Ireland announces £11m in additional funding for Palestinians

Hundreds of people stage demonstration outside Irish parliament

Cillian Sherlock
Thursday 19 October 2023 04:39 BST
Protesters swarm US Capitol demanding Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Ireland has announced €13m (£11m) in additional funding for humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, as the country’s leaders called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin reiterated a call from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for a pause in hostilities to establish humanitarian corridors.

Mr Martin said on Wednesday: “The government has also made clear that we support an immediate humanitarian pause, or humanitarian ceasefire, to give space to establish humanitarian corridors to meet the immediate needs of all civilians in Gaza.”

He was speaking during a session dedicated to discussing the conflict in the Dail parliament.

The speaker of the house, Sean O Fearghail said there was unprecedented interest in the issue: “I have never received as many communications, in respect of anything.”

Meanwhile, as politicians debated the matter, hundreds of people staged a protest outside the Leinster House complex in Dublin.

Gathering in the pouring rain, the demonstrators blocked the roadway outside the parliamentary buildings as speakers made demands for a ceasefire, a condemnation of Israel’s instruction for Gazans to move to south Gaza, and calls for the resignation of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Mr Martin, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the Irish government unequivocally condemns the Hamas attack on Israel and that he had expressed Ireland’s condolences to the Israeli people.

“The indiscriminate killing of civilians going about their daily life, the targeting of young party-goers at a music festival, the seizing of hostages, including children and elderly people. These are reprehensible actions.

“I have been absolutely clear that all hostages, Israeli and international, must be released unconditionally. I have underlined that there is no justification – none – for such terror.”

However, Mr Martin also told the Dail that Israel’s right to defend itself against attack must be done “within the parameters of international humanitarian law”.

“Water, electricity and fuel supplies into Gaza have been seriously disrupted. Hospitals are running out of power. People are running out of essential supplies.

“Over one million people were given an order to evacuate the north of Gaza by the Israeli military – that is simply unworkable. Civilian deaths are increasing.

“We watched in horror the appalling strike on the al Ahli hospital in Gaza last night; hundreds of civilians – patients, staff and those seeking shelter from aerial attacks by Israel – have died.”While we do not yet know who was responsible for that strike, have seen all too clearly the anguish and pain that it has caused.

“Let us be unambiguous. As the UN secretary-general has underlined, even wars have rules. International humanitarian law applies in all conflicts, in all circumstances, to state and non-state actors alike. It is not optional. It is obligatory. The protection of civilians is at its core.”

The funding announced by the Irish government on Wednesday amounts to 10 million euro in additional core funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides essential services to 5.7 million Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and an additional three million euro to the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (UN OCHA) Occupied Palestinian Territories Humanitarian Fund.

It brings Ireland’s financial support to the people of Palestine in 2023 to 29 million euro.

Mr Varadkar had earlier branded Tuesday’s bombing of the al Ahli hospital in Gaza as an “atrocity” but said an independent investigation was needed to establish who was responsible, while Mr Martin said the International Criminal Court would have a role in determining whether it was a war crime.

Hamas has blamed an Israeli air strike for the blast that claimed almost 500 lives.

However, Israel claims the devastation was caused by a misfiring rocket launched by Hamas militants and released imagery and communications intercepts it claims support that case.

During the Dail session, opposition politicians also called for a ceasefire.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the world was witnessing a “humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza”.

Ms McDonald said: “Israel has unleashed the weight of its military might upon a beleaguered refugee population. They rain their arsenal of missiles down upon two million impoverished people hemmed into an area half the size of Co Louth.”

She said Israel was imposing an “apartheid regime” in Gaza.

“Our hearts break for the loss of Israeli lives on that fateful night of October 7, but be very clear that the Israeli offences against Palestine predate that night of horrific loss which has been roundly and fully condemned.

“That condemnation stands in stark contrast to the refusal and failure of our own government in Dublin and in governments across the European Union and the world to condemn Israeli violations of international law.”

Ms McDonald said the increased funding to Palestinians did not relieve the Irish government of its “primary responsibility to hold Israel accountable”.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the world had been “shocked and horrified” to see the unfolding violence in Gaza and Israel.

Ms Back added: “Since then, we’ve seen the horrific escalation of violence and an increasing civilian death toll in Gaza.

“Israel has engaged in clear and egregious breaches of international law which have brought about thousands of civilian deaths – again of women and children – in Gaza.”

She said Israel “must be called to account for war crimes”.

Ms Bacik added: “Ireland can play a significant role in seeking, crucially, that immediate ceasefire.”

The parliament later overwhelmingly voted in favour of a government motion which called for an immediate ceasefire, stressed the universal applicability of international law and reaffirmed a commitment to a two-state solution.

The vote followed the defeat of several opposition amendments.

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