Gilmore position on Palestinian state welcomed


THE GOVERNMENT’S decision to support the Palestinian application for membership of the United Nations has been broadly welcomed by all the main political parties.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin yesterday said they fully supported Ireland’s position that the application by Palestine was “entirely legitimate”. The Government’s position was outlined by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in the course of a speech to the UN General Assembly yesterday.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on foreign affairs Seán Ó Fearghaíl said the Government’s position was entirely consistent with his party’s long-standing policy. “We tabled a [Dáil] motion on this issue two months ago asking the Government to support recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said.

“It’s an issue that has been very strongly supported by Fianna Fáil for a long period. It was first enunciated by Brian Lenihan snr.”

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he expected the Government to be “unequivocal in its support for Palestinians”. Likewise, Sinn Féin’s spokesman, Padraic MacLochlainn, said he welcomed the commitment that Mr Gilmore had made on behalf of the Irish people. “The overwhelming majority of Irish people supports the campaign for an independent Palestine.

“My only criticism is that it took too long for him to say that. Over 100 countries had already come out and said they supported a Palestinian state. But while it should have come earlier, it’s very welcome, particularly in the context of the damp squib of a speech on Palestine from President Barack Obama,” said Mr MacLochlainn.

The Taoiseach’s spokesman said Mr Gilmore’s speech reflected the Coalition’s policy and the commitment in the Programme for Government to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, based on the 1967 borders.

Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter has been a consistent advocate of the Israeli position. His press office did not respond to queries on whether he agreed with the Government’s official position.

In the course of his speech, Mr Gilmore said that after 20 years of failed initiatives there was disillusionment about the capacity of the political process to deliver a solution.  “The decision of President Abbas to seek Palestine’s membership of the United Nations is entirely legitimate and understandable. Palestine has the same right to membership of the United Nations as Ireland.

“Some would seek to argue that Palestine cannot be recognised as a state because its borders remain to be agreed. But if the borders of Palestine are still a matter for negotiation, then so, by definition, are those of Israel which is rightly a full member of the UN.

“Membership of the UN of itself, however, would not change the unstable and unacceptable situation on the ground.  It does not remove the compelling need for negotiations. Nor will it offer a legitimate excuse to avoid negotiations.” He said that recognition of Palestinian statehood would give dignity and support to the Palestinian people, whom he said had “suffered for too long”. He also urged the Israeli government to halt all settlement expansion and to end the blockade of Gaza.