Tánaiste Micheál Martin began the second day of his trip to the Middle East in Ramallah in the West Bank this morning, with a visit to a Palestinian school part-funded through Irish support.
Given a warm welcome by a delegation that included the Palestinian acting education minister Mahmoud Mosa Abu Mouis, Mr Martin had a tour of the all-girls Beitunia vocational school which gives vocational courses in dressmaking and hairdressing, as well as academic courses and the likes of coding and art.
“It’s a great honour and privilege for me to be here as Minister for Foreign Affairs,” he said. “I’m delighted to say we appreciate the visit to this school. It reflects our engagement and interest in education.
“And the education of young women. It’s to your credit.”
Ireland’s support contributes capital funding to the building of schools, and has contributed to the construction of roughly 100 of them over the past decade.
The Tánaiste said that Ireland’s support would continue.
Speaking to reporters outside the school, he described it as a “very good example” of Ireland’s contribution to Palestine and its education system.
“We contribute about €16m a year through various sectors within Palestine,” he said. “In addition to our support for secondary vocational education, we also run a scholarship programme, where 10-12 [students] from Palestine come to Ireland every year to study.”
Having had talks with senior Israeli ministers, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, Mr Martin is meeting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.
“There are a range of issues that we will discuss with them in terms of the evolution of the peace process, their thoughts, their perspectives on developments in the region,” he said.
Mr Martin added that Ireland is “anxious” to strengthen the relationship between the EU and Palestine.
The Tánaiste also said that Hamas has to cease violence, and said one of the clear preconditions in the Northern Ireland peace process was everybody laying down their arms.
“There’s also the strong sense of Iranian influence on that situation as well which is problematic. But I think fundamentally, we would call on Hamas to 100% go political and stop the use of violence.”