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Israel-Hamas war: 'Words are not enough' from US on Middle East conflict, says Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald says the Middle East is at "a tipping point" and "words are not enough" from the United States.

Speaking ahead of the annual White House reception marking St Patrick's Day, she told Sky News that America had got it "dangerously wrong" on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Referring to the "ongoing, vicious, criminal bombardment of Gaza", she urged US President Joe Biden to "take a firm position" with Israel and demand an immediate ceasefire.

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She said: "The world watches in absolute horror, we're at a tipping point and big decisions now need to be made by the United States.

"We come here as friends, and as people who have had the benefit of great support from the United States for our own peace process.

"But in respect of Palestine, they have got it dangerously, badly wrong and the ceasefire now has to be the absolute priority for everybody concerned."

The Sinn Fein leader, who hopes to be Ireland's next Taoiseach (prime minister) rejected calls for a boycott of the White House over the issue.

She said she had spent the week in Washington and New York, using the "unparalleled" influence Ireland has, to raise concerns about the Middle East.

"Words aren't enough. I'm talking about concrete action. We need to end the slaughter of women and children, 30,000 deaths now," she said.

"I will talk to anybody anywhere to stop that. That's my responsibility.

"So the question isn't why did you come. The question has to be how could you possibly stay away?"

Ms McDonald said Irish political leaders have "a unique position... in that we have a very strong relationship with the United States".

"We also have a strong commitment to freedom for Palestine and self-determination, an end to the occupation," she added.

"How on Earth could I possibly justify not coming and not pressing that case in the strongest possible terms?"

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Ms McDonald said she believed most policymakers on Capitol Hill know the violence in Gaza is "unconscionable" and needs to end.

"In that regard, the United States is absolutely key," she said. "It's a hugely powerful nation, an ally of Israel, arming and supporting Israel.

"You have to come and confront that, and we do that as a country with a huge population here in the United States and with a very strong historic relationship but above all else, with an absolute commitment to peace, to human rights and to freedom for Palestine."

Ms McDonald was also asked about last week's referendum results in Ireland, in which voters rejected two amendments, including one to remove language about a woman's "life within the home" from the constitution.

Ireland's main political parties, including Ms McDonald's Sinn Fein, backed a Yes vote in the referendums.

She said the vote was "sovereign and final" and that the question "has been answered".

But she dismissed the idea her party was losing touch with the electorate amid a drop in support for Sinn Fein in opinion polls.

"We're the largest and leading party according to polling now for many, many years."

She said the party is looking forward to a general election and "giving people the option of positive progressive change".

"I still passionately believe in the kind of change that we're advocating."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his concerns about the Middle East during a bilateral meeting with President Biden last Friday.

The two leaders will meet again today, with Ireland being the only country in the world granted an annual White House reception in honour of its patron saint.