Gaza: Ireland welcomes EU decision to release funds to UN’s Palestinian aid agency

More than a dozen countries previously suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

Micheal Martin talking
Tanaiste Deputy premier Micheal Martin said the support was ‘urgently needed’ by the Palestinian people (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland has welcomed the European Commission’s decision to release funding to the UN’s Palestinian aid agency.

The commission said on Friday that it would proceed with paying 50 million euro (£43 million) of its 82 million (£70 million) euro envelope towards the agency next week and increase emergency support to Palestinians by 68 million euro (£58 million) this year by funding other organisations.

It had also allocated 125 million euro (£107 million) of humanitarian aid for Palestinians this year and contracted the first 16 million euro (£14 million) of this package on Friday.

More than a dozen countries suspended funding for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) after allegations that 12 of its 13,000 Gaza staff members participated in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

The commission had originally been due to give 82 million euro to UNRWA on Thursday but wanted the agency to accept its terms for an audit.

The aid organisation has told the commission that it agreed to the launch of an audit to be conducted by EU-appointed external experts.

Ireland, which provided 20 million euro (£17 million) in core funding to UNRWA last month, had repeatedly called for other states to continue financially supporting the agency.

On Friday, the country’s deputy premier Micheal Martin welcomed the commission’s continuation of funding which he described as “urgently needed” by the Palestinian people.

In a statement, Mr Martin said: “After four-and-a-half months of relentless violence and displacement, civilians in Gaza are living in conditions that no human being should have to endure.

“Against this backdrop, the role and mandate of UNRWA is more important than ever. It is the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza.

“It is clear that UNRWA is the one organisation that has the bandwidth and capacity to provide services and distribute aid comprehensively across Gaza and the wider region.”

Mr Martin, who is also the Irish foreign affairs minister, said he welcomed engagement between the UN and the commission on investigating the allegations against UNRWA staff.

He said it was essential that all UN member states co-operated in full with the investigation and the review.

Mr Martin added: “This is a critical moment – for desperate civilians in Gaza, and for the stability of the wider region.

“The international community needs to step up now to support UNRWA, so it can fulfil its vital and life-saving mandate.”