‘Words are not enough’ in face of ‘impending genocide’, Holly Cairns tells Dáil

Social Democrats leader has tabled motion to withdraw diplomatic status of Israeli ambssador, while Government has put forward countermotion

While Ireland has not been found wanting when it comes to “words of support” for the Palestinian people, in “the face of impending genocide, words are not enough”, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns has told the Dáil.

Ms Cairns said “we must take action now, before it is too late”. The Cork South-West TD was speaking as her party put forward a motion calling for the withdrawal of the diplomatic status of the Israeli ambassador in Ireland.

The Government has put forward a countermotion, with a vote due to take place tonight, alongside a separate vote on Sinn Féin’s motion calling for Ireland to refer Israel for its actions in Gaza to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Ms Cairns said the “refusal of most western leaders to shout stop” and demand a ceasefire had led to thousands of deaths and that Israel was “killing with impunity”. She said the Irish Government had done “more than most in the EU” to advocate for a ceasefire but that it was “just evidence of how low the bar is”.


“Words of condemnation are not enough, we need action,” she said. “There must be consequences for the crimes perpetrated by Israel on a captive civilian population in Gaza. This cannot be allowed to go on.”

The Social Democrats leader added that her party’s call for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador was not something they did “lightly” while also pointing out a number of Government TDs, including former and current junior ministers Charlie Flanagan, Neale Richmond and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, had all advocated for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador last year.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice James Browne said the Government had made its position clear regarding calls to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“Cutting off diplomatic relations with a country means cutting out communication channels,” he said. “Diplomacy is not always about friendly relations nor is it an endorsement of the policies or actions of a given country.

“It is precisely at times of conflict and tension that diplomacy is most useful and most needed and it is vital to maintain communication links.”

Mr Browne repeated that an investigation by the ICC had been continuing since 2021 and would include all events on and from October 7th of this year.

The junior minister also said the situation in Israel was “fundamentally different” to that in Ukraine, which Ireland did refer to the ICC prosecutor. He said in that case Ukraine was not a party to the ICC statute and a prosecutor could not therefore begin an immediate investigation without a State party referral.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said his office had received 13,000 emails to date urging support for the Social Democrats motion and was an “unprecedented” response in his time as a politician.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the Government had failed to act and had “blood on your hands”.

“Israel is not a normal state and a state that is built on ethnic cleansing and is built on apartheid and built on day in day out killing Palestinians with impunity has no right to self defence,” he said.

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae described a fight that had broken out between two of his friends in Kenmare many years ago at 3am in the morning.

“It was my duty to get out and stop that fight because, while they were two friends of mine, I had to part them and separate them and that’s what we should try to do on an international basis,” he said.

The Kerry TD said Ireland had to remain neutral but also do everything possible to ensure the war ended on a “humanitarian basis”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times