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Not the policy of the Irish government to engage in boycotts, says Taoiseach

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said it is not the policy of his government to engage in boycotts.

The Taoiseach and a number of other ministers are currently attending events in the United States ahead of St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Varadkar visited the home of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Tuesday among other engagements.

On Monday he met Massachusetts governor Maura Healey and the US special economic envoy to Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy.

Taoiseach visit to the US
Leo Varadkar during a visit to the home of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston (Niall Carson/PA)

The Taoiseach also gave a keynote address at the John F Kennedy Library where he said the US and Ireland must dedicate themselves to peace in Gaza.

It has been indicated that Mr Varadkar will raised the Israel-Palestine conflict during high-level engagements in Washington DC starting on Wednesday.

He is set to meet US President Joe Biden, vice president Kamala Harris and speaker Mike Johnson.

Speaking to journalists at Fenway Park, Mr Varadkar was asked about the decision by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media of Ireland Catherine Martin to attend the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, despite a boycott of the event by a number of Irish artists.

Leo Varadkar at the John F Kennedy Library in Boston
Leo Varadkar at the John F Kennedy Library in Boston (Niall Carson/PA)

The artists pulled out over the event’s association with the US military and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Mr Varadkar said he had not spoken to Ms Martin about it.

“I fully appreciate that people have the right to boycott events should they choose to do so, and I totally respect that but it’s not the policy of the Irish Government to engage in boycotts,” he said.

“It’s one thing to exclude a country from an event or a competition or a sporting event, or a film festival for example, it’s another thing to exclude yourself because they weren’t excluded, and it’s not our policy to boycott. It’s our policy to engage.

“But I absolutely appreciate that other people have a different view, and as long as they are consistent in their boycotts.”

Mr Varadkar added: “I look forward to my engagement with President Biden later in the week and also vice president Harris, and the speaker and other congressional leaders.

“On Ukraine, what I am going to say to them is thank you for your support so far but please stick with us. We need to remember the lessons from the 1930s, you can’t appease a dictator. Putin will come back for more and Europe and America must stand together on this and put forward a funding package.

“When it comes to the situation in Palestine and Gaza, I’d be very keen to push the case for a ceasefire and more importantly to ask America to get involved once again in the drive for peace. It happened before with president Carter, it happened before with president Clinton and I think hopefully President Biden can take the lead on this.”