Ireland not recognising Armenian massacres as ‘genocide’

Government decides not to use disputed term to describe events of 100 years ago

Armenian communities, including the one in Ireland, this week mark 100 years since the events they describe as a genocide of their people. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

Ireland will not recognise the massacre of Armenians 100 years ago as genocide.

A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) acknowledged the “terrible events which resulted in the tragic deaths of very large numbers of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire”.

However, it did not use the word genocide, as the Armenian government has sought from other governments around the world.

The Armenians believe 1.5 million of their people were slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks in a genocidal campaign which began on April 24th, 1915.

The centenary of the massacres will be marked this week in Armenia and among the Armenian diaspora across the world.

The Turks had blamed Armenians for siding with Russia during the first World War.

Systematic extermination disputed

Turkey has always disputed that the deaths of thousands of Armenians amounted to a systematic extermination of the Armenian people, which meets the definition of genocide.

Turkey has further stated that atrocities were carried out on all sides during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and the first World War.

The Irish Ambassador to Armenia, John Biggar, will attend events in the capital Yerevan to mark the centenary on Friday.

The Armenians have complained that the Turks scheduled their Gallipoli events for the same day to overshadow the Armenian commemorations.

‘Enormous suffering’

The Department of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the “enormous suffering of the Armenian people during that period. As we in Ireland know well, the process of reconciliation and coming to terms with the past is never easy.

“In this year of centenary commemorations, Ireland would urge Armenia and Turkey to take advantage of any opportunity to progress their bilateral relations for the good of their people, the region, and their shared future.”

The statement added that President Michael D Higgins had recently expressed the sympathy of the Irish people for the enormous suffering of Armenians in that era to Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan.

A briefing given to TDs and Senators by the department on what to call the massacres in Armenia was criticised by a Fianna Fáil senator as the “worst reply I ever seen on anything”.

The DFA stated it was not in a position to adjudicate on events that happened 100 years ago.

Senator Mark Daly brought a motion before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade seeking to have the massacres acknowledged as a genocide.

Senator Daly said the DFA response amounted to a “four-line reply to the deaths of 1.5 million people”.

Chairman of the committee Pat Breen said he was not happy with the department’s response, and asked it to provide a “comprehensive reply” within a week.

Senator Daly stated Ireland should follow the example of countries such as France and Canada, along with the Vatican and the European Parliament, in recognising what happened as genocide.

He stated that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, acknowledged the events as genocide, but successive Turkish governments had chosen a different path.

‘A wrong done’

“It is 100 years on, but there was a wrong done. It was a crime against humanity, and by any definition a genocide. Ireland - which knows a lot about suffering - should acknowledge the suffering of others.”

Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe accused the Government of adopting an “appalling position” on the issue of genocide and stated its stance amounted to a denial of history.

He said 12 EU countries had already acknowledged that what happened in Armenia amounted to genocide.