While the UK gets itself in a jumble on Palestine or Israel our next door neighbour has no such qualms. Ireland is quite clearly fighting Palestine’s corner. Sinn Fein backing the Palestinians is no surprise, but the main parts of the Irish establishment have fallen into line too. Leo Varadkar has gone off script several times and has been arguing against the mainstream EU position much to the annoyance of Germany. The Irish President Michael D Higgins got into a spat with the Israeli ambassador which Simon Coveney the foreign minister had to calm down.
Ironically the Israeli President Isaac Herzog could equally stand for President of Ireland as that’s where his family is from.
On the streets too there have been demos in Dublin and Palestinian flags flying. The Republic has made its mind up.
Ireland’s position is often explained by it seeing in Palestine parallels with its own past. Colonisation, a fight to win independence, a David versus Goliath struggle ( though since David was an Israeli and Goliath a Palestinian, they need to swap height ). Elements of the Northern conflict also come in to play as Sinn Fein – which polls say is now the largest party in the Republic – has always been firmly aligned with the PLO and its offshoots. So, Ireland is definitely trying to fight the Palestinians’ corner.
It is however a difficult fight. Ireland is currently diametrically opposed to its two largest allies. The USA which is staunchly pro-Israel and one of Ireland’s biggest investors. I can’t see much wiggle room in this. Paddy Cosgrove one of Ireland’s leading tech entrepreneurs had to resign when his comments on Israel upset his primarily US customers and they went on a boycott. Ursula von der Leyen is in a straight fight with Ireland as is Olaf Scholz who for historical reasons will be behind Israel. So while I can see the downside of this gamble Im less clear on what the upside is
Is this just a spat or will there be a price to pay ? Hard to say, Ireland has decided to get involved in someone else’s fight. On further fights down the road, it may find itself with fewer friends. Corporate tax reform is a big challenge with both the USA and EU seeking to get their missing tax revenues back. Ireland is taking a brave stand and must hope it is not an expensive one.