Irish ambassador subjected to ‘unacceptable’ treatment by Israel, Martin says

Israel’s reprimand of Ireland’s ambassador was “totally unacceptable”, the Irish deputy premier has said.

Micheal Martin made the remarks after Ambassador Sonya McGuinness was summoned to the Israeli foreign affairs ministry and reprimanded over Ireland’s decision to recognise the state of Palestine.

As proceedings started, Ms McGuinness was shown footage of Hamas that Israel claimed was filmed on October 7.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Martin said: “I find that totally unacceptable and no way to treat diplomats, and is outside the norm by which diplomats are treated in any country.”

On Wednesday, Ireland announced its recognition of the state of Palestine in a joint move with Norway and Spain.

The decision is to formally take effect in the three countries on Tuesday.

In response, Israel warned there would be “severe consequences”.

The Israeli foreign affairs minister, Israel Katz, claimed Ireland and Taoiseach Simon Harris had “rewarded terrorism”.

He said the Irish, Norwegian and Spanish ambassadors would be shown the footage as part of a “severe demarche”.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Martin said: “Diplomatic channels are very important in terms of maintaining contact with people explaining governments’ respective positions.

“Sonya McGuinness is an outstanding ambassador and we have consistently condemned the Hamas attack on October 7.”

Israeli media outlets were also filming the meeting, Mr Martin said.

Pedro Sanchez visit to Ireland
Irish premier Simon Harris worked with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez on recognising Palestinian staehood (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added that Irish officials had anticipated that Ms McGuinness would be called to the foreign ministry but said showing her the footage in front of Israeli national media was something they had not “witnessed before in other countries or jurisdictions”.

Mr Martin added: “Most people would accept internationally that that’s not within the parameters of acceptable norms in terms of how people engage with diplomats.

“I will communicate directly to, in writing if necessary, to the Israeli foreign minister because our speeches on recognition of Palestine were balanced.

“In terms of my own contribution, it was very clear in terms of our rejection of any mono-ethnic approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Since Wednesday, Israeli officials have repeatedly criticised Ireland’s decision to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Mr Katz accused the Irish government of awarding a “gold medal” to Hamas.

Mr Harris rejected the characterisation of the move and accused Israel of misrepresenting the views of Ireland.

On Thursday, he said: “Any foreign ministry can call in any ambassador but what I will not tolerate is any country misrepresenting the position of the Irish people.

“I am the leader of the Irish Government, I speak on behalf of Ireland and we have been clear and unequivocal that we condemn Hamas, that we condemn the most horrific, barbaric massacre that Israel experienced on the seventh of October.

“We call for the unconditional and immediate release of all hostages.

“But it is entirely possible to say what I have just said and also say the next bit – which sadly some refuse to say – that what is happening in Palestine, what is happening in Gaza, is a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Government welcomed orders from the UN’s top court directed at Israel to halt its military operations in Rafah.

The legally binding orders from the International Court of Justice came as part of provisional measures in the South African case against Israel.

In a statement, Mr Martin said: “The orders are crystal clear. The court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

“It has ordered Israel to open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.

“And it has ordered Israel to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by competent organs of the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide.”

He added: “Israel has chosen to disregard these requests but it cannot choose to disregard the orders from the International Court of Justice.

“These are legally binding. They must be complied with.”

However, the court has no police to enforce the orders.

Mr Martin said it was his “heartfelt hope” that a turning point in the conflict was being reached.

“All parties must, with the utmost urgency, intensify efforts to secure an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of hostages and massively scaled-up access and distribution of humanitarian aid.”

Mr Martin, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, will discuss a two-state solution with European and Arab partners in Brussels in the coming days.