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Ireland has ‘no plans’ to suspend funding to UNRWA amid Israeli allegations

Ireland has no plans to suspend funding for the UN’s relief agency in Gaza amid Israeli claims that some employees participated in the Hamas attacks of October 7, the country’s deputy premier has said.

Micheal Martin said he backed the decision by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to take action against those staff suspected of involvement in what he described as the “heinous” attacks by Hamas.

However, he made clear Ireland did not intend to follow the likes of the US and UK in suspending funding to the agency.

UNRWA is playing a central role in providing aid for Gazans amid the ongoing Israeli offensive in the enclave.

Israel-Hamas conflict
People marched in Dublin city centre during a pro-Palestinian march to the Oireachtas parliament (Brian Lawless/PA).

The agency’s chief Philippe Lazzarini said it had terminated contracts with “several” employees and ordered an investigation after Israel provided information alleging they played a role in the Hamas assault.

The US state department has said the allegations relate to 12 employees.

As well as the UK and US, Australia, Italy and Canada have also temporarily paused funding for UNRWA.

Mr Martin expressed support for the agency’s response to the allegations, saying it had shown “zero tolerance on terror”.

In a post on X, the Tanaiste said Ireland had “no plans to suspend funding for UNRWA’s vital Gaza work”.

He highlighted that Ireland had provided 18 million euros (£15 million) to the agency last year as he stressed that support would continue in 2024.

“UNRWA’s 13,000 employees provide life saving assistance to 2.3 million people and at incredible personal cost – with over 100 staff killed in last 4 months,” he posted.

His statement came as another major pro-Palestinian march and protest took place in Dublin on Saturday.

Thousands of demonstrators walked from Parnell Square in the north inner city to the gates of the Oireachtas parliament.

The rally heard calls for the Government to impose sanctions on Israel and also to join South Africa’s case against the Israeli state in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Several other similar demonstrations took place on the island of Ireland on Saturday, including in Belfast and Cork.

On Friday, Mr Martin said the Government would “strongly consider” an intervention in South Africa’s genocide case in the UN’s top court.

Israel-Hamas conflict
The protest in Dublin heard calls for Ireland to join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said it will carry out a detailed analysis of Friday’s ruling by the ICJ, which ordered Israel to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

Saturday’s protest in Dublin was organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

IPSC chairperson Zoe Lawlor said the ICJ ruling was a “historic defeat” for Israel and its backers.

“Israel must now be forced by the international community into ending its genocidal war on the Palestinian people of Gaza – and all states and private entities rendering aid, granting political cover to, or otherwise enabling, this assault must cease such support immediately,” she said.

“In particular, the Irish government must now act to meet its obligations to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention by imposing lawful sanctions on Israel and complicit corporate entities, including ending the bilateral arms trade and implementing the Occupied Territories Bill and Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill (Bills proposed by opposition politicians in the Oireachtas that would legislate for sanctions on Israel).

“Furthermore, Ireland must now intervene at the ICJ on the side of South Africa, of Palestine, and of justice.”