Category Archives: policy

Smith on @FiannaFailparty’s continuing commitment to and support for #Palestine

Brendan Smith TD on Fianna Fail’s continuing commitment to and support for Palestine during a Private Members Debate Motion in Dail Eireann on Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Brendan Smith TD in Dáil Éireann

Brendan Smith TD in Dáil Éireann

Deputy Brendan Smith: On behalf of Fianna Fáil, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the need for the Government to recognise the state of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders. We will be supporting this motion. I am glad that Deputies on all sides of the House are supportive of this proposal. We believe this House must send out a strong message in one voice on behalf of the Irish people that we stand with the people of Palestine and their right to self-determination.

We acknowledge that this motion largely reflects what happened in Seanad Éireann on 22 October last. When a motion supporting the recognition of the state of Palestine – it called “on the Government to formally recognise the State of Palestine and do everything it can at an international level to help to secure a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” – was carried unanimously on that historic occasion, it was an indication of the strong democratic support in Ireland for such recognition. It reflected the strong desire in this country for a sustainable and secure settlement of the conflict in the Middle East, for peace for Israelis and Palestinians in their own states, and for equality, fairness and justice in the settlement between the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Fianna Fáil has been at the vanguard in supporting a two-state solution in the Middle East for a number of decades. Fianna Fáil in government led Ireland to become the first EU member state to declare that a solution to the conflict in the Middle East had to be based on a fully sovereign state of Palestine, independent of and coexisting with Israel. That policy position was launched in 1980 by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the late Brian Lenihan senior, who said that the Palestinian people “had a right to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State in Palestine”.

The motion passed by Seanad Éireann shows that we are moving further in this regard. We now believe the time is right for the Government to fully recognise Palestine as a sovereign, independent state. We have called on the Government to follow the lead of the French Republic’s Parliament, Sweden and the UK House of Commons by recognising the state of Palestine. Our rationale in this regard stems from a frustration with the lack of progress in advancing the two-state solution in recent years. That is a message that has come from all speakers here tonight.

The recent war in Gaza and the unwillingness of the Israeli Government to engage in meaningful and constructive negotiations with the Palestinians have resulted in a mind shift across the world regarding how best to approach the conflict in the Middle East. We acknowledge that recognition by itself cannot end the occupation. Only Israel can do this. If Ireland and other EU states recognise Palestine, it could represent an important step towards unlocking negotiations. The recognition of Palestine would be anti-occupation, rather than anti-Israel. Given that Ireland already recognises the state of Israel, the recognition of Palestine would help to create a parity of status.

Some 20 years after the Oslo Accords, the prospect of achieving a two-state solution appear to be more remote than ever. That fact should concern all Members of this House. It appears to any objective observer that Israel has done everything it can to undermine the chances of achieving such an outcome. We acknowledge that there have been many initiatives allowing for talks on peace, but they have continuously failed with the result that Israel has intensified its illegal occupation of Palestine. The illegal settlements on the West Bank have trebled in size as Israel has seized more Palestinian land and planted Israeli settlers on it. Israel has erected a huge separation barrier and implemented what must called an apartheid regime on the West Bank that denies Palestinians the basic human rights their Israeli counterparts take for granted. Such actions are not those of an Israeli state that is preparing for a two-state solution. Such actions will not inspire and consolidate peace.

This summer, we witnessed Israel’s third devastating assault in six years on the people of Gaza. Any hope the Gaza ceasefire might lead to meaningful peace negotiations was quickly dashed when, within one week of agreeing to it, Israel announced more settlements on the West Bank. This deeply provocative move fundamentally undermined any prospect of peace.

As my colleague, Senator Power, outlined in the Seanad, these actions represented a deeply cynical, long-term game aimed at destroying any prospect of a viable Palestinian state. Unfortunately, these actions have been facilitated by a largely passive international community, including the EU, which has stood by as Israel has wilfully violated international law and ignored countless UN resolutions. As things stand, Israel has no incentive to engage in meaningful negotiations. It has successfully used its military might time and again to ensure it holds all the cards. Without wider recognition of the Palestinian state, representatives of Palestine have been in a weaker position at the negotiating table. It is time to redress this balance by joining Sweden and other EU member states in recognising Palestine and thereby making it clear that statehood is a right of the Palestinian people, rather than an Israeli bargaining chip to be played in further negotiations which are doomed to fail. The recognition of the state of Palestine would increase pressure on Israel to pursue a genuine peace process that has a real prospect of delivering peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

Fianna Fáil has always respected and celebrated the establishment and progress of the state of Israel. We have never questioned the right of the Israeli people to exercise their right to self-determination and self-defence. Our support of this motion and our tabling of the motion in the Seanad in October should not be seen as a slight against Israel or its people. Like any other nation, Israel has a duty to abide by internationally accepted standards of human rights, proportionality and responsibility.

