Harris says Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is an affirmation of Palestinian right to self-determination

Taoiseach rejects suggestions from Israel that Government’s decision will challenge Israeli sovereignty and security

Ireland will formally recognise an independent state of Palestine, Taoiseach Simon Harris announced on Wednesday morning.

The announcement was made in tandem with the governments of Spain and Norway, who similarly declared their intention to recognise an independent Palestinian state. Ireland’s recognition of Palestinian statehood will come into effect next week on May 28th.

In announcing the decision the Taoiseach characterised Ireland’s recognition of Palestine as a step towards peace in the Middle East, and an affirmation of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, independent statehood, security and dignity – at times drawing on Ireland’s own struggle for independence.

The announcement “is an act of powerful political and symbolic value”, and marks “an important and historic day”, Mr Harris said from the steps of Government Buildings. “It is an expression of our view that Palestine holds and should be able to vindicate the full rights of the state, including self-determination, self-governance, territorial integrity and security, as well as recognising Palestine’s own obligations under international law.”


He was joined in making the announcement by Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, the former labelling the announcement “a historic moment”.

Mr Harris’s announcement immediately drew the ire of Israel, who said that the decision undermined the country’s sovereignty and security. Dana Erlich, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, was recalled from Dublin by foreign minister Yisrael Katz, with similar action taken against Spain and Norway.

Drawing on Ireland’s own past, Mr Harris spoke of Ireland’s pleas to the international community for the recognition of its independence and right to self-determination over 100 years ago.

“Today we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a state. We do so because we believe in freedom and justice as the fundamental principles of international law, and because we believe that permanent peace can only be secured upon the basis of the free will of a free people.”

This recognition is a “message” to Palestinians who advocate for peace and democracy, Mr Harris said, that Ireland fully respects their aspirations “to be living freely in control of your own affairs, under your own leadership”.

Mr Harris rejected suggestions from Israel that the Government’s decision would challenge Israeli sovereignty and security. “Israel loses nothing from the recognition of the state of Palestine. We need to see a two-state solution that recognises the state of Israel recognises the state of Palestine.”

Asked about the timing of the Government’s decision, and the perception that it was prompted by events following the October 7th attacks on Israel, Mr Harris said “Hamas is not the Palestinian people”.

“Here in Ireland, better than most countries in the world, we know what it’s like when a terrorist organisation seeks to hijack your identity and seeks to speak for you.” He said right-thinking people were able to differentiate between “the actions of terrorists” and “the decent people of a state”.

Mr Harris accepted that it had long been the position of successive governments to recognise Palestinian statehood. The Dáil unanimously voted to recognise a state of Palestine in 2014.

At present 143 member states of the United Nations recognise Palestinian statehood.

The three Coalition leaders were at pains to point out that recognition of Palestine was not an endorsement of Hamas – there were repeat condemnations of the October 7th attacks in which 1,200 people were killed by Hamas militants – or a hostile act towards Israel, pre-empting any “misrepresentation” of Wednesday morning’s announcement.

Rather the act of recognition was “a statement of unequivocal support” for the two-state solution, “the only credible path” to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Mr Harris said. Ireland recognised the state of Israel and the state of Palestine equally.

Mr Harris admitted that 30 years after the Olso Accords peace in the Middle East was “perhaps further away than ever”. He said keeping alive the aspirations of those peace agreements was “a huge challenge”.

The Taoiseach said the Government’s announcement came at a time of “appalling suffering, hardship and starvation” for Gazan Palestinians. “How can anyone justify children going to sleep not knowing if they will wake up?”

Mr Martin said the decision was a promotion of “moderation” in Palestine. “It can be argued that Israeli strategy, war and suppression of the Palestinian people has empowered extremism,” he said.

Throughout the briefing the three leaders reiterated calls for a ceasefire, a release of hostages, and unhindered access of humanitarian aid into Gaza. “Civilians on all sides must be protected by international humanitarian law. Violence and hatred can only ever be a dead end,” Mr Harris said.

Mr Harris also rejected suggestions that the announcement was “virtue signalling” or a populist move ahead of next month’s European elections.

Mr Martin said Ireland rejected calls for the entirety of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the river Jordan to form a “mono-ethnic state, based on either forced exile or subjugation”.

He outlined the obligations of Palestinian leaders in a Palestinian state to provide “democracy, to human rights, to good governance, and to the rule of law” to its people.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan drew parallels to Ireland’s experience with violence during the Troubles and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. “We have learned the hard way that violence against innocent civilians to try and achieve political aims cannot and must never win.”

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist