Sinn Féin TD speaks on his donning of a Palestinian jersey during Biden address
Following his act of protest, TD Chris Andrews described Israel as "an apartheid state".
The collective gaze of the Irish nation was fixed firmly on proceedings at Leinster House on Thursday evening as Joe Biden became just the fourth ever American President to address the Oireachtas.
After a near-two-hour delay following meetings with both Irish President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the US President entered the Dáil chamber to a rapturous reception from its members.
Amongst all the pomp and pageantry though, one Sinn Féin TD took the opportunity of Mr. Biden's historic speech to highlight one cause which has been forgotten about in the midst of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
That cause is the long-endured plight of the Palestinian people, who have been subjected to what Chris Andrews, a TD for Dublin Bay South, describes as "Israeli terror".
As President Biden soaked in the applause from the adoring Oireachtas, Andrews made his stand, by unveiling a Palestinian football jersey in the middle of what was an inordinately lengthy standing ovation.
"I've long been an advocate for Palestine and ending the blockade in Gaza", Mr. Andrews told JOE.ie.
Speaking to his own relationship with the small Middle Eastern state, the Sinn Féin TD recalled his past travels to the region as an aid worker.
Never known a reception like it. pic.twitter.com/yLKSpFpROq
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"I worked in the Gaza Strip for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights for about four of five months. When you see what's happening there, in Gaza, in Palestine, it's just frightening", stated Mr. Andrews.
The Sinn Féin TD has not just witnessed Israeli aggression towards Palestinians though, but also experienced it first hand.
"I was on a flotilla, an Irish flotilla, and we were kidnapped off international waters, brought back, jailed and imprisoned in Ashdod... we were even held at gun point for three or four hours by Israeli special forces".
Those who condone Israeli violence towards the Palestinian community often do so by sighting the state as acting in self-defence from Palestinian attacks. However, that is not the Palestine that Mr. Andrews knows.
"I know the people of Palestine, and for me, the vast, vast, vast majority of Palestinians just want to get on with their lives. They're very interested in education and progressing, and just having a simple life. But they have been brutalised by Israel and continue to be".
A protest against America's funding of "Israeli terror":
Having intentionally chosen the occasion of President Biden's visit to champion the cause of the Palestinian people, the Sinn Féin TD said he did so due to the American establishment's unwavering support of Israel, who he sees as "an apartheid state".
"America could do even more by reducing and cutting funding to terror, stopping its resourcing of Israeli terror against Palestinians, and by providing funding and recognition to the (Palestinian) settlements".
Mr. Andrews added that Israel "constantly receives condemnation without consequences, and the US needs to do that".
Speaking to his act of protest by donning the Palestinian jersey, he said that "it was a small, very small act of solidarity, to show people and my friends in Palestine that they're not forgotten, and that we will continue to support and advocate and fight for Palestinian justice and human rights".
During President Biden's visit to his ancestral homeland of County Louth on Wednesday, he stated his belief that everybody deserves to live with dignity, a statement which Mr. Andrews has called to be extended to the Palestinian community.
"Everybody deserves to live in dignity, and that includes Palestinians", declared the Dublin Bay South TD.
When asked what he felt the Irish government could do with regards to supporting the Palestinian cause, Mr. Andrews was unequivocal in his response.
"When there was apartheid in Africa, Ireland, and a lot of Irish people stood up against it. And equally, Ireland should now stand against apartheid in Israel".
Going on to criticise the current coalition for failing to officially recognise Palestine as an independent nation state, Mr. Andrews stated that should his Sinn Féin party enter power, that the Irish stance on Israel's actions will change drastically.
"We have to do more than just condemning. There has to be consequences. I firmly believe that. Our (Sinn Féin's) advocacy for Palestine has been consistent and strong throughout the years. And I without hesitation, know that we will impose consequences on Israel's actions if we were to be in government".
A further deviation in opinions from the government line presented itself when Mr. Andrews was asked about remarks made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday during President Biden's visit to Farmleigh House.
The Taoiseach stated that "If it wasn't for American leadership, and if it wasn't for America and Europe working together, I don't know what kind of world we'd live in".
When questioned as to whether or not he agreed with the Fine Gael leader's sentiments, Mr. Andrews bluntly replied "No, I don't. I don't."
The Sinn Féin representative went on to say that whilst he recognises the complex nature of international affairs and that the United States has "been fantastic for the peace process here", that the helping hand offered to Ireland by the US has rarely been replicated with other states.
"The US and Joe Biden's contribution in so many countries, other than Ireland, is completely unacceptable. America's influence on countries right across the globe has been nothing short of business. There's so many examples like the invasion of Iraq... I don't think you can say the US has been good for international dimensions".
President Biden will travel to Ballina on Friday to culminate what has been a whistle-stop tour of the Emerald Isle. However, Mr. Andrews and many of his supporters will hope that the President will take more than just the customary post-card home to the White House, but also a realisation of America's unacceptable Palestinian stance.
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