The Irish government has faced further pressure to join South Africa in a genocide case against Israel, as opposition parties criticised its decision to await the preliminary findings from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The Taoiseach has said the government will wait until South Africa files its main case against Israel before deciding whether to submit an intervention.
South Africa has brought a case against Israel’s action in Gaza, which has killed 25,000 people since October, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
On Wednesday, the Social Democrats tabled a motion in the Dail calling on the Irish government to support South Africa’s case.
Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said that the question of Ireland supporting the case at the ICJ has been “firmly kicked to touch”.
“We are told you will strongly consider an intervention in the South African case but only after the preliminary ruling has been made and after South Africa files its substantive case,” Ms Cairns said.
“That could take months… We do not need to wait for preliminary judgments and subsequent assessments to indicate our support. I’m sure the government knows that.”
Ms Cairns also accused the government of refusing to use the word genocide in reference to Israel’s actions in Gaza.
"We are told Govt will strongly consider an intervention in the South African case – but only after the preliminary ruling has been made by the ICJ," says @HollyCairnsTD
"That could take months.
"Meanwhile, an average of 250 Palestinians are being killed every single day." pic.twitter.com/SmPRM67uRc
— Social Democrats (@SocDems) January 24, 2024
“This is despite the enormous death toll, the tens of thousands who have been maimed, the collapse of the healthcare system, the breakout of famine and the fact that the UN is now warning Gaza has been rendered uninhabitable,” the West Cork TD said.
“Clearly, genocide isn’t a word the government wants to use in relation to Israel, at least not until the preliminary ruling from the ICJ gets it some cover.”
Later on Wednesday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Leinster House in support of the motion.
Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and carried placards which called on the Taoiseach to boycott the traditional annual trip to the White House for St Patrick’s Day over US support of Israel.
Under the night sky, protesters installed a large illuminated sign spelling out “Gaza” across the road from the gates of Leinster House.
Delivering a speech at the protest, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the US and leading European Union states are “up to their necks in Palestinian blood and complicity with Israel’s crimes”.
He added: “It is beyond shameful that the Irish Government still this week is refusing to commit to support South Africa’s brave, courageous decision to take Israel to the ICJ for the crime of genocide against the people of Gaza.”
Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon accused the Government of being “cowardly” in its position, adding: “We can’t stand back and be meek.”
Labour leader Ivana Bacik said Israel was practising apartheid.
She said: “Today we stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza as they endure horrific bombardment.”
Independent senator Frances Black said: “Three-and-a-half months into this nightmare, the Government continues to sit on the fence.
“After all this time, all the death, the destruction, horror – Government still refuses to take meaningful action. It has to make you wonder – if not now, when?
“What does Israel have to do for Ireland to impose sanctions? Is empty rhetoric the only thing we can offer our Palestinian brothers and sisters when they look for practical assistance in their darkest hour.”
During the Dail debate, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said Israel is engaging in a “land grab”.
“This is about wiping out the Palestinian people or removing them from the homeland,” Ms Murphy said.
“That’s what this is about. It’s about a genocide. It’s about ethnic cleansing.”
Minister for agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the government is taking the South Africa’s case “very seriously”.
“Any decision we take about an intervention will be based on detailed and rigorous legal analysis,” he added.
“The government’s position has been clear and consistent across all forums in its bilateral engagement. We need a humanitarian ceasefire. This is a message we conveyed to the United Nations yesterday and remains central to the Tanaiste’s approach to the Foreign Affairs Council earlier this week.”
Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy said more than 25,000 people, including 10,000 children, have been killed in the last 100 days.
He said that the Israeli military has attacked every hospital in Gaza and demolished education buildings.
“If that isn’t genocide, well then I really do not know what genocide will ever mean again because what would we apply that term to?” Mr Carthy added.
“If we can’t apply it to what is being done by Israel on the Palestinian people of Gaza, well then, essentially, the term of genocide becomes a unicorn. Something that doesn’t happen.
“But it does happen because it is happening in Gaza right now.”