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US visit boycott over Gaza would be ‘mistake’

The Taoiseach has said he will use his St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House to discuss “issues on which we disagree”.

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that it would be “a mistake” for Ireland to boycott a shamrock presentation to US President Joe Biden over US military aid in Israel.

He was responding to criticism of the visit from Solidarity TD Mick Barry, who said the event should not go ahead.

Mr Barry said it was wrong to give a bowl of shamrock to President Biden and to take photographs at a time of crisis in Gaza, accusing the US leader of being responsible for “murder” in the enclave.

Responding, the Taoiseach said he does not believe in boycotts in terms of international affairs, adding that it would diminish Ireland’s influence in the world if it refuses to engage with other countries.

Mr Varadkar said: “It is an opportunity to speak to leaders in the US on the Hill and also President Biden and Vice President Harris.

“We’re one of only 200 countries in the world. There are not many countries in the world that are guaranteed a meeting once a year.

“It would be a big mistake for us to boycott that and to lose that important engagement that occurs every year since the 1980s.

“But I will use my opportunity both in private in the Oval Office and in public in the White House to make clear how the Irish people feel about the situation in Gaza and how we believe the US needs and ought to adopt an approach that will help to bring about a peace settlement in the region.”

Mr Varadkar repeated his call for a ceasefire in Gaza and welcomed comments from US Vice President Kamala Harris in relation to a humanitarian ceasefire.

Ms Harris said that, given the “immense scale of suffering” in Gaza, there must be “an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks”.

Referring to a United Nations report, which found “convincing information” regarding sexual violence committed by Hamas during the 7 October attacks on Israel, Mr Varadkar called on TDs who had not yet condemned Hamas to do so.

Additional reporting PA

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