that Israel would do the same.”

The Taoiseach ruled out joining South Africa’s case last week.

“That case will be heard,” he said, adding that it will be up to the Court to make its determination.

“Genocide is something very particular,” he said. “It is defined as the deliberate attempt to destroy an entire nation or entire race or to do so in large part.

“And one group of people that has experienced that in the world are Jewish people, the Holocaust, 6 million Jews killed here in Europe and Hitler had a plan to kill many millions more. That is genocide.

“And of course, there have been other examples of genocide such as the Armenian Genocide, and what’s happened to some indigenous people, for example, in the new world. We need to be very careful about genocide in that context.”