Sinn Féin motion calling on Government to join South African ICJ case against Israel defeated in Dáil

Countermotion by Government passed by 71 votes to 62

A Sinn Féin motion calling on the Government to join South Africa’s case against Israel under the Genocide Convention in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been defeated in the Dáil.

A Government countermotion was passed by 71 votes to 62 on Wednesday night. The Government’s amended motion deleted reference to filing a declaration of intention to intervene in the case or commencing the process for participation in it.

The ICJ found last week that South Africa’s accusation that Israel has breached the Genocide Convention was plausible enough for it to order emergency measures to protect Palestinian lives.

The full case as to whether Israel has breached the Convention will be heard at a later date. The court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire as South Africa had requested, but it told Israel to prevent acts of genocide “with immediate effect”, including by ensuring its army did not kill or cause serious bodily or mental harm to Palestinians in Gaza.


Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin dismissed Opposition calls to declare support for South Africa’s case on Tuesday.

Mr Martin said the Government would consider whether to make an intervention “in the right way and at the right time” and would take a “serious, rigorous, and informed approach” to South Africa’s case.

“We will not be distracted by political posturing or one-upmanship,” he said.

“The Government will analyse the issue thoroughly and then make its decision.”

Mr Martin added that officials from his Department of Foreign Affairs had already consulted with their South African counterparts while he had spoken to a number of European Union partners.

“Indeed our South African counterparts are indicating four to five months before they will be submitting their substantial case,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for foreign affairs Matt Carthy said the Government could no longer deny it was aware of “an imminent threat of genocide being committed”.

Mr Carthy said the Government could and should “send a clear message to the world” by adopting the motion.

“The Government’s amendment, again, seeks to long-finger the necessary action and is simply not good enough,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the ICJ’s preliminary judgment was hugely significant and there now remained “no excuse for the Government not to act or join South Africa in challenging Israel’s impunity”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland welcomed the ICJ’s decision but that the court “did not make any findings of genocide against Israel”.

“But [the court] did say that South Africa has a relevant case that can be considered and we are now taking a rigorous legal analysis of this matter,” he said.

“Our understanding from our initial legal advice is that the term join is not the correct one to use.”

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times