Motion for Ireland to back South Africa’s genocide case against Israel is defeated in Dáil

Government counter-motion said it would ‘strongly consider’ an intervention

A Social Democrats motion calling on the Government to support South Africa’s case against Israel under the Genocide Convention in the International Court of Justice has been defeated in the Dáil.

The Government put forward a counter-motion, which was passed by 71 votes to 62.

Protesters gathered outside Leinster House earlier on Wednesday evening demanding the Government support South Africa’s case.

The Government’s motion said it would “strongly consider” an intervention in the South Africa v Israel case “as a matter of urgency” after the court has made its order on preliminary measures and the filing by South Africa of its presentation in the case and “following the necessary legal and policy analysis”.


Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said it was “a disgrace that we are sitting on the fence, watching this happen and not taking action”.

“The people out there who want action from the Government on this issue can see straight through its efforts to avoid taking action,” she said.

The Cork South-West TD said the Government talked about holding the Israeli government to account but had “failed at every single opportunity to do so” and that “words are not enough”.

Her party colleague, Catherine Murphy, said Israel was participating in a land grab. “This is about wiping out the Palestinian people or removing them from their homeland,” she said. “That is what this is about. It is about a genocide. It’s about ethnic cleansing.”

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the Government was taking South Africa’s case against Israel “very seriously”.

“Any decision we take about an intervention will be based on detailed and rigorous legal analysis,” he said. “As in the Ukraine versus Russia case, the expectation is that this will take some time. Our declaration of intervention in that case was made six months after the court made its provisional measures order and two months after Ukraine, as applicant, submitted its memorial.”

Sinn Féin’s foreign affairs spokesman Matt Carthy said more than 25,000 people, including 10,000 children, had been killed in Gaza over the last 100 days.

Mr Carthy said hospitals and third-level institutes had been attacked and demolished with millions forcefully displaced.

“If anyone determines at the end of the day that that is not genocide, well then I do not really know what genocide will ever mean again,” he said.

“What would we apply that term to if we cannot apply it to what is being done by Israel on the Palestinian people of Gaza?” he asked. “Essentially the term genocide becomes a unicorn, something that does not happen. But it does happen, because it is happening in Gaza right now.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said on Tuesday the Government would have to see South Africa’s memorial, its “substantive presentation” to the court on the issue of genocide, before making a decision.

“We would make a decision not just if we decide to join, but on what basis would we join and what are the arguments we would make in the context of the convention itself which is important,” he said.

“We must have a strong legal basis to do this. Interventions by states are not about joining one side or the other. They aim to assert a legal interpretation of the issue at hand.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said the Government agreed South Africa’s case was “valid” but would wait for it to file its memorial before deciding on “the nature of any intervention”.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times