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Irish Labour Party criticises Keir Starmer over ‘disappointing’ stance on Gaza

The Irish Labour Party has criticised Sir Keir Starmer for his “disappointing” stance in relation to Gaza and asked him “to turn the course on it”.

Labour TD Aodhan O’Riordain said Sir Keir was effectively “cheerleading” the military offensive in the enclave, as the death toll climbs above 25,000.

Both the UK Conservative government and the Labour opposition have said they back Israel’s right to defend itself following Hamas’ October 7 attacks in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 others kidnapped.

Both the Tories and UK Labour have expressed support for a two-state solution to the conflict and a “sustainable” ceasefire but have resisted calls to back an immediate one.

Sir Keir came under criticism for comments made during an interview with LBC in November, where he appeared to claim that “Israel has the right” to withhold power and water from Palestinians in Gaza.

He later moved to clarify the comments by saying that his remarks referred to Israel’s right to self defence and that he was not saying that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicines.

In recent weeks the Labour Party has hardened its tone towards the Israeli prime minister, with Sir Keir describing Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state when the war ends as “unacceptable”.

Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday, Mr O’Riordain, who is a former junior minister, urged the UK Labour leader to shift his party’s stance on the issue.

“I’ve spoken to people in the UK Labour Party who are disappointed.

“They want to win the election, I understand that, they’ve come from controversies about antisemitism in the UK Labour Party, I understand that as well.

“But if you’re going to be a Labour leader of a country like the UK, you have to believe in something better than just middle-of-the-road, steady-as-she-goes politics.

“It’s evil in our time, it’s a genocide on our watch.

“If you’re going to be Prime Minister of the UK, either you’re against this stuff, or you just let it happen.

“And to my mind – and I’m pretty sure (Senator Rebecca Moynihan) agrees me and people in the Irish Labour Party agree with me – Keir Starmer’s reaction to this has been incredibly disappointing and we wish he would turn the course on it.”

He added: “I believe there’s a breakdown in moral leadership across western democracies when it comes to Gaza.

“Because I find it quite difficult to leave Leinster House every evening and see the Ukrainian flag projected up against Leinster House because there was a collective sense at that time that there was right and wrong.

“And that there was an evil act taking place on our borders in Europe, in terms of Ukraine, and everybody was on the same side, everybody understood what was right and wrong.

“The EU understood it, the UK understood it, America understood it, and we were all happy to row in behind that.

“Now it feels like it’s completely hypocritical.

“Now feels like it was almost smug, because now we have (European Commission president) Ursula von der Leyen who is resolutely in Israel’s camp.

“You have in the UK, not just the Prime Minister, but the Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, a Labour leader, cheerleading this stuff effectively, and you see it in the US as well.”

Israel has defended its military actions in Gaza as a fight against Hamas extremists, with Israeli ambassador to Ireland Dana Erlich stating recently that “significant measures” have been taken to minimise civilian casualties.