Refusal to allow in adequate aid to starving Gazans is ‘criminal’, Tánaiste says

Micheál Martin was speaking at the launch of the national risk assessment which identified disease, terrorism and food-supply disruption as major threats to Ireland

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has described Israel’s refusal to allow adequate quantities of aid into Gaza as “criminal”.

He said Ireland is continuing to work with the European Union and Jordan to get humanitarian aid into the region which, according to the United Nations, is on the verge of famine. This includes the airdropping of Irish supplies into Gaza by Jordanian aircraft.

However, he said there was no replacement for land convoys, which are the only way to ensure sufficient quantities of aid get through to Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins said on Thursday that an International Court of Justice (ICJ) order that Israel ensure the unhindered provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza “cannot be ignored”.


“It is criminal, it is absolutely a scandal that children are malnourished, that half the population is facing famine and the others food insecurity,” the Tánaiste said, in some of his strongest criticism of Israel since its launched its invasion of Gaza following the terrorist attacks by Hamas on October 7th.

“There is no need for this,” Mr Martin said, adding Israel was also engaged in “excessive checking” of aid convoys at the border which is slowing down humanitarian efforts.

He said he had been told by his Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts that the situation on the ground was “absolutely catastrophic”.

The Tánaiste appealed to Israel to “show humanity and allow the essentials of life to get into Gaza”.

Mr Martin was speaking at the launch of the Government’s latest national risk assessment, which categorises the most pressing risks threatening public safety.

Also in attendance was European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, who said there was sufficient food aid in Egypt and Jordan to feed Gaza’s population until August, but that the only way to get it to people sufficient quantities is by road.

The EU is supporting airdrops of aid but they are “inefficient and sometimes dangerous”, Mr Lenarčič said.

The UN’s ICJ has ordered Israel to ensure that more food and humanitarian assistance reach Palestinians in Gaza, warning that famine is “setting in” there as the Israel-Hamas war enters its sixth month.

In response to a petition by South Africa, the ICJ ordered Israel to “ensure, without delay, in full co-operation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian Palestinians throughout Gaza”.

It also ordered Israel to increase “the capacity and number of land crossing points” by which aid could be delivered to Gaza, and keep them open “as long as necessary”, while ensuring that its military did not prevent “through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance”.

President Michael D Higgins said in a statement on Thursday evening: “Today’s new order by the International Court of Justice that Israel ensure the unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance - including food, water and medicine - and open more land crossings in order to prevent the spread of famine and starvation cannot be ignored.

“It is now not morally acceptable that a single voice would be silent in the European Union or international community, all countries must do all that they can to ensure the immediate delivery of aid, a ceasefire and the release of all hostages in line with this week’s UN Security Council resolution.”

According to the national risk assessment, the violence in Gaza and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the risks to Ireland in relation to terrorism and armed conflict.

Other major risks identified in the report include antimicrobial-resistant infection, pandemic and disruption of the food supplies chain.

Asked if Ireland is more at risk today from external threats due to its support of Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia, Mr Martin said risks had increased “across Europe”.

He said there were “higher levels of activity” in relation to cyberattacks and maritime security, such as the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline in 2022.

There is also increased risk from hybrid attacks and disinformation, he said. “I have concerns about elections. We’ve seen in other jurisdictions clear evidence of interference through different media platforms. They could be more immediate risks.”

He said, however, there are currently no signs of this happening in relation to the upcoming local elections.

For the first time, the national risk assessment identified possible sabotage or damage to undersea infrastructure, including to the two pipelines from the UK which are the country’s sole source of natural gas.

According to the document, Ireland would be particularly at risk from damage to gas pipelines as the country has no gas storage of its own.

Mr Martin said protecting this infrastructure is about more than having naval ships at sea. He said intelligence sharing and collaboration with the private sector are also vital.

He said two naval patrol ships purchased second-hand from New Zealand last year will be put to sea in the coming months.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times