Ireland’s Palestinian State Recognition Nods to Its Own History

When the Irish government on Wednesday announced formal recognition of an independent Palestinian state, it drew on its own struggle for statehood and the violence that surrounded it.

“From our own history we know what it means: recognition is an act of powerful political and symbolic value,” Simon Harris, the taoiseach, or prime minister of Ireland, said at a news briefing.

Mr. Harris was nodding to the Republic of Ireland’s quest for self-rule in the early part of the 20th century after hundreds of years of British rule. He detailed how, on Jan. 21, 1919, Ireland asked the world to recognize its right to independence.

“Our message to the free nations of the world was a plea for international recognition of our independence, emphasizing our distinct national identity, our historical struggle and our right to self-determination and justice,” he said. “Today we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a state.”

Ireland condemned Hamas after the group led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that officials there say killed some 1,200 people. And since the start of the conflict in Gaza, it has sharply rebuked Israel for its assault that Gazan authorities say has left more than 35,000 people dead.

Mr. Harris emphasized that Ireland’s announcement, which came on the same day as similar moves by Spain and Norway, did not diminish his country’s relationship with Israel. Instead, he said, it was an acknowledgment that Israel and a state of Palestine had an equal right to exist.

“I want to know in years to come that Ireland spoke up, spoke out, in favor of peace,” he added.

The Republic of Ireland has a deep history of support for Palestinians and for their efforts to establish an independent state, and the announcement on Wednesday drew support from across the political spectrum and from within the country’s coalition government.

The small island of Ireland — which is made up of the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom — also experienced its own seemingly intractable sectarian conflict between mostly Catholic nationalists who supported independence and mostly Protestant unionists who supported alignment with Britain.

That conflict, which was marked by thousands of lives lost in terrorist bombings, shootings and clashes with the military and police over decades that came to be known as The Troubles, came to a close with the Good Friday agreement in 1998.

“Ireland has for many decades recognized the State of Israel and its right to exist in peace and security,” Mr. Harris said. “We had hoped to recognize Palestine as part of a two-state peace deal, but instead we recognize Palestine to keep the hope of that two-state solution alive.”

Mr. Harris also drew on Ireland’s history when he made a distinction between Hamas terrorism and the broader Palestinian population.

Asked whether recognition of Palestinian statehood would empower Hamas, Mr. Harris said: “Hamas is not the Palestinian people, and here in Ireland, better than most countries in the world, we know what it’s like when a terrorist organization seeks to hijack your identity and seeks to speak for you.”

It was a clear reference to the deadly terror attacks carried out decades ago by paramilitary groups across the islands of Ireland and Britain, often in the name of Irish independence.

“Palestine is made up of people, decent people. So is Israel,” he said, adding: “I think right-thinking people around the world are able to differentiate between the actions of terrorists and the decent people of a state.”

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