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‘Ashamed to call myself Irish’, says Tom Hand after Government recognition of Palestine

The father of a young girl kidnapped by Hamas on October 7th last year and held for 50 days in Gaza before being released as part of a temporary ceasefire deal, says he is “ashamed” to be Irish in the wake of the Government’s formal recognition of the state of Palestine last week.

“I’ve been a very proud Irishman all my life,” Tom Hand, originally from Dún Laoghaire, said in an interview with Reuters. “I’ve always advertised the fact … I tell people: ‘Yeah, I’m Irish.’ I’m not so proud any more. I’m actually embarrassed; ashamed to call myself Irish now.

“After what’s happened to Emily, and they [the Irish authorities] were integral in the whole process of it [her release]. Okay, she’s only an individual but she is an Irish citizen. And then knowing everything, knowing everything that Hamas has done – I’m sure they’ve seen the videos from their Go-Pros … They’ve seen all the evidence – [they say]: ‘Okay, here’s your reward then for absolute violence. Here’s your reward. We recognise you as a state.’ Nice one.”

“I don’t mind pro-Palestine,” he said, “but when you’re pro-Hamas, that’s a different ballgame. Really you’re supporting that? It’s wrong.”

Leading figures in the Government stressed at the time Ireland recognised Palestine that it was not intended in anyway to be seen as an endorsement of Hamas but rather a step intended to promote a negotiated peace between the wider Palestinian people and Israel.

“We have been clear and unequivocal that we condemn Hamas, that we condemn the most horrific, barbaric massacre that Israel experienced on the 7th of October,” Taoiseach Simon Harris said in an interview last week.

But, Mr Harris said, “what is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe, that children are being starved … and that there are children who will go to sleep in Gaza tonight not sure if they would wake in the morning.

“This situation is not sustainable. It needs to stop. I have no intention of being in any way shape or form distracted from the immediate need for a cessation of violence in the Middle East and the need for the release of the hostages for humanitarian aid to flow unimpeded … and the need for a peace settlement.”

Emily, then eight-year-old, was abducted while on a sleepover where her friend 13-year-old friend Hila in Kibbutz Be’ri when Hamas attacked on October 7th, killing more than 1,200 and kidnapping 253.

Mr Hand’s ex-wife Narkis, who had helped raise Emily, whose own mother died seven years ago, was among those murdered in the attack.

Emily and Hila were released in late November having been moved repeatedly by their captors between houses in order to avoid them being freed by members of the Israeli Defence Forces. She was said to have been deeply traumatised by the experience and has been receiving specialist supports since.

In an interview in February, Mr Hand said any further deals intended to secure additional hostage releases needed to be “reasonable”.

“You know, talk reasonable numbers,” he said while expressing support for the ongoing war.

At the time, 225 Israeli soldiers killed and, he suggested, the military response would be “pointless, a waste of time, effort, and lives,” if it was not completed. “We have to finish the job”.

To date, more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the Israeli invasion of Gaza that followed the Hamas attack.

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