Former envoys call for recognition of Palestinian state

Letter to Taoiseach signed by academics and artists urges Government to act ‘without delay’

Almost 90 leading artists, academics and former ambassadors have signed a letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny urging the Government to formally recognise the state of Palestine.

The letter, whose 89 signatories include former US ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, former SDLP leader John Hume, actor Stephen Rea and musician Christy Moore, says the Government should move towards recognition "without delay". Acting now would strengthen the case for a two-state solution and help to provide parity of status between Palestine and Israel, "which is essential for any lasting peace settlement," the letter states.

The list of signatories includes trade unionists, writers, doctors and actors. Three retired diplomats who served as Ireland's representative to the Palestinian Authority – Niall Holohan, Isolde Moylan and James Carroll – have put their name to the letter, which was delivered to Government Buildings on Monday by Prof John Kelly, former registrar and deputy president of UCD.

The letter points to the political and financial support which successive Irish governments have given the Palestinian people and notes “with pride” that Ireland was the first EU state to call for the creation of a Palestinian state.


“It is our belief that the principal international legal criteria for the recognition of a Palestinian state have already been met,” the letter states.”We hold that further official recognition of Palestine by EU member states will strengthen the case for acceptance of the two-state solution and will help in particular to provide parity of status between Palestine and Israel which is essential for any lasting peace settlement.”


The move comes amid gathering momentum in Ireland and elsewhere for wider recognition of a Palestinian state. Fianna Fáil has said it intends to bring a Dáil motion, which would be almost certain to pass, calling on the Government to proceed with recognition. The Dáil and Seanad adopted separate motions on the issue in 2014.

The programme for government says the minority administration will "honour our commitment to recognise the state of Palestine", and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said it is under "active consideration". The official line is that the Government will act when it believes a move on recognition would help kick-start the Middle East peace process, and sources indicate a co-ordinated move among EU states would be the preferred approach.

In February, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel's ambassador to Ireland, Zeev Boker, cabled a warning to the Israeli government that Dublin would soon recognise Palestine as a state. It reported that Mr Boker also proposed working to block the move by asking the US administration of president Donald Trump to put pressure on Ireland, as well as having Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu call Mr Kenny to discuss the issue.

The push towards formal recognition has gained more traction since the election of Mr Trump. The US president rattled Arab and European leaders in February by indicating he was open to a one-state solution, upending a position taken by successive administrations and the international community. In the letter to Mr Kenny, the signatories of the Irish letter refer to the Trump administration, saying it is “regrettable” that the two-state solution has been called into question. “It has become more important than ever therefore that Ireland should now join its name to the list of 137 countries that currently grant formal recognition to the state of Palestine,” they write.

Palestine has non-member observer status at the United Nations and its flag flies with those of member states at UN headquarters in New York. Sweden became the first EU member nation to recognise the Palestinian state in 2014 and has been followed by several others.

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, parts of which have been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.


Robert Ballagh, Artist

Assistant Professor Ursula Barry, University College Dublin

Pat Bolger, Impact

Pat Boran, Poet

Paul Brady, Singer and Songwriter

Prof Cathal Brugha, University College Dublin

Peter Bunting, Ictu (retired )

Brian Campfield, President, Ictu

Karan Casey, Folk Singer

James Carroll, retired ambassador and Ireland’s former representative to the Palestinian authority

Seamus Cashman, Poet and Publisher

Eamonn Ceannt, former Vice-President, University College Dublin

Shay Cody, General Secretary, Impact

Paul Collins, DJ, Today FM

Dr Catherine Conlon, Trinity College Dublin

Frank Connolly, Head of Communications, Siptu

Mary Coughlan, Singer

Catherine Anne Cullen, Poet

Prof Patrick Cunningham, Trinity College Dublin, and former chief scientific adviser to the Irish government

Prof Fergus D’Arcy, Historian and former Dean of Arts, University College Dublin

Seamus Deane, Prof Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

Padraic de Bhaldraithe, Translator

Finn de Bri, Government employee

Orla de Bri, Sculptor

Liam Doran, General Secretary, INMO

Theo Dorgan, Poet and Publisher

John Douglas, General Secretary, Mandate

Seamus Doyle, President, Musicians Union of Ireland

Dr Vincent Durac, University College Dublin, and visiting professor, Bethlehem University Palestine

Felim Egan, Artist

Dr Nazih Eldin, Medical Physician, HSE

Prof Bryan Fanning, University College Dublin

Dr Sean Farren, Visiting Professor, University of Ulster

Dr Maggie Feeley, University College Dublin

Dr Alice Feldman, University College Dublin

Prof Diarmaid Ferriter, University College Dublin, Historian and Author

Jim Fitzpatrick, Artist

Stevie Fitzpatrick, General President, CWU

Tom Geraghty, General Secretary, PSEU

Prof Robert Gilligan, Trinity College Dublin

Dr Desmond Green, Chair, the Ireland Canada University Foundation

Noirin Greene, AMICUS Regional Officer, Trinity College Dublin

Pat Harris, Artist

Niall Holohan, retired ambassador and Ireland’s former representative to the Palestinian authority

John Hume, Nobel Peace Laureate

Andy Irvine, Singer and Songwriter

Dr Mariya Ivancheva, University College Dublin

Prof Alan Johnson, Nord University, Norway

John Kelly, Prof Emeritus, former Registrar and Deputy President, University College Dublin

Jimmy Kelly, Regional Secretary, Unite

Merlo Kelly, Architect and Lecturer, University College Dublin

Ailbhe Keogan, Screenwriter

Freda King, Irish Equity

Patricia King, General Secretary, Ictu

Michael Laffan, Prof Emeritus, University College Dublin

Fintan Lane, Author and Historian

Donal Lunny, Folk Musician

Joseph Lynch, retired ambassador, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Business Council

Fiach Mac Conghail, former senator, Seanad Éireann

Prof Dermot MacDonald, RCSI, and former Director of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street

Prof Patrick Masterson, former president, University College Dublin

Prof Dermot McAleese, Political Economy and Pro-Chancellor, Trinity College Dublin

Dr Mary McAuliffe, University College Dublin

John McColgan, Riverdance Producer and Film Director

Patrick McGuckian, former Director, Masstock and Almarai

Pauline McLynn, Actress

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate

Paula Meehan, Poet

Christy Moore, Singer and Songwriter

Isolde Moylan, retired ambassador and Ireland’s former representative to the Palestinian authority

Dr Anne Mulhall, University College Dublin

Dr Bassam Naser, Family Physician and Medical Lecturer

Dr Jim O’Brien, former Director General, Irish European Union Office

Jack O’Connor, General President, Siptu

Rurai O’Cuiv, Arts administer

Patrick O’ Flynn, former president, Irish Federation of University Teachers

Cormac O’Gråda, Prof Emeritus, University College Dublin

Dr Jacqui O’Riordan, University College Cork

Averil Power, Charity leader and former senator, Seanad Éireann

Dr Aideen Quilty, University College Dublin

Stephen Rea, Actor

Michael Robinson, NIPSA

Eoin Ronayne, General Secretary, CPSU

Maggie Ronayne, National University of Ireland, Galway

Ann Russell, Irish Equity

Dr Fintan Sheerin, Trinity College Dublin

Jean Kennedy Smith, former ambassador of the United States of America to Ireland

Niall Vallely, Traditional Irish Musician

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times