Taoiseach tells Israeli public: ‘IRA was never the people of Ireland and Hamas is not the people of Palestine’

Harris says in CNN interview that he would not tolerate any country misrepresenting the position of the Irish people

Taoiseach Simon Harris has responded to Israel’s criticism of Ireland for recognising the Palestinian state with a message to the Israeli public, saying that Ireland acknowledges their right to peace and security and also that “the IRA was never the people of Ireland and Hamas is not the people of Palestine”.

Ireland, Spain and Norway have all decided to recognise the state of Palestine, prompting the Israeli foreign ministry to reprimand their ambassadors during a meeting where the diplomats were also shown video footage of female Israeli soldiers being taken hostage by Hamas.

During a CNN interview on Thursday evening, it was put to Mr Harris that the Israeli government’s view is that the recognition of the Palestinian state by the three European countries is a reward for Hamas.

Mr Harris said he would not tolerate any country misrepresenting the position of the Irish people, adding: “We have been clear and unequivocal that we condemn Hamas, that we condemn the most horrific, barbaric massacre that Israel experienced on the 7th of October.


“We call for the unconditional and immediate release of all hostages.”

He said it was possible to say this and also say what “sadly some refuse to say” in relation to the Israeli response to the October 7th attack – that “what is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe, that children are being starved ... and that there are children who will go to sleep in Gaza tonight not sure if they would wake in the morning.

“This situation is not sustainable. It needs to stop.”

He added: “I have no intention of being in any way shape or form distracted from the immediate need for a cessation of violence in the Middle East and the need for the release of the hostages for humanitarian aid to flow unimpeded ... and the need for a peace settlement.”

Mr Harris also directed a message to the people of Israel, that Ireland recognises their state and “Israel’s right to live in peace and security.” He said: “The people of Palestine also must have an equivalent right to peace and security.

“And let me also say this to the people of Israel. The Irish people know what it’s like to have their national identity hijacked by a terrorist organisation. The IRA was never the people of Ireland and Hamas is not the people of Palestine.”

Mr Harris said he hopes Ireland’s recognition of the Palestinian state will encourage other countries to do the same and “Israel loses nothing by us recognising the state of Palestine”.

He said it “a positive step towards peace”, that there is a need to stand by international law and human rights and “that means children in Israel, children in Palestine, having a right to live safely side by side in peace and security”.

“Anything else in terms of videos from foreign ministries and the like is distracting from the very, very serious issues, the serious issue of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding.”

This remark was a reference to a social media post by Israel’s minister of foreign affairs Israel Katz, who claimed on X that Ireland’s recognition of Palestine was a reward for Hamas.

The post was accompanied by a video edited to show the Irish flag, Irish dancers and Hamas fighters with traditional Irish music playing over it.

Earlier on Thursday, Ireland’s ambassador to Israel Sonya McGuinness, along with the Spanish and Norwegian ambassadors, were summoned to Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem over the three countries’ decision to recognise Palestine as a state.

The ambassadors were shown a video of five women hostages being taken captive during the Hamas attacks on October 7th.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin criticised the manner in which the meeting was staged, with Israeli media filming the ambassadors as they watched the video footage.

“We have a very strong ambassador I think she does a fantastic job in Israel, she’s fair but I think there has to be norms around how diplomats are treated and there has to be respect and I think today was very inappropriate and wrong but nonetheless we’ll continue to keep putting our point.”

Mr Martin said it may not have been intended but “I have never before come across a situation where media are invited in to witness [a meeting of diplomats] in the manner that happened today”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times