Leo Varadkar in the Dáil today Screenshot - Oireachtas TV

Varadkar dismisses suggestion Ireland is being 'penalised' by Israel over Gaza stance

Varadkar told the Dáil that only about 20% of EU citizens have been allowed to leave Gaza so far.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has refuted the idea that Ireland is being “penalised” due to the Government’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict. Varadkar was responding to comments made by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.

Murphy said that Irish and Israeli citizens were effectively being “held hostage” by Israel and called on the Government to expel the country’s ambassador to Ireland, Dana Erlich. 

Murphy said that while citizens of other countries have been allowed to leave the besieged Palestinian territory, “Irish citizens, together with Brazilian citizens, are effectively being held hostage by the Israeli regime in Gaza.”

In response, Varadkar said that there is “no indication that Ireland is somehow being penalised for the stance we’re taking in our call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

“We will not change our position on that, no matter what,” he said.

Varadkar told the Dáil that only about 20% of EU citizens have been allowed to leave Gaza so far.

Since the opening of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt last week, no Irish citizens have been permitted to leave Gaza.

Both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Micheál Martin have refused to expel the Israeli ambassador, saying that lines of communication need to remain open, especially since there are Irish citizens still stuck in Gaza. 

Sinn Féin’s leader Mary Lou McDonald has also called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. 

Murphy also called for the Government to refer a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, including “genocide”. 

The Taoiseach said it was the Government’s understanding that a referral was not necessary for an investigation to begin as the ICC has jurisdiction over what goes on in Gaza, but that he would look into the matter and confirm that position.  

Ireland has made such a referral recently, in March 2022, when it joined 37 other countries in referring a case against Russia to the court.

A referral would expedite the process of opening a case as it would let the court’s prosecutor proceed without needing the approval of ICC judges. 

In a statement today, the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “There are an estimated 8000 foreign and dual nationals and immediate dependants in Gaza who are seeking to leave. The departures are being managed country by country on a phased basis. It will take some time for this process to be completed.

“The names of all Irish citizens in Gaza who have asked to be included on the list of those due to leave have been submitted to the relevant authorities. Our Embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv are in regular communication with the authorities in Egypt and Israel in this regard.

“We are also in regular communication with Irish citizens on the ground and are updating them directly as we have confirmed information.”