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Historic announcement is one step on long path to peace

Under a slate grey sky, the three Coalition leaders walked purposefully down the steps of Government Buildings this morning to address the waiting national and international media.

The British King, Edward VII, laid the foundation stone for the complex in April 1904 and it was completed in March 1922 – just in time to be occupied by the new Irish Free State government.

Today, Taoiseach Simon Harris leaned on that analogy in his opening statement in which he announced that Ireland would recognise the State of Palestine, along with Norway and Spain.

He said Ireland believes that justice and permanent peace can only be secured upon the free will of a free people, and Irish history underlines what the recognition of independence means.

The Taoiseach said part of the Government’s aim is to offer hope to Palestine.

He said: “To the people of Palestine at one of their darkest hours, we in Ireland see you. We recognise you. We respect you.

“We will continue to work so that you, and your children, and your children’s children can have the better future you deserve and so that one day, Palestinian children and Israeli children can live side by side in peace and security.”

With the former Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, looking on from the margins, Tánaiste Micheál Martin put some flesh on the bones of the Irish strategy.

He said that the recognition of the State of Palestine had been in the Coalition’s Programme for Government, but the Irish position was consistent with previous administrations.

The Tánaiste said: “Few states in the world have invested as much intensive diplomatic engagement, energy and application as Ireland into supporting, nurturing and protecting the viability of a negotiated pathway to the realisation of that statehood on equal and sovereign terms for Palestinians and Israelis.”

Reflecting on the massacre by Hamas on Israel on 7 October, and Israeli’s continuing military response, he said: “It is with a heavy heart that we watch those intent on imposing by force the future based on violence, domination, subordination and exclusion becomes some of the most prominent voices in Israel and Palestine today.”

Mr Martin added: “We reject that future. Instead, we endorse a future that so many people in the Middle East and internationally have put so much time and energy and commitment into developing over decades, one based on mutual respect, equality, and on two states for two peoples.”

Read more:
‘Historic day’ as Ireland recognises Palestinian state
Which countries recognise a Palestinian state?
Israel furious as three countries recognise Palestinian state

All three Coalition leaders were at pains to state that recognising the State of Palestine was in no way any endorsement of Hamas.

Minister Eamon Ryan declared: “We have learned the hard way that violence against innocent civilians to try and achieve political aims can and must never win.

“Now, whether that be a car bomb on the streets of Omagh or Jerusalem, be that a rocket landing in Tel Aviv or no warning blast in the Birmingham pub.”

He said that today is “the right time” for Ireland to recognise the State of Palestine.

Minister Ryan elaborated: “It follows that vote by 143 countries in the United Nations the week before last recognising their right to join the United Nations.

“It comes at a moment when hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are on the brink of starvation. And it comes at a time where the ongoing conflict in the West Bank has been allowed to fester for decades.”

Keenly aware of the Israeli government’s claim that recognising Palestine endangers its sovereignty and safety, the Taoiseach added: “To the people of Israel, I say that Ireland recognises the state of Israel and condemns the barbaric acts carried out by Hamas in October.”

He added: “However Hamas is not the Palestinian people, he added, and a two-state solution is the only way out of generational violence.”

In his remarks, the Taoiseach also alluded to the scale of the task facing those who advocate a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

He said the pathway to peace never seemed more remote than at any point since Norway brokered a deal back in 1993 under the “Oslo Accords”.

That’s the grim backdrop to today’s historic announcement.

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