For many years, Ireland has increasingly evolved as a strong voice of solidarity for the Palestinian people, both on a national level and within European Union and United Nations platforms. There is a deep connection between the people of both nations, undoubtedly grounded in a common historical experience of colonialism and occupation. With enormous support for the cause of the Palestinian people amongst the Irish general population, over the years, this has increasingly become evident in Ireland’s foreign policy positions.
In February 1980, Ireland was the first country to recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and to call for a Palestinian state, leading to a similar position being adopted by the European Economic Community (EEC), a precursor to the European Union, a few months later. Ireland’s Occupied Territories Bill 2018, which would prohibit trade in goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements has passed eight out of 10 stages in the Irish legislative process and has been the catalyst for the initiation of similar legislation in other countries. In May 2021, Ireland became the first EU country to declare that de facto annexation has taken place in the occupied West Bank, paving the way for the introduction of the counter measures which typically accompany this breach of international law.
Ireland’s position on Palestine is not unique in the area of human rights. In 1984, a group of supermarket workers in refusing to handle goods imported from apartheid South Africa went on strike, which galvanised civil society and ultimately resulted in the Irish government formally adopting a policy to boycott South African produce. This was the first complete ban of South African imports by a Western government.
While developments at a political and policy level make the headlines, the human cost of Israel’s occupation is often the driving force behind Ireland’s advocacy, whether that be the devastating consequences of the regular and persistent murder of Palestinians, home demolitions, administrative detention, arbitrary arrests, limitation on movement or the pervasive violent targeting of Palestinian children. This campaign, aimed at stimulating further political change, specifically draws public attention to the human rights abuses experienced by Palestinian children.