However, he was among the few European officials to voice concern less than a week later.
In a somewhat ironic statement, he stated, “Israel doesn’t have the right to do wrong,” at a time when other European politicians were emphasizing Israel’s “right” to self-defense during its bombing campaign of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
In just 41 days of war, more than 11,400 Palestinians have been killed by Israel.
Varadkar has also said Israel’s bombardment “amounts to collective punishment”, which is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.
Michael D Higgins, the 82-year-old Irish president whose role is largely ceremonial, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was “not speaking for Ireland” when she expressed unconditional support for Israel on October 16 without acknowledging the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands.
Ireland, a European Union member, was among the first to demand a “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in order to address the “urgent” needs of civilians following Israel’s start of its strikes on Gaza.
A 50-year-old Tipperary primary school teacher and member of Fianna Fail, one of the two center-right parties in government, Niamh Nichillin is one of the many people in Ireland who feels sympathy for the people of Gaza, one of the world’s most populated areas that is frequently referred to as an open-air prison because of Israel’s blockade of the enclave.
She told news reporters that “Israeli airstrikes on Gaza are clearly disproportionate towards a civilian population with little to no defenses.” “This hardly qualifies as a war in the traditional sense of the word.”
She stated that statements made by Israeli leaders suggest that their motivation is a “desire for the destruction of Gaza.” “This is not appropriate.”
The foreign ministry of Ireland stated that it was aware that the situation in Gaza was a “humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude” and on October 18, the country announced an additional 13 million euros ($14 million) in humanitarian funding for the Palestinians, bringing the total funding for 2023 to 29 million euros ($31.5 million).
Nichillin, who expressed his gratitude for the additional supplies, added, “I would like the Irish people to continue to use their influence to ensure that there is a ceasefire, an end to the siege, and that enough humanitarian aid is getting through.”
The first nation in the EU to demand the creation of a Palestinian state was Ireland in 1980. Thirteen years later, it became the last member of the bloc to open an Israeli embassy in Dublin.
In 2018, Ireland drew worldwide attention when independent politician Frances Black proposed the Occupied Territories Bill, which would have banned and criminalised trading goods and services from lands occupied by Israel.
Despite widespread public and political support, it was dropped from the government’s agenda amid 2020 coalition talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the two main parties.
Ireland shocked Israel’s foreign ministry by declaring in 2021 that Israel was complicit in the “de-facto annexation” of Palestinian land, calling the action “a victory for extremist Palestinian factions.” Ireland was the first nation in the EU to do so.
While the majority of Irish people in the Republic of Ireland are in favor of the Palestinian cause, things are not the same in Northern Ireland, where there has been bloodshed between unionists and nationalists for thirty years, known as the Troubles.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement marked the end of that conflict for the most part.
There is a degree of sectarian division in attitudes toward the Middle East; in Belfast’s nationalist neighborhoods, Palestinian flags are frequently seen, while Israeli flags are more prevalent in unionist districts.
Although these flags have been flying for a while, more have surfaced since the Israel-Hamas conflict began.
Belfast activist Amr Hashad stated he draws parallels between the nationalist movement in Northern Ireland’s fight for independence from the UK, which led to the emergence of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provos) in 1969 following widespread violence against the Catholic community, and Hamas, which was founded in 1987 at the start of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
However, after the Provos launched an attack in London in 1995, “the British government and the EU negotiated with this army and even asked President Bill Clinton for help in doing so until they managed to find a solution to the conflict”, Hashad said.
“Today, we find ourselves in a similar situation to the Provos’ secret attack on London where Hamas attacked Israel and the entire Gaza Strip is being punished mercilessly as innocent women, children and the elderly are killed with the support of the West. The question I ask myself is: Why aren’t the West negotiating with Hamas like it did with the Provos?”