Irish government votes against backing South Africa's genocide case against Israel at ICJ

Irish government votes against backing South Africa's genocide case against Israel at ICJ
Ireland's government voted down a motion that would have seen Ireland formally back South Africa's Gaza genocide case against Israel at the ICJ.
3 min read
25 January, 2024
Protesters rallied outside the Irish parliament in support of the motion [Getty]

A motion that urged Ireland's government to back South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was defeated in parliament on Wednesday.

A motion introduced at the Dail, parliament's lower house, by the Social Democrats with cross-party backing from Labour, Sinn Fein and People Before Profit was voted down by the governing coalition of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

The motion had called for the Irish government to immediately and formally support South Africa's charges of genocide against Israel as it wages war on the Gaza Strip.

A government counter-motion, which said it would "strongly consider" intervening in the South Africa v Israel case after the ICJ has made its order on preliminary measures, was passed by 71 votes to 62.

The vote came as thousands of pro-Palestine activists protested outside Leinster House, the seat of Ireland’s parliament, in support of Ireland intervening immediately in favour of the South African case. 

Reacting to the government’s rejection of the motion, Holly Cairns, the leader of the Social Democrats, said it was "a disgrace that we are sitting on the fence, watching this happen and not taking action", according to The Irish Times.

She pointed out the public’s demand for decisive action, saying: "The people out there who want action from the government on this issue can see straight through its efforts to avoid taking action."

Her party colleague, Catherine Murphy, said it was clear that Israel’s actions were genocidal in intent.

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"This is about wiping out the Palestinian people or removing them from their homeland," the Kildare North representative said.

"That is what this is about. It is about a genocide. It's about ethnic cleansing," she added.

South Africa brought a case against Israel at the ICJ under the Genocide Convention at the turn of the year.

Israel’s aerial and land assault on Gaza has killed at least 25,700 people since October, most of whom are innocent civilians.

Much of the Palestinian enclave has been left flattened and uninhabitable, with 85 percent of the population displaced.

Numerous other states, such as Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia and Malaysia, have publicly backed the ICJ case, as has the 57-member bloc of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

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Irish Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the government was taking South Africa’s case against Israel "very seriously".

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar acknowledged the validity of South Africa's case but said that the government will reserve its decision until South Africa files its formal presentation.

The ICJ will decide on Friday whether it will order emergency measures against Israel as a result of South Africa’s case.