The Palestinian authorities must act in a responsible fashion in their interactions with Israel. They should condemn the recent lone wolf attacks carried out in Jerusalem and take action to prevent such attacks in the future. Ireland has traditionally and rightly been vocal in its support for the Palestinian people and proactive in lobbying on their behalf internationally. We do this because we understand what it is like to be a nation without a voice. We understand the difficulties of bargaining with a stronger power. We understand conflict between peoples. The lessons of our experience should inform our efforts to secure full recognition for the Palestinian state and deliver a viable two-state solution to settle the conflict.

We have the opportunity to outline our position now instead of seeking to hide behind the EU’s lack of consensus on this matter. Sweden is not hiding behind the lack of an EU Common Position or accepting the Israeli line that the recognition of Palestine is something in Israel’s gift in future negotiations. Nor should we. In supporting this motion and taking this step to help build a lasting and just peace in the region based on human rights and respect for international law, we are sending a clear message on behalf of all Irish people. We should take this step and join the many others in the international community who want a lasting peace in the Middle East. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to support the recognition of the state of Palestine. We should also use all other international fora available to us to encourage other states to make the same moves.

The Acting Chairman will recall how the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, stated his belief at the last meeting of our foreign affairs committee that the EU had to take a more proactive approach in seeking a peace settlement. I hope that the Minister strongly puts to the European Council the message that, along with other members of the international community, the EU has a binding and moral duty to ensure basic justice and equality for a people who have been downtrodden for many decades.

I recall reading some essays on the work and political life of one of Deputy O’Dowd’s predecessors in Louth, Frank Aiken, who served for many years as Minister for External Affairs and was one of Fianna Fáil’s founding members. During his time at the UN in the 1940s and 1950s, he often spoke at length about the need for justice and equality for everyone in the Middle East. Many years later, we are speaking about the same subject. Unfortunately, there has been no progress for the Palestinian people.



#EU must Coordinate United Approach to Middle East Humanitarian Crisis

EU must Coordinate United Approach to Middle East Humanitarian Crisis – FF

Appointment of new High Representative for Foreign Affairs key in offering credible voice on international stage

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brendan Smith TD has stated that the European Union must coordinate its approach in seeking to address the horrific humanitarian crisis which is ongoing in Syria, Gaza and Iraq. The recently published UN Report showing that the number of Syrian refugees is now over 3 million people should spur a renewed effort from the EU in seeking to assist those who find themselves without a home as a result of the conflict there. The EU must also develop a Union wide response to the threat from the terrorist group Isis and ensure that all Member States are prepared and have a strategy to deal with the return of Islamic combatants to Europe.

Deputy Smith stated: “The news this week that the number of Syrian refugees has now gone beyond 3 million is shocking and shows the enormous crisis which is developing on Europe’s doorstep. This figure publish by the United Nations does not include hundreds of thousands of others who fled without registering as refugees. The conditions within the country now are increasingly horrifying and the UN report states that people are going hungry and civilians are being targeted or indiscriminately killed.”

“Similarly in Gaza, the recent conflict has displaced about a fourth of Gaza’s population. Nearly 60,000 people have lost their homes. The damage to infrastructure there is more severe than the destruction caused by either of the last two Gaza wars according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Yet the humanitarian assistance required in Gaza has not materialised in a timely or effective way due to the unstable peace which has been declared. The EU must impress on the rest of the international community that they must honour their obligations and commitments to increase humanitarian assistance for the Middle East region.”

“Europe must provide a coordinated plan of humanitarian assistance to ensure that EU aid and foreign policy helps those who have been displaced and challenges those who have prolonged these conflicts. The EU too must be vigilant against the possible radicalisation of its citizens from returning combatants in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. We must develop a comprehensive strategy to guard against the infiltration of Jihadists within our societies. The EU must take every action necessary to help those seeking to defeat the terrorist group known as Isis and protect our borders from their ideas and their people.”

“I would urge European leaders gathering at the weekend’s meeting of the European Council to agree as quickly as possible to the appointment of a new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who can provide a united European voice. The failure to appoint a new High Representative in July undermined the EU’s credibility on the international stage, especially at a time of such unrest in the world. Europe needs a strong voice now more than ever. This appointment must be made without delay.”

NOTE: This statement was issued on August 29th, 2014.

