Israel reprimanding Irish ambassador ‘bit of an overreaction’, minister says

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Israel reprimanding Irish ambassador ‘bit of an overreaction’, minister says

Row followed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying an 'an innocent child who was lost has now been found' after Hamas released nine-year-old Irish-Israeli hostage Emily Hand

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Ireland’s further education minister, Simon Harris, has said Israel’s decision to summon the Irish ambassador for a reprimand over comments made by the country’s premier was “a bit of an overreaction”.

It comes after Israel took issue with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying an “an innocent child who was lost has now been found” after Hamas released nine-year-old Irish-Israeli hostage Emily Hand.

Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, said the child had been kidnapped and the comments were an attempt to “legitimise and normalise terror”.

Mr Cohen posted on X at Mr Varadkar: “Mr Prime Minister, It seems you have lost your moral compass and need a reality check!

“Emily Hand was not ‘lost’, she was kidnapped by a terror organisation worse than Isis that murdered her stepmother.

“Emily and more than 30 other Israeli children were taken hostage by Hamas, and you @LeoVaradkar are trying to legitimise and normalise terror. Shame on you!”

Speaking to RTE radio on Monday, Mr Harris said Ireland is “utterly elated” at the child’s release.

“This is a complete distraction. Emily Hand, the little girl, is free. She’s been 50 days in captivity.”

Asked if the relationship with Israel had been further strained, he said: “Israel have decided to summon a number of ambassadors from a number of European countries in recent days, it’s their prerogative to do that.

“I think it is a bit of an overreaction, being honest, and I think the Taoiseach’s statement was extraordinarily clear. The main thing is Emily Hand is back with her family.”

On Sunday Mr Varadkar said: “I call for all hostages to be released without any conditions and always have done so. And the Irish Government has worked very hard over the last few weeks, with Egypt, with Qatar, with the Red Cross and also with Israel.”

He told RTE that the most important thing was that Emily was at home with her family, adding “that’s all that really matters”.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Varadkar’s position on violence in the Middle East is “crystal clear”.

Mrs McDonald told the BBC she understands the Taoiseach’s position.

She said: “The child, young Emily, was kidnapped, she was held hostage and she has now been released to her family, and other hostages, and of course Palestinian women and children that were also held under administrative detention.

“I think, in fairness, the Taoiseach’s position has been very consistent and very clear on these matters.

“Remember that Gaza has had 50 days of bombardment, the place has been levelled, we are faced with thousands and thousands of deaths, thousands and thousands of innocent children dead.

“I think we should not play to any move to distract from that reality and the absolute necessity that we have a permanent ceasefire and a process of peace and dialogue.

“The language, that’s a matter for himself. I understand the Taoiseach’s position, I think it is crystal clear and, in fairness to him, I think he has been consistent on those matters.”

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