Taoiseach says Irish should have done more for Jews during World War II

At Holocaust Memorial Day service Varadkar talks of de Valera’s ‘courageous’ actions

Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan at the Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan at the Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the State could have and should have done more for Jews during the second World War.

Speaking at the annual Holocaust Memorial Day service at the Mansion House in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said “we come together so that we never forget”.

The Taoiseach said the story of the Irish State during the period “was rather a mixed one”. Mr Varadkar said former taoiseach Éamon de Valera should be commended for recognising Jews in the Constitution, despite criticism and objections at the time.

“That was a courageous stand to take during a particularly dark period of European history,” he said. “We know he personally intervened to try to help refugees, often against the objections and obstacles of his own civil servants. However, the truth is we as a State could have and should have done more.”

The event has taken place annually since 2000, when Ireland signed an international agreement to commit to remembrance of the Holocaust.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Holocaust survivors Tomi Reichental, Suzi Diamond and Jan Kaminski were also in attendance.

Candles

Candles were lit to symbolise the six million Jewish people who were killed by the Nazis. More than 100 students also attended the ceremony, some of them reading from the Scroll of Names – an Irish memorial to family members of people living in Ireland who died in the Holocaust.

Eibhlin Byrne, chairwoman of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland said: “In reminding ourselves of the horrors of which people have proven themselves capable, we commit to preventing them from happening again. And it could happen. Evil can still triumph where those who care don’t care enough.”

Former Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers, who was sacked following allegedly anti-Semitic remarks, was also in attendance. He said he was made “very welcome” at the event.

“The Jewish community in Dublin has stood almost 100 per cent behind me. They understood it was clumsy language and that I am the most non anti-Semitic person that you could possibly imagine.”