Dáil suspended after protesters in chamber call for sanctions on Israel, as Taoiseach calls for ceasefire before ‘Netanyahu's next tragic mistake’

The Dáil was suspended after protesters inside the chamber interrupted statements on Palestine to call for sanctions to be imposed on Israel.

The group of demonstrators, who were sitting in the public gallery, got to their feet and chanted pro-Palestinian messages.

It came as politicians were making statements in the Dáil following Ireland’s formal recognition of the Palestinian state.

One man held up a sign that said “divest”, while another person carried a Palestinian flag.

The protesters chanted “stop arming Israel”, “sanctions now” and “close Shannon to the US military”.

Security staff in Leinster House removed around nine demonstrators who waved the Palestinian flag and called for immediate sanctions against Israel.

The demonstrators spent some minutes chanting at the politicians who had gathered in the Dáil to make statements in support of Palestine and to condemn the ongoing attacks in Gaza.

A number of Palestinian people were also watching from the public gallery, including Palestine’s ambassador to Ireland Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid. They were not involved in the brief demonstration.

Earlier, Taoiseach Simon Harris said there is an onus on every country and on the European Union “to use every lever at our disposal” to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza.

In a statement to the Dáil, as Ireland formally recognises the state of Palestine, Mr Harris said: "I welcome the decision of the Belgian presidency to convene a meeting on the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

"The human rights clauses in that agreement are and must be meaningful and when they're not being adhered to, that too must have consequences.

"We need to look at all the levers at our disposal to bring about a cessation of violence before Netanyahu's next tragic mistake.

"Formal recognition of the state of Palestine here today is an act of powerful, political and symbolic value. I hope it sends the Palestinian people a message of hope that in this, their darkest hour Ireland stands with them.

"It is an expression of our view that Palestine holds and should be able to vindicate the full rights of the state, including self-determination, self-governance, territorial integrity and security, as well as recognising Palestine own obligations under international law."

Applause broke out in the public gallery and distinguished visitors' gallery, where many Palestinian dignitaries are attending the Dáil, as the Taoiseach told the Dáil that "it is a proud day for Ireland recognising the state of Palestine".

Mr Harris had just before acknowledged their presence, lifting his eyes to where they sat, saying that "the fighting, the killing, the barbaric actions, need to stop”.

The Palestinian flag has been flown at Leinster House today.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he is confident other European countries will recognise the state of Palestine.

“It has long been my view that recognising Palestine would be most impactful if done in a co-ordinated manner with other partners,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.

“That we have taken the decision to recognise the state of Palestine together with Norway and Spain – and in the wider context of a regional peace initiative – is important.

“I am confident that there is a growing consensus among likeminded partners that Palestinian statehood can no longer wait until the end of a process of final settlement negotiations between the parties.

“I anticipate that other European partners may decide to recognise Palestine in the coming weeks and months.

“The challenge now is to maintain this momentum. We need a fundamental paradigm shift in the way all of us in the international community view the solution to this conflict. We need urgency and we need concrete steps.

“We have said many times that an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of hostages and full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access are essential. That remains essential and we will not rest until we have achieved this.”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said Palestinians in Gaza are enduring “horror on an unimaginable scale”.

Ms McDonald told the Dáil that world leaders “continue to draw a false equivalence between the impoverished occupied and the oppressive occupier”.

She accused Israel of “brazenly, repeatedly breaking” international law, adding: “Palestine is a nation threatened by annihilation.

“The world was always going to face a moment of reckoning on Palestine, and as Israel continues its brutal onslaught on the refugee refugee population of Gaza and launched his horrific madness and attacks on Rafah, I believe the moment of reckoning is now.”

Ms McDonald added: “Recognition of the Palestinian state can’t be the end, it has to be just the beginning: a new departure in pursuing freedom and justice for the Palestinians.”

Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has welcomed the formal recognition of Palestine as he said Israel is a “profoundly illiberal” state which “does not share our values any more – if it ever did”.

Speaking in the Dáil, he said “for too long, those of us in the western world have allowed ourselves to be convinced” that Israel is a liberal democracy.

He said it has imposed a different set of rights on Palestinian people, adding that there is “no democracy in the world that operates on that basis”.

Mr Varadkar called the ongoing conflict a “war of revenge” that has seen “gross violations of international humanitarian law”.

