Recognition of Palestine ‘act of powerful political and symbolic value’, says Taoiseach

Dáil briefly suspended as protesters shout ‘sanctions now’ during debate on formal recognition of the state of Palestine

There is an onus on every country and on the European Union to “use every lever at our disposal to bring about a ceasefire” in Gaza before the next “tragic mistake” by Israel, Taoiseach Simon Harris has said.

He told the Dáil that formal recognition of the state of Palestine “is an act of powerful political and symbolic value and it sends the Palestinian people a message of hope that in this, their darkest hour, Ireland stands with them”.

His comments during statements on recognition came before about a dozen protesters interrupted and shouted “sanctions now”, while raising a Palestinian flag and handwritten banners saying “divest” and “stop arming Israel”.

They refused to sit down or lower their banners and flag when ushers approached them, interrupting proceedings after Minister of State Joe O’Brien had finished speaking and as Minister of State Emer Higgins took to her feet and began to speak.


Leas-Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly briefly suspended the Dáil while they were removed from the chamber.

In his speech, Mr Harris said “today is a historic day, but it takes place in the most sombre of circumstances” as the world witnessed an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.

“We see a new despicable trend where every now and again an event of particular horror takes place and the Israeli prime minister then apologises for a ‘tragic mistake’. April’s ‘tragic mistake’ was the bombing of aid workers providing food to starving Gazans.

“May’s ‘tragic mistake’ was the bombing of displaced children, parents and families who had fled to a designated safe zone in truly apocalyptic scenes.

“What will June’s ‘tragic mistake’ be and, more importantly, what are we all in the world going to do to stop it?”

There was applause as Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl welcomed Palestine’s soon-to-be ambassador Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid to the House. She became emotional as she was applauded again at the end of the almost four hours of statements.

At dawn on Tuesday, the Palestinian flag was raised on the lawn of Leinster House along with those of the EU and Ukraine.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that no Government can have a veto over the building of a Palestinian state. “Israel does not get a veto on whether Palestine exists or not,” he told the Dáil during a debate on the formal recognition of Palestine.

He said much thought, analysis and diplomatic effort had informed the timing and context of the decision to recognise Palestine.

Recognition had three fundamental purposes. “It makes clear our view that it is time that Palestine takes its place among the nations”. It was also “an expression of our belief in the equal rights to self-determination, peace, security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians alike”.

He added that any final settlement will need direct negotiations between the parties, but that “it starts from the premise that no one, not this Israeli government, not any government, can have a veto on the building of a Palestinian state”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said peace could not be achieved without recognition. Many Jewish people in Ireland may feel that there is a change in attitude towards them or people of their religion, he said. “We need to assure them that they are welcome here. They belong here and are as Irish as all of us.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described Palestine as a “nation threatened with annihilation”. Since October, almost 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 15,000 children, she said, while Israel “has brazenly, repeatedly broken every international law and acted with impunity” and had yet to be held to account.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said recognition must be the first step of many. “We cannot maintain normal diplomatic and trade relationships with a country committing a genocide before our eyes,” she said.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times