Palestinian people ‘being forced to live in an apartheid regime’, says Eamon Ryan

Green Party leader warns against ‘easy, false promises’ in run-in to year of elections at annual conference

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said that the Palestinian people are “being forced to live in an apartheid regime”.

In a speech to his party’s national convention in Dublin on Saturday evening, the Minister for Transport said that Ireland’s condemnation of Hamas for their “horrific crimes” on October 7th last year was clear but that what was under way in Gaza amounted to “collective punishment”.

“The real problem has been the treatment of the Palestinian people over the last 60 years.

“The denial of their basic rights in their own homeland has gone on for too long. It is hard to escape the conclusion that they are being forced to live in an apartheid regime. It has to change. We have to think now of what happens after the ceasefire. The two-state solution has to be delivered, not parked in a diplomatic void,” he said.


Earlier, in her speech, Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin targeted other EU countries for being “wrong and inconsistent” on Gaza, saying they had sanctioned Russia “yet lose their voice, their outrage, when it comes to imposing sanction on Israel”.

Mr Ryan also said that there would be 40,000 homes built in Ireland this year, telling the convention that “if we can keep adding to that number we will start to solve the housing crisis”.

He decried a politics “based on fear and division” saying it would be better to call it “nihilism” rather than right wing or conservative. “They seem to reject everything that is good with an anger that in the end will be corrosive and self-destructive.”

After Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman attacked the Opposition in his speech, he said voices on the left spend time “attempting to depict our country as some sort of failed state”.

He warned that the focus in Europe had shifted from “bees to bullets” with the Nature Restoration Law on hold and a draft strategy from the European Council presidency which “effectively seeks to abandon the European Green deal”, saying that the far-right’s main goal was to “stop the Green transition”.

Mr Ryan echoed comments from Ms Martin and promised to deliver a new funding model for public service broadcasting “before the Dáil summer break”.

“Once we do it will stand as one of this Government’s achievements and will be one of your most important legacies as a minister,” he told Ms Martin from the stage at the RDS.

He said that democracy is “under threat even in the United States where the prospect of another Donald Trump presidency looms large”. He said that in the European Union “the best suddenly seem to lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.

He warned that ignoring climate change “will ruin everything we hold most dear.”

“The future security of our children and their own children depends on our ability to change course”. He told delegates that Ireland is “good at going green” and that emissions had been halved per person in the last two decades. He said that Ireland has “all the ingredients” to make the Green transition work. “The only question is how fast we can go,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Ryan warned against “easy, false promises” in the run-in to a year of elections.

While Mr Ryan said he was not criticising his Government partners, his comments come after Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil signalled a wide range of spending measures for the upcoming budget.

Mr Ryan said the budget was in October and “we should be careful about promising all sorts of promises in the interim.”

“I don’t think the electorate are swayed by it, I don’t think the electorate are won over by easy, false promises in April for what’s going to happen in October,” he said. He later said when pressed that he wasn’t referring to anyone directly.

He said he had a “conversation” with Tánaiste Micheál Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader, about comments made by him and others at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis last week, but rejected suggestions it was a “scolding” and said it was “very civil”.

“We don’t tend to scold,” he said.

In an interview with The Irish Times on Saturday, Mr Ryan warned that the stage was set for a “trickier, tenser period in Government” as elections loom.

“I don’t think a promise of a ... tax cut or whatever in the budget in October actually is actually going to win this election on June 7th.”

He said he fully understands that people set out their stalls but that he “gets on well enough with his Government colleagues that yes I can say sometimes it is easy to promise but we should be careful because we have to deliver.”

He said that promise-making in April for the budget in October was “politically difficult” and that colleagues are “promising this, that and the other, describing a long list of committed budget promises” after Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ardfheiseanna.

Speaking at the convention, Mr O’Gorman said the Government would consider legislation written by Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne which would ban protests outside people’s homes.

Mr O’Gorman’s home was picketed by masked protesters on Friday evening.

Mr O’Gorman said a response had to be proportionate “because we can’t create a barrier between politicians and public” but that it was important to ensure people involved in politics feel safe. The Dublin West TD, who was strongly critical of Sinn Féin in his speech to Green Party delegates, said it was legitimate to “contrast dramatic and sudden changes” from the opposition.

Mr Ryan said he expected the Government would pass controversial hate speech legislation. He said the party would “wait and see” proposed changes from the Department of Justice but that the Green Party was of the view that the legislation should be passed.

Ms Martin also promised that a decision would be taken on a future funding model for RTÉ. “It will absolutely happen,” she said, saying consecutive governments had failed to take a decision on public service broadcasting.

She said two external reports done up by expert advisers on culture, governance and other matters at RTÉ are currently being fact checked and she would move to a recommendation for Government on the funding model once they were completed.

Green Party MEP for Dublin Ciarán Cuffe said he did not favour reports from EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to appoint a defence commissioner after the European elections this summer.

“I don’t think it’s constructive at this stage to have a stand-alone commissioner for defence,” he said.

Mr Ryan said that the engagement with real people offline was very different from the criticism and commentary about the Green Party online. He predicted that the Green Party would win a seat in Kerry.

“The Healy-Raes I think I’ve shocking news for them, the Kingdom is going green,” he said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times