He said the war is a “total military and political failure” for Israel, “not just a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The former Taoiseach also addressed the issue of anti-Semitism and said Ireland is a safe country for Jewish people.

He said it is “sad” that some Irish-Jewish people have been made to feel conflicted in their identity for the first time.

“We must say today that we also unequivocally reject anti-Semitism”.

He said Irish Jewish people and Jewish people in general are not responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.

Mr Varadkar condemned Hamas and said the organisation cannot be involved in any future solution in the region.

Meanwhile, speaking as he arrived for the Cabinet meeting this morning, the Taoiseach Simon Harris said the EU has the power to sanction Israel but that it needs to do more to bring an end to the violence.

"Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more and Europe needs to do a lot more in relation to this," the Fine Gael leader said.

It comes as EU foreign ministers engage in significant discussions this week on sanctioning Israel if it fails to comply with international humanitarian law.

"We have an association agreement that is effectively a trade benefit agreement between Europe and Israel, and I am very confident that the overwhelming majority of people in this country would like to see that agreement reviewed from a human rights point of view," Mr Harris added.

He described the decision to recognise the Palestinian state as "historic and important".

This is an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion," he said.

"I am conscious though, as we take this historic and important decision today, of the ongoing human catastrophe unfolding in the Middle East, in Gaza, in Rafah. I am conscious of the devastation being caused by people being deprived of food, starvation, and hunger being used as a weapon of war.

"Unfortunately we now have a new despicable and disgusting trend emerging where, every now and again, in particular when absolute horror seems to take place, the prime minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) comes out and describes it as a 'tragic mistake'.

"April's 'tragic mistake' was the bombing to death of aid workers trying to provide food to starving mouths, May's 'tragic mistake', yesterday, was children being blown to death while seeking protection in a displaced centre.

"What will June's 'tragic mistake' be? And more importantly what does the world now intend to stop it happening?

"For many weeks, I have consistently been making the point at every meeting I have been at, including the European Council meeting, and my meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, and in many conversations with European prime ministers, that we need to use every lever at our disposal to bring about a ceasefire and to stop the violence."

Earlier, opposition politicians said Ireland “needs to go further” than the formal recognition of Palestinian statehood and introduce sanctions against Israel.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said the decision to recognise Palestinian statehood is “brave” in the context of other world leaders but it does not go far enough.

"We have stood out because the bar is low. It is incumbent upon us to go so much further,” he said.

The call for sanctions against Israel come as the EU is looking at possible sanctions if the country does not comply with an order from the International Court of Justice.

Speaking outside Leinster House this morning, Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said: "If we take the decision today recognising the Palestinian state – as we should have long ago – we also need to recognise that that’s not nearly going far enough.

"This situation that we have witnessed in Gaza over the last seven months has been nothing short of horrific. What we’re witnessing in Rafah every single night now is nothing short of barbaric.

"The only thing that will bring that horror to a close is for Israel and the Israeli government to be sanctioned.”

Mr Gannon said the Irish Government must be “unrelenting” and “once again go further” than EU counterparts, enact the Occupied Territories Bill and introduce sanctions against Israel.

He said the recognition of the Palestinian state should not in itself be seen as a “punishment” for Israel and there must be consequences, such as trade sanctions at an EU level.

"The fact that (Benjamin) Netanyahu came out and said it was a tactical error when they literally bombed a tent village and didn’t so much realise that there would be children and women who would be burned as part of that? That’s not a tactical error. That was blatant.”

Meanwhile, Labour Senator Annie Hoey welcomed the formal recognition of Palestine that will take place today, but also called on Government to do more.

She described the footage emerging from Rafah in the last 48 hours and the “cries and screams for mercy” and called on Government to “go beyond even the Occupied Territories Bill”.

"We need full blown sanctions and a full blown boycott of Israel in the same way we had against South Africa in order to tackle apartheid,” she said.

"What we are doing is not enough because we continuing to see burnt bodies, burnt children, burnt women, burnt men. Footage that I cannot believe I am seeing in 2024.

"We simply need to go further than just recognising the statehood of Palestine.”

People Before Profit TD and European election candidate Bríd Smith echoed calls to sanction Israel.

She said it was “very significant” that the Palestinian flag is now flying at Leinster House.

"We believe that flying the flag and declaring the recognition of the Palestinian state is very welcome but it does not go far enough, particularly in light of the events in Rafah,” she said.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

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