Ireland’s recognition of state of Palestine marks a historic day for Irish politics

Leinster House saw a rare moment of unity, with no dissent to the Government’s decision to recognise Palestinian statehood


It was one of those rare days in Leinster House where there was near unanimity. The recognition of Palestine as a state was a big moment for the Irish Government, eschewing the protection of the European Union to make a bold statement on what our nation believes is right, and what is not right, in terms of global affairs.

The flag being hoisted on the lawn of Leinster House yesterday morning was the visual confirmation of the move. For once, there was a sense of common purpose in the Dáil chamber, with speeches from all sides getting nods of approval and of solidarity.

The election campaign – and all its potential for division – was, for one day, backgrounded.

Indeed the only true raised voices of dissent came from the viewing gallery high above the chamber. Well into the four hours of debate, a group of protesters started chanting “sanctions now”, forcing the temporary suspension of the sitting while they were removed.

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If the ushers were not busy enough doing that, a lone protester then managed to scale the railings of the Merrion Square side of Leinster House and make a dash to remove the Palestinian flag, but not before being detained by gardaí and by ushers.

We had some amazing reportage of the day from Irish Times writers yesterday.

In her report of the Dáil proceedings, Marie O’Halloran set out the Taoiseach’s reasoning for taking the step, alongside Spain and Norway, of recognising the state of Palestine, before reporting on the disturbance in the gallery.

“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 flags when ushers approached them.”

And I reported on the lone man whose efforts to remove the Palestinian flag were unsuccessful after he was apprehended by gardaí.

So what happens next? There will be little fanfare but over the next number of weeks, important developments will take place. Ireland’s diplomatic mission in Ramallah will be upgraded to an Embassy, and we will also have our first Ambassador to Palestine appointed.

Other political developments were overshadowed, including the aftermath of the devastating EPA report which said the best-case scenario projections for Ireland showed greenhouse gases will only be reduced by 29 per cent compared with the legally binding target of 51 per cent by 2030.

Kevin O’Sullivan reported on the fallout from this and also on a big plan to generate biomethane on Irish farms that is hoped to cut consumer costs and carbon impact.

The Ditch, the investigative website, also had a really strong scoop, which forced a Fine Gael election candidate in Co Louth to drop out of her local election race, after it was disclosed she received the equivalent of €30,000 for withdrawing an objection to a housing development. Jack Horgan-Jones has the details.

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There were powerful pieces from Miriam Lord and from political editor Pat Leahy on the decision by Ireland to recognise Palestine as a state.

Miriam Lord captures the heart of the four-hour debate, which featured many speeches, but also a lot of emotion, some tears, and some very plaintive moments, especially with the awful events of the past 48 hours in Rafah at the back of people’s minds.

Miriam concluded with a quote from one of the nicest and most genuine people ever to have crossed the threshold of the Dáil.

“As Gino Kenny of People Before Profit, proudly wearing a keffiyeh, said earlier: ‘Sometimes there are no adjectives left.’”

Pat Leahy’s analysis of the day was no less powerful, though he came at it from a different angle. There was no ambiguity to the message the Government wanted to convey to the world, he argued.

“Dublin insists that the recognition is intended as an aid to peace. The Israelis respond by asking how something intended as a contribution to peace could be welcomed by Hamas (as the Irish recognition was), an organisation dedicated to the violent destruction of their country.

“The answer seems to be that the Irish Government decided that giving Hamas a boost was an acceptable price to pay for the censure of Israel; that is the real point of the recognition. It is prompted above all by a desire to say to Israel that its destruction of Hamas in Gaza and the fearful toll in civilian casualties is not acceptable, that it should be condemned by Israel’s allies and, furthermore, that Ireland will be active in the Palestinian cause. It is not just a gesture; it is a signal of intent.”

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Playbook

Dáil

09:10: Topical Issues

09:58: Private Members’ Business (People Before Profit-Solidarity): Motion re Neutrality and the Triple Lock

12:00: Leaders’ Questions

12:34: Questions on Policy or Legislation

13:05: Taoiseach’s Questions

14:50: Motion re approval by Dáil Éireann of a Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child sexual abuse material

15:47: Motion re Extension of Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2021

16:44: Research and Innovation Bill, 2024

17:44: Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill, 2022 – Report and Final Stages (Department of Health)

21:05: Deferred Divisions, Voting.

21:35: Dáil adjourns

Seanad

10.30: Commencement Matters

12.45: Private Members’ Business: Air Navigation and Transport (Arms Embargo) Bill, 2024 – Second Stage

15.00: Future Ireland Fund and Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund Bill, 2024 – Committee Stage (Department of Finance)

17.30: Private Members’ Business: Motion on Housing (Sinn Féin Senators)

19.30: Seanad adjourns

Committees

09.30: Health

Engagement with Ciarán Devane, chairperson designate, Health Service Executive

The challenges facing community-based cancer support services in the context of the National Cancer Strategy

09.30: Enterprise

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Businesses, with representatives of Amazon, Google, Microsoft.

09.30: Social Protection

The Impact of Means Testing on Carer’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, and other Social Welfare Schemes

10.00: European Affairs

Discussion on the results of the European Movement Ireland EU Poll 2024, with Noelle O’Connell and Lorna Hayes.

13.30: Transport

Engagement with the National Cyber Security Centre on its activities and operations

17.30: Agriculture

Further Scrutiny of EU Legislative Proposals to improve the rules on the welfare of cats and dogs and their traceability.

Also looking at the implications of changes in the Nitrates Directive for Ireland with representatives of Dairy Industry Ireland.

In advance of the committee, chair Jackie Cahill said: “The committee continues to examine the decision last year by the European Environment Commissioner to reduce the derogation under the Nitrates Directive from 250kg to 220kg per hectare.

“That decision was met with disappointment across the Irish agriculture sector, including by this committee, and our concerns about the impact it will have on Irish agriculture have only increased during our examination of the matter with affected stakeholders.

“We are all committed to improving Ireland’s water quality in line with the objectives of the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) and Irish farmers have made huge efforts in this regard, but genuine concerns exist around whether the NAP is fit for purpose in terms of improving water quality.”

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