Politicians from Ireland at the White House – gallivanting while Gaza burns 

By Summer Conneely 

Once again we have seen the yearly visit of Irish politicians to the United States, culminating in the gifting of a ‘bowl of shamrock’ from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to President Joe Biden. While this annual event is a ridiculous spectacle at best, this year’s visit to the centre of US imperialism had a more disgraceful quality to it. 

With polls showing the overwhelming majority of ordinary Irish people opposed to the Israeli State’s genocidal onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza, it’s no surprise that the visits this year to Israel’s primary backer sparked a backlash. This backlash at this insult to Palestinians has been directed towards both the Government and Sinn Féin; this is particularly true in the case of the latter. 

Varadkar’s hollow words

While the Taoiseach would probably be happy to fall in line behind the opinions of the US empire and European imperialist powers, the sheer weight of Irish public opinion forced him to make some very mild criticisms of the war on Gaza, and, implicitly, the policy of the US and the Israeli State. In his St. Patrick’s Day speech, Varadkar said that the Irish people are “deeply troubled” by the events in Gaza and that: “The people of Gaza desperately need food, medicine and shelter. Most especially they need the bombs to stop.” 

Coming as they did more than five months into the genocide, these words are hardly radical. In fact, the sheer horror of the events in Gaza had already forced Biden – who has from the beginning staunchly justified or denied all of the worst atrocities committed by the Israeli regime – into flaccid calls for more humanitarian aid. Of course he does so even as he despicably continues to withhold funding for UNRWA, the main UN aid agency in Gaza. 

Outrageously, Varadkar actually thanked Genocide Joe, saying: “So we support your work, and that of your administration, to secure a humanitarian ceasefire and to create the space for lasting peace.” And he added, to the President who has sent $14 billion in extra funding to a State carrying out daily war crimes against a defenceless people, that: “I have always believed that America is a force for good in the world.”

Clearly, despite mildly sympathetic words for the plight of Palestinians, Ireland’s government is determined to be a lapdog for US interests.

Sinn Féin’s worse than useless contribution

While not exactly surprising, the decision of Sinn Féin to also visit the White House came as a huge slap in the face to those in the Palestinian solidarity movement, given its historic claims of supporting the Palestinian cause. Responding to criticisms, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it is her “responsibility and duty to visit the US”, adding: “How on earth could I possibly justify not coming and not pressing that case in the strongest possible terms?”. It’s obviously laughable to think that any person could simply convince Biden and other leaders of US imperialism to stop supporting the Israel State’s actions, but what they actually said to Biden we don’t know. Michelle O’Neill said she expressed her “grave concerns” over the situation in Palestine in a private meeting with Biden. 

If her remarks at the ‘Ireland Funds’ dinner in Washington DC are anything to go by it doesn’t inspire confidence. O’Neill’s only vague reference to the “Middle East” was even weaker than Varadkar’s at the same event. She said: “I encourage that same constructive, critical partnership [as the US role in Northern Ireland] in terms of what is happening in the Middle East.” There was no mention of Gaza, genocide, or even a ceasefire.  

Of more concern to Sinn Féin during this trip was spreading the message to US corporations that Northern Ireland is “open for business”. The reality of Sinn Féin’s actions is that they represent its preparation for power, presenting itself as the palatable future managers of Irish capitalism. It should also be noted that this isn’t the first time Sinn Féin has abandoned radical stances to curry favour with US imperialism. In 2003, prior to the murderous invasion of Iraq, Sinn Féin representatives met with then-US President George W. Bush both on St.Patrick’s Day and on his visit to Belfast in the same year. 

What the Palestinian solidarity movement needs from political parties and representatives who have a platform is consistent support in words and in deeds – demanding concrete actions to stop the genocidal war being waged by the Israeli State. Supposed allies that instead engage in the pageantry of friendly international diplomacy with those complicit in the genocide are not allies at all. 

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