20th Anniversary of IRA Ceasefire should act as Impetus for Progress : Govt is failing to engage in seeking solution to Northern Talks

Government Failing to Engage in Seeking Solution to Northern Talks – FF

20th Anniversary of IRA Ceasefire should act as Impetus for Progress

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brendan Smith TD has stated that the Government has failed to fully engage in seeking to find a solution to the current impasse since the unsuccessful end of the Haass Talks in Northern Ireland at the end of last year. The Government must take a “hands on” approach if this process is to be brought to a successful conclusion. The Irish and British Governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement have an obligation to ensure the successful implementation of the commitments of that internationally binding Agreement.

Deputy Smith stated: “This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the announcement of the IRA ceasefire. This week, we recalled the great leadership shown by the late Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds and the risks he was willing to take to achieve peace when in Office.”

“It is time for this Government to refocus its efforts in the North and push for further progress in completing the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and finally agreeing the Haass proposals”.

“There is an opportunity now to complete the work that was begun by Dr Richard Haass and Professor Megan Greene in finalising proposals to deal with the very important matters of parades, flags, identity issues and the past. The Government needs to take a more proactive approach to Northern Ireland. Since this Government took office we have seen a continuous drift in meaningful engagement between the Northern Executive, the British Government and the Government here. Put simply, it appears the North has not been a priority for this Government”.

“As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, any time we have made substantial progress on North-South development, the agenda was driven by the two Governments. That commitment and work gave us the Downing Street Declaration, the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement. I genuinely believe that without the active and leading role being played by both Governments, we will not see the kind of progress that needs to be made for the sake of all of the people on this island”.

“There are other important issues within the remit of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive that need to be progressed without further delay and political parties holding executive office have to represent the interests of all the community and not just their own political base. Unfortunately we have witnessed missed opportunities due to political posturing and the two major parties in the Assembly, the DUP and Sinn Féin, must honour their responsibilities”.

“The full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement will bring additional benefits to all the people of this island and there is an onus on both Governments and the Northern Executive to maximise the potential of further North/South development and also Irish/British relations. The political progress since 1994 must act as a catalyst for further political economic and social development on the island of Ireland”, concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.



Note: This statement was issued on August 30th 2014.

Decisive action needed at EU Foreign Ministers emergency meeting – Smith

This statement was issued Wed August 13th 2014

Decisive action needed at EU emergency meeting – Smith

Minister Charlie Flanagan should spell out Irish policy position on key crises to avoid repeat of UN abstention mess

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Brendan Smith TD has welcomed the decision to hold an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council this Friday. The meeting will discuss the escalating situations in Ukraine and Iraq.

Deputy Smith commented, “For too long the European Union has sat back while the crises in Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq intensified. We have seen an appalling humanitarian disaster unfold on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, yet as a union we have been slow to respond to this emergency. I welcome the Government’s announcement today of additional funding for aid agencies on the ground, but what we really need to see is a comprehensive EU approach that deals with both the humanitarian crisis and the political instability. Over the past number of weeks, Fianna Fáil has repeatedly called for the international community to respond and deal comprehensively with these crises.

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, Deputy Smith said, “I’m very concerned about the increased tension and political rhetoric from both Russian and Ukrainian elements. The latest stand-off concerning a Russian convoy apparently carrying aid, bound for East Ukraine has the potential to further destabilise the region. One of the proposals I would like to see discussed by EU Ministers on Friday is the possibility of an international role being taken in relation to humanitarian aid.

“There was shock and surprise when the Government decided to abstain from a vote to establish a UN inquiry into violence in Gaza. I believe to avoid confusion and questions over Ireland’s position on international matters of concern that the Government should clearly set out what Irish policy is on these issues and what we hope to achieve with our European colleagues this week. We should be taking a more proactive role in helping to shape the decisions made by the EU, and I would urge Minister Flanagan to explain his proposals in advance and take a more hands on approach to our engagement in these discussions”.

@FiannaFailparty condemns further violence in #Gaza and rising anti-semitism in Europe

Attacks on Gaza

Attacks on Gaza

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brendan Smith TD, has condemned the resumption of violence in Gaza following failed negotiations to extend the original humanitarian ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

Deputy Smith also strongly criticised the large number of rockets which were fired from Gaza towards Israel after a 72-hour ceasefire expired at 8am local time.

“Over the past number of weeks the Fianna Fáil Party have strongly and consistently condemned the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces in their attacks on innocent people in Gaza resulting in huge loss of life and suffering for so many. Fianna Fáil have always advocated for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza and a full return to peaceful negotiations with the aim of establishing a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. In recent weeks, the world has witnessed the slaughter of innocent people in Gaza and a new low was reached when UN schools and refugee centres were attacked by Israeli forces.

“There is a need for peace, not a resumption of violence. This is very tragic news coming from Gaza today and begins another period of attacks which will result in the killing of innocent civilians from both sides of the conflict. I condemn in the strongest terms the rockets fired at Israeli targets ending the humanitarian ceasefire which began three days ago.

