A vote by the Dublin parliament to adopt a Sinn Féin motion condemning the annexation of Palestinian lands by Israel has been hailed as a historic recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
The vote came after thousands turned out across Ireland in support of Palestine last weekend in a dramatic display of the level of public anger in Ireland to the latest Israeli onslaught on the Gaza strip, which saw 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, killed by air strikes.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said the motion on the issue was “a clear signal of the depth of feeling across Ireland.”
“The Government shares that grave concern,” he said. “The scale, pace and strategic nature” of Israel’s settlement action “is de facto annexation”, he admitted.
He said that Ireland is the first EU state to say so, adding that he does not “do it lightly”.
As a sign of appreciation for the solidarity shown by Ireland’s recognition of their plight, an Irish tricolour flag was raised above Ramallah City Hall in the West Bank on Thursday while Ireland’s national anthem ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ played in the background.
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, John Brady, who introduced the motion, said the response showed what the passage of the motion “means to the Palestinian people”
“Ireland now stands as the first country in Europe to categorically state without equivocation that Israel has carried out the crime of annexation in the occupied Palestinian Territories,” he said.
Deputy Brady said that since January, Israel has approved 2,500 settlement dwellings for Israeli planters following 12,000 settlement units in 2020.
He also said the respected international groups had “placed before the world” the undeniable evidence that the state of Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid, and recalled the actions of the Dunnes Stores’ strikers and others in Ireland who fought against apartheid in South Africa.
“The Irish people have pushed the government over the line. The recognition that de facto annexation has taken place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is now the formal position of Ireland,” he said.
“The Irish people, through the Dáil, have stated that Israel is guilty of the crime of annexation.
“The significance of the victory in getting the Irish government to acknowledge that annexation has taken place is enormous.
“It is now incumbent upon the Irish government to accept the imprimatur of the Irish people and take this motion and press for action in the EU, and for action on the UN Security Council on this issue.”
He also called on the Dublin government to follow through by recognising the state of Palestine, and “ensure that Israel is held accountable for its action by the international community.”
Mary Lou MacDonald, Sinn Féin leader, said the Dáil stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people. She accused Israel of being a “serial violator of international law”.
The vote represents “the most explicit and united call from this parliament against annexation”, she said, and called on the government to “hold Israel to account”.
“Do we stand with the brutalised, traumatised refugees of Gaza - or with the Israeli military machine?” she asked.
Last weekend, thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast, Derry and Dublin last weekend to participate in pro-Palestine marches. More than 20 protests, rallies and vigils were held across Ireland in response to the violence that has erupted in Gaza in recent weeks organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
A large demonstration was held in Dublin, with protesters meeting at the Spire on O’Connell Street and marching to the Israeli Embassy in Ballsbridge.
During the march, the crowd stretched 2.3 kilometres from Trinity College to the embassy. Chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Free, free Palestine” rang out in front of the embassy, where a heavy police presence was in place.
In Belfast, hundreds gathered at Custom House Square to call for an end to Israeli aggression. Speaking at the rally, Palestinian activist Mohammed Samaana insisted the world must “not allow the Zionists to control the narrative of what’s happening.”
People Before Profit Assembly member Gerry Carroll said Belfast was united in its opposition to the slaughter of innocent civilians.
“They tell us our city is solely about division, is solely about people being against each other, well today our is city is about unity, is about justice, and is about solidarity with the people of Palestine,” he said.
In Derry, several speakers spoke of their first-hand knowledge of the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, while others condemned the latest bombings and aerial attacks.
There were also calls for an end to the ongoing collaboration between the PSNI police in the north of Ireland and Israeli Police and Prisons Ministry.
Veteran civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann spoke of a world “awakening” to the plight of Palestinians, and said the pressure must continue.
“What we have to do is to keep pushing them.... Freedom for the Palestinian people is closer I believe than it has been in the past,” he said.