Taoiseach defends attendance of Israeli ambassador at famine commemoration

Harris says ‘we maintain diplomatic links with countries even if we abhor their actions’ and reiterates intention to recognise Palestinian state

Taoiseach Simon Harris has defended the attendance of Israeli ambassador Dana Erlich at a famine commemoration last weekend, as Opposition TDs sharply criticised her presence at the ceremony.

Mr Harris told TDs that “Ireland has decided to maintain diplomatic links with Israel. We maintain diplomatic links with countries even if we abhor their actions.”

He also reiterated the Government’s intention “to recognise the state of Palestine this month”, although he did not specify a date. “We obviously hope to do so with some other countries,” he said.

A number of TDs expressed shock at Ms Erlich’s attendance at the famine commemoration in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett renewed his call for her to be expelled.


“I find it quite shocking, to be quite honest, that the Israeli ambassador was asked to attend a famine memorial event when the Israeli regime she represents is wilfully inflicting a famine on the people of Gaza,” he said.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said reports indicated the State may recognise Palestine as early as Wednesday. “I welcome that particularly as we see the horrendous death toll rise in Gaza and as we see International Criminal Court arrest warrants brought against Netanyahu and Israeli and Hamas leaders.”

She said the Attorney General’s statement in February to the International Court of Justice that countries must prevent trade that maintains Israel’s annexation of Palestine “is at odds with” the apparent advice to the Taoiseach on the Occupied Territories Bill and she called for a debate or questions and answers suggestion to settle “once and for all” if blocking the progression of the Bill is legal or “merely political”.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said part of the International Criminal Court’s case is the use of starvation of civilians as a weapon of war. The Israeli ambassador’s presence was “an insult not only to the occasion but to the one million Irish people who died and were forcefully exiled from our nation to a point where we still have not recovered our population”.

He said it was a “political decision” because the Russian ambassador was not there but the Israelis and all other ambassadors were.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said the Government made a political decision to invite the Israeli ambassador and to have her “commemorating our famine as Israel is busy committing genocide in the occupied territories is pure hypocrisy”.

The Taoiseach said however that “we maintain diplomatic links with countries even if we abhor their actions. I abhor the actions of the Netanyahu government regarding what is happening in the Middle East.

“I conveyed that very strongly to the president of Israel in a firm but respectful conversation last week. I conveyed it again on behalf of the people of Ireland in the presence of the Israeli ambassador at our famine commemoration this week.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times