“The Irish Government and the European Union must seek to influence both Israel and Hamas in exercising restraint. In particular, schools and refugee camps run by the United Nations must not be targeted in any way. The international community must raise its voice in objection to any such attacks by either side in this conflict. Work must also continue by those who can initiate a pathway to peace to build on the discussions already begun in Egypt.

“I along with many Irish citizens will be taking part in anti-war demonstrations across Ireland at the weekend. Ireland has had a long interest in the challenges in the Middle East and has always acted out of experience from our own troubled history and out of an over-riding respect for and belief in human rights for all people across the world. Successive Fianna Fáil Minsters for Foreign Affairs have consistently spoken out in favour of a peaceful, equitable and a fair and lasting settlement in the Middle-East. We have always championed the causes of oppressed countries in the world at the United Nations and in other international fora.

“The world, and in particular Europe, must ensure that the current conflict in the Middle East does not result in any anti-Semitic behaviour occurring in our countries. There have been some very disturbing reports of rising anti-Semitic behaviour in Europe. All right thinking people deplore anti-Semitism. It must not be tolerated in any of its forms in society. Let the message go out from Ireland that we are for peace, human rights and equality in the Middle East. We are not a country engaged in anti-Semitic behaviour and any suggestion of same could only be seen for the outrageous comment that it is.”


This statement was issued on Friday August 8th and also appears on the Fianna Fáil website:

FF calls for Govt to demand urgent EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting to discuss #Gaza-Israel crisis @eucouncil




Fianna Fáil calls for Government to demand urgent EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting to discuss Gaza-Israel crisis

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Brendan Smith TD is calling on the Government to seek a special meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. The EU’s lack of intervention, as well as its abstention from a UN resolution to establish a commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Gaza and condemning Israel for potential violations of international law, has angered many people in Ireland.

Deputy Smith commented, “I am calling on Minister Charlie Flanagan to seek an urgent meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council to address the escalating humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The Israeli ground invasion has entered its fourth week. More than 1,800 Palestinians and over 60 Israelis have been killed in the violence. Images of badly injured women and children have dominated our TV screens for the past month demonstrating so clearly the scale of the situation.

“All loss of life must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but the bombing of UN schools and designated shelters by the Israeli military is intolerable. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the latest attack on a school in Rafah as a “moral outrage and a criminal act”.

“The EU cannot be allowed to continue with its hands-off approach and must be spurred into action. How many more lives will have been lost before the Foreign Affairs Council meets again? How many more innocent civilians must suffer before the EU and the international community can be forced into action? Measures must be taken to stop the bloodshed.

“EU Ministers must change their approach and demand a ceasefire in the region to allow for meaningful talks to take place. Violence solves nothing, discussions and mediated negotiations are our only hope of a resolution to this decades old conflict. The current wave of aggression must be stopped and the EU, led by Ireland if necessary, should impose sanctions on goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. The EU needs to take a tougher, but united stance and prove that indiscriminate killings and maimings are not acceptable. It needs to go further than it has to date, and I am urging the Government here to play its part and seek a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council at the earliest possible date”.


Smith condemns ongoing slaughter of children in Gaza

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Brendan Smith TD has condemned yesterday’s attack in Gaza which resulted in the loss of the lives of eight children and two adults in a playground. The UN’s children’s fund says there is no safe place in Gaza for children, as the death toll from the conflict continues to rise daily.

Deputy Smith commented, “The continued slaughter of children in Gaza is completely unacceptable and inhumane. Any loss of life is deplorable, but the killing of a child is particularly appalling. As the conflict between Gaza and Israel escalates, it is becoming more apparent that innocent civilians and children are accounting for a disproportionate number of the casualties and fatalities.

“The sustained rocket attacks on both sides of the border should be condemned at the highest level, however, the Government here has shown little leadership in this matter, choosing to abstain from a UN Human Rights Council resolution to set up a commission of inquiry into atrocities in Gaza as well as refusing a Dáil debate on the issue.

“There needs to be clear message from the international community that the level of violence being used by Israel against Gaza is disproportionate and should not be tolerated. We have always acknowledged Israel’s right to defend and protect itself, but the level of violence demonstrated in recent weeks, and particularly over the last few days has been excessive.

“I am backing calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, to limit the number of civilian deaths. It is imperative that the situation is not allowed to intensify. Too many innocent lives have already been destroyed in this conflict, and the increasing death toll is unacceptable. Concerted diplomatic efforts must be made to find a resolution to the current situation, and all available mediation and conciliation agencies should be used to bring about a peaceful end to the ongoing atrocities”.