Tánaiste urges Israel to show restraint following Iranian attack on Israel

EU foreign ministers to discuss how to de-escalate tensions when they meet in Brussels today

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has added his voice to international leaders calling on the Israeli government to show restraint and avoid escalating the conflict in the Middle East following a missile and drone attack by Iran on Israel at the weekend.

Speaking in advance of the extraordinary meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Tuesday, the Tánaiste said: “I welcome this extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. It is imperative that military action in the Middle East is brought to a swift end, and that we see de-escalation of military hostilities by all parties, states and entities across the region and the EU should continue to express itself clearly on this. I once again condemn Iran’s attack on Israel.

“We must continue to move swiftly towards ending the abhorrent situation in Gaza, where civilians continue to die as a result of military hostilities. We must see an immediate and sustainable humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access.

“We have already seen the immense damage that has occurred in the Middle East from decades of war, conflict and instability. Its citizens deserve a better future. The EU must now work with partners across the region to show that we are ready to deliver this with them.”


French President Emannual Macron has called for a truce and ceasefire in the region, saying that Israel has the right to defend itself and condemning Iran for the missile and drone attack but said “it was now necessary to convince Israel not to respond by escalating but rather by isolating Iran”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres also urged both sides to “step back from the brink” of a wider conflict. “Neither the region nor the world can afford more war – now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” he told a UN Emergency Meeting on the Iranian airborne attack.

Mr Martin sounded a similar note in Cork on Monday, urging restraint from all sides and warning that an escalation of the conflict would have disastrous consequences not just for people in the region but also in Africa who are already vulnerable to economic hardship and food shortages.

“This is of concern to the entire world and in particular the people of the region who has suffered far too much. We have too much war in the world. Every effort has to be made to de-escalate the situation in the Middle East, particularly in respect of the hostilities between Iran and Israel,” he said.

Mr Martin said that notwithstanding the fact that Israeli defences and other countries in the region had dealt with the early Sunday morning Iranian attack involving 120 ballistic missiles, 170 drones and 30 cruise missiles, the fact remains that it marked a worrying new development in the region.

“We acknowledge that there’s no question that Iran has been a malign actor and has been a shadow war through the various proxies, be it Hamas, Hizbullah or the Houthis but this is the first full-on country attack on another country,” said Mr Martin.

“And what is required now is a de-escalation of this particular aspect of it. We need an end to the war in Gaza, where people are suffering, the people of Gaza cannot be overlooked in this situation. Famine is across Gaza now, we need an urgent cessation of violence there.”

“But there is also a wider impact in terms of lives and livelihoods because the increased escalation here has enormous negative potential in terms of economies, in terms of trade, which is essential to the lives of people and particularly people in areas in Africa who are more vulnerable.”

Speaking at Collins Barracks in Cork where he opened a new €4.5 million accommodation block on Monday, Mr Martin, who is also Minister for Defence, said he and the Defence Forces were monitoring the situation closely as Ireland has some 340 troops on UNIFIL peacekeeping duties in Lebanon.

“We have troops in Lebanon in UNIFIL. We’ve been very conscious of the situation in Lebanon from the very start on October 7th in terms of the heinous attack (by Hamas) into Israel and then the attack and the war on Gaza. We’ve been very conscious of the dangers of escalation.

“I spoke to the Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Sean Clancy yesterday – all our people are safe, and their wellbeing is uppermost in our mind at all times. They’re monitoring the situation along with their colleagues in UNIFIL because this is a very serious moment, and one people need to draw back from.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times