Michelle O'Neill urges President Biden to push for ceasefire in Gaza

Michelle O'Neill urges President Biden to push for ceasefire in Gaza

SINN FÉIN's Michelle O'Neill has urged US President Joe Biden to push for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The First Minister cited the role of the US in securing peace in Northern Ireland as an example of how the country can use its influence to secure a settlement in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden has thanked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for Ireland's support of the people of Gaza and urged House Speaker Mike Johnston to act on a foreign funding package.

Ms O'Neill is currently taking part in a series of engagements in the US for St Patrick's Day.

She said on Friday that she had used her first meeting with Mr Biden to urge him to play a constructive role in securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and to end to the Israeli blockade on humanitarian aid.

"The United States has been a critical partner for peace in Ireland. We deeply value this support," she said.

"Our peace process and your role in this are a fine example of successful US diplomacy and foreign policy success.

"As the world watches on in horror at the genocide of the Palestinian people, I urge you to apply this same constructive role to securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza; full humanitarian aid; an end to illegal settlements in the West Bank, and a sovereign Palestinian State."

'Global challenges'

Also on Friday, the Taoiseach Mr Varadkar told the Annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon in Washington DC how he too hoped for an end to the conflict in the Middle East.

“I’m also thinking of St Patrick's prayer today when he prayed for the wisdom to guide us, when I reflect on the catastrophe that's unfolding in the Middle East — the savage attacks of October 7 in Israel, and the terrible violence and loss of human life in Gaza which has followed and continues and we very much want that to end," he said.

“These are global challenges that demand our courage, our empathy and our action and we pray for the wisdom of St Patrick in facing them."

At the event hosted at the Capitol by the House Speaker Mr Johnston, President Biden thanked Mr Varadkar for providing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

He also called on Mr Johnston to act on a foreign military aid bill that was passed by the Senate in February.

The bill would provide aid to Gaza, among others, as well as support Israeli and US military operations in the Middle East.

"I told you [Mr Varadkar] that I'm deeply grateful for Ireland's unwavering humanitarian aid to people of not only Ukraine but also Gaza. I'm committed to continue to do our part," said the president.

"I'm confident the vast majority — and excuse me for saying this, but I think the vast majority of members of Congress are willing to do their part and continue to urge every member in this room to stand up to Vladimir Putin. He's a thug.

"And I urge you [Mr Jonhston] to send me the national security bill now.

"The bill includes funding for Ukraine and Israel and, maybe equally important, humanitarian assistance to Gaza. They badly, badly need it.

"And it sends a clear message that America stands up for freedom and we bow down to no one — to no one in the world."