Taoiseach to raise human rights issues and decriminalising homosexuality in Palestine when Palestinian president visits

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Collins

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will raise concerns about human rights, including the need to decriminalise homosexuality, in Palestine when President Mahmoud Abbas visits this coming weekend.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that President Abbas is due to stop off in Ireland on his way to the United Nations general assembly in New York.

The Palestinian leader is due to pay a courtesy call on President Higgins and also hold talks on Saturday with Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, at Farmleigh.

Replying to Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, the Taoiseach said it was government policy to recognise the state of Palestine as part of a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel. Ms McDonald had said it was high time Ireland proceeded with this official recognition of Palestine.

But the Taoiseach again signalled that this will be delayed until progress is made on a larger solution in the long-running conflict.

Mr Varadkar also said he had yet to confirm whether he and President Abbas would get to meet at the weekend. But he added that he had other concerns he would like to raise with the Palestinian President.

“I will use that opportunity to reaffirm our support for a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution,” the Taoiseach said.

“I will also use the opportunity to raise other concerns about democracy and human rights in the Palestinian territories, in particular for example the fact that homosexuality has yet to be decriminalised in Gaza,” Mr Varadkar added.

The Taoiseach said it was important to use meetings with representatives of the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian groups to stress support for their self-determination but it was important to also show Ireland was not afraid to raise serious issues of human rights in territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.