Taoiseach says Europe could be doing ‘hell of a lot more’ to reach Gaza ceasefire as Republic recognises Palestinian state

Simon Harris made the comments on the day the Republic formally recognised a Palestinian state in a joint move with Norway and Spain.

The flag of Palestine (left) flying outside Leinster House, Dublin
The flag of Palestine (left) flying outside Leinster House, Dublin (Damien Storan/PA)

Europe could be doing a “hell of a lot more” in bringing about a ceasefire in Gaza and on sanctioning Israel, the Irish premier has said.

Simon Harris made the comments on the day the Republic formally recognised a Palestinian state in a joint move with Norway and Spain.

The Palestinian flag has been flown at Leinster House.

Speaking as he arrived for the Cabinet meeting where the Government agreed to the formal recognition, the Taoiseach said the European Union has the power to sanction Israel but that it needs to do more to bring an end to the violence.

“Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more and Europe needs to do a lot more in relation to this,” the Fine Gael leader said.

Ireland has formally recognised a Palestinian state in a joint move with Norway and Spain
Ireland has formally recognised a Palestinian state in a joint move with Norway and Spain (Niall Carson/PA)

It comes as EU foreign ministers engage in significant discussions this week on sanctioning Israel if it fails to comply with international humanitarian law.

“We have an association agreement that is effectively a trade benefit agreement between Europe and Israel, and I am very confident that the overwhelming majority of people in this country would like to see that agreement reviewed from a human rights point of view,” Mr Harris added.

He described the decision to recognise the Palestinian state as “historic and important”.

“This is an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion,” he said.

“I am conscious though, as we take this historic and important decision today, of the ongoing human catastrophe unfolding in the Middle East, in Gaza, in Rafah. I am conscious of the devastation being caused by people being deprived of food, starvation, and hunger being used as a weapon of war.

“Unfortunately we now have a new despicable and disgusting trend emerging where, every now and again, in particular when absolute horror seems to take place, the Prime Minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) comes out and describes it as a ‘tragic mistake’.

“April’s ‘tragic mistake’ was the bombing to death of aid workers trying to provide food to starving mouths, May’s ‘tragic mistake’, yesterday, was children being blown to death while seeking protection in a displaced centre.

“What will June’s ‘tragic mistake’ be? And more importantly what does the world now intend to stop it happening?

“For many weeks I have consistently been making the point at every meeting I have been at, including the European Council meeting, and my meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, and in many conversations with European prime ministers, that we need to use every lever at our disposal to bring about a ceasefire and to stop the violence.”

Ireland will recognise a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, the culmination of months of diplomatic work that began in December.

The Palestinian Mission in Ireland is to be upgraded to an embassy and a Palestinian ambassador to Ireland will be appointed.

Ireland will upgrade its Representative Office of Ireland in Ramallah to an embassy, and redesignate the Irish Representative to Palestine as the Ambassador of Ireland to the State of Palestine.

Mr Harris said he hopes the move will encourage other EU member states to take the same step.

He said other European countries are considering recognising the Palestinian state.

Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin said the move by the Government authorises the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the state of Palestine.

“Subject to the formal request from the Palestinian authorities, the Government will upgrade the status of the Palestinian Mission in Ireland to that of an Embassy, and authorise the appointment of an ambassador from the state of Palestine to Ireland,” Mr Martin said.

“Our decision today also authorises the upgrading of the current Representative Office of Ireland in Ramallah to an Embassy.

“Recognition of Palestine is not the end of a process; it is the beginning. We are deeply committed to the pursuit of peace and support for Palestinian state-building.

“Ireland has reaffirmed this commitment over many decades, through intensive diplomacy and our long-standing development co-operation programme.”

He added: “It is vital that the Palestinian Authority is given the full backing of the international community in its reform and service delivery efforts and we will redouble our energies to this end.

“In recent days, I have held substantive discussions on the path ahead with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa and engaged with European and Arab partners on the Arab Peace Vision as a meaningful way forward in achieving peace.

“Ireland will continue to work closely with the Palestinian Authority, and our EU and international partners, in creating a political path that can stop this horrific conflict and humanitarian disaster, ensure the release of all hostages, and realise the vision of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state existing alongside the state of Israel in peace and security.”

The current ambassador in Dublin, Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, said the move “gives hope” and it is “the right time” to recognise a Palestinian state.

“I am looking forward to seeing the flag flying on Leinster House. It’s a big moment,” she said.

Israel’s foreign affairs minister, Israel Katz, reacted to the recognition by issuing a “severe demarche” to the Irish, Spanish and Norwegian ambassadors to Israel.