Taoiseach calls on nations to come together and demand ceasefire in Gaza

Ireland’s experience shows ‘peaceful coexistence is possible’, Leo Varadkar tells Paris conference

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on the international community to come together to demand a ceasefire in Gaza, warning that the deteriorating humanitarian situation there could lead to the deaths of thousands of people each day.

Speaking to reporters in Paris after attending the International Conference on Humanitarian Assistance to Gaza, Mr Varadkar said a ceasefire was needed “for as long as possible” to facilitate the release of hostages being held by Hamas, to allow for foreign citizens to leave Gaza and to ensure that humanitarian aid could be delivered to the besieged enclave.

“It’s a very serious humanitarian situation,” he said. The UN, World Health Organisation and aid groups were warning that “as water and sanitation fails, we could see thousands of people dying every day”, he said.

He said the conflict could spill into the wider region – particularly to the West Bank and Lebanon – unless a ceasefire is implemented.


The Taoiseach said he held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the conference with the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh; Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry; and the Prince of Jordan, Rashid bin Hassan.

He said he had an opportunity to speak about the Irish citizens who remain in Gaza, and the Irish girl, Emily Hand, who is believed to be among those held captive by Hamas.

Mr Varadkar described those meetings as “helpful” in regard to Ireland’s efforts to secure Emily’s release, but said he would prefer not to discuss the details of the discussions.

Asked what could be achieved at a humanitarian conference taking place in the absence of Israel, he said he hoped the country would give consideration to the implementation of a ceasefire or humanitarian pause.

“I know that some of Israel’s closest allies, like the United States, are now calling for that, and working towards that, because I just don’t see an alternative. At some stage the fighting is going to have to stop,” he said. “The sooner it stops, the better.

“That doesn’t prevent Israel from continuing to pursue the terrorists that attacked it. But what’s happening now at the moment, I think more and more people are coming to recognise it as disproportionate.”

The Taoiseach said he also believed a more unified response to the war was needed from the EU, which had shown its “strength” when coming together in relation to the Ukraine war.

“We haven’t come together in the same way when it comes to this conflict. I think we need to try and develop a much more solid European position,” he said.

Asked if the Government would be open to introducing a temporary protection scheme for refugees from Gaza, the Taoiseach said that anybody who came to Ireland from Gaza was entitled to claim international protection in the same way as those fleeing other conflicts.

He said the Palestinian Authority, as well as Egypt and Jordan, had sent a “very strong message” that they did not want to see any nations “facilitating a population transfer”.

Mr Varadkar said he believed the Palestinian people should be responsible for the future governance and security of Gaza. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu suggested this week that Israel would remain engaged in the territory after the war, taking control of security there, while European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has suggested a UN peacekeeping force could be deployed.

“Israelis tried to occupy Gaza before and it didn’t work,” said Mr Varadkar. “Unfortunately it fell into the hands of Hamas and we saw the consequence of that last month with its terrible terrorist attack on Israel. I don’t think occupation is a viable prospect in the short to medium term.”

In his address to the conference earlier on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said there can be no peace or security for Israel without justice for the Palestinian people. He said that “double standards will lead to no standards, if not checked”.

He said that Ireland’s experience showed that “peaceful coexistence and partnership is possible”, even after a prolonged conflict. He said the international community must hold to the principle that all lives are equal, Israeli and Palestinian.

He said Ireland would increase aid to Palestinians and would be “making a further contribution before the end of the year”.