Sharing the blood-soaked shamrock

Ciaran Tierney
6 min readFeb 8, 2024


By Ciaran Tierney

Huge protests for Palestine, including this one in Galway, have taken place across Ireland over the past few months.

There are 31.5 million people in the United States of America who describe their ethnicity as Irish when it comes to census time.

That’s a lot of voters in an election year. Especially when the country seems so divided at this time.

They might not have the strong emotional links with the “old country” which Irish-Americans enjoyed a hundred, 50, or even 20 years ago, but they still have an attachment to this small island on the other side of the Atlantic.

They might not know much about Ireland, either, as we know from repeated misunderstandings with our Irish-American cousins down through the years.

But they take pride in their heritage, grew up on stories of oppression and forced emigration, march together on St Patrick’s Day, and take a keen interest when they see Irish politicians travel to Washington DC for their annual pilgrimage to the White House.

President Joe Biden knows this.

He knows it will be great for his image among his fellow Irish-Americans to be seen hanging out with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, on St Patrick’s Day.

Fox News, CNN, and all the major networks will mark the day with the obligatory images of the Irish leader bringing shamrock to the leader of the “free world” in the White House.

No Shamrocks for ‘Genocide Joe’ poster at a recent Dublin rally. Photo by Ciaran Tierney.

They won’t notice, or care, what the Irish politicians have to say at events throughout America. And, indeed, if Irish politicians break the habits of a lifetime by standing up to or criticising the crimes of American leaders, no American reporter will even hear what messages Irish politicians bring to President Biden behind closed doors.

Biden, famously, loves to celebrate his Irish heritage and loved the “photo opportunities” when he returned to his ancestral home place in Ballina, Co. Mayo.

Mural of ‘Genocide Joe’ in Ballina. Photo via ‘Irish in Gaza’ on Twitter.

As the world has looked on in horror at the unfolding genocide in Gaza over the past few months, many people have taken to calling President Biden ‘Genocide Joe’.

Every day of the week, President Biden and his U.S. administration are sending bombs, bullets, and weaponry, perhaps even chemical weapons, to the Israeli military.

While thousands upon thousands of Irish people have taken to the streets to protest the genocide in Gaza, and the International Court of Justice has found that the genocide case against Israel is plausible, it seems quite obscene to see Irish politicians celebrating their annual jaunt to the White House.

What other small country of five million people, they ask, has such unfettered access to the most powerful man on the planet on its national holiday every year?

Well, what other country in Europe describes itself as “neutral” while allowing millions of U.S. troops use a civilian airport on their way to and from carrying out atrocities in the Middle East and Asia over a 20 year period?

It is shameful that our politicians are not listening to the people, 100,000 of whom marched together to oppose the genocide in Gaza during the biggest national demonstration for Palestine ever seen on the island of Ireland last month.

Marching for Palestine in Galway city centre. Photo: Colin Stanley.

Irish people know that the injustice did not start in Gaza on October 7, 2023.

We also know that our politicians have no backbone when it comes to reflecting the wishes of the people.

In 2020, going into the general election, both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party included the Occupied Territories Bill in their manifestos. The bill would have been the first in the world to essentially ban products which are illegal anyway according to international law.

After prolonged negotiations over the formation of a Government, both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party abandoned the bill in exchange for seats at the cabinet table.

Some of the most vocal advocates for Palestinian rights in the months leading up to that 2020 election have completely disappeared. You will never see them at a march, protest, or vigil for the well over 27,000 people who have been murdered and two million people who have been displaced from their homes in Israel’s relentless attacks on the tiny Gaza Strip over the past four months.

Two years ago, when a comprehensive280-page Amnesty International report found that the Israeli authorities must be held accountable for the crime of apartheid, there was not a word from these same politicians.

When B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine all found that Israel practices apartheid, it was business as usual and not a word.

In 23 years of U.S. military flights through Shannon Airport, not one Irish politician in power has ordered a ‘plane to be searched — to see if human beings or chemical weapons are being renditioned through the airport — or even acknowledged that such use of a civilian airport is a breach of Irish neutrality.

Irish people have a long and proud tradition of standing with the people of Palestine. Our shared history of oppression, of being ruled by the British, of being abused by the Black ’n’ Tans, or treated as second class citizens in our own land, gives us an understanding of the Palestinians which is far clearer than that of people in most other European countries.

But for our politicians to claim that they are going to go to the United States to give ‘Genocide Joe’ a lecture about his funding and full backing for a genocide is laughable in the extreme.

“Who in their right mind, on the national day of a country that freed itself from oppression, would go to America and hand that bastard a bunch of feckin shamrock?” asked Bernadette Devlin during the recent national demonstration for Palestine in Dublin.

‘Genocide Joe’ will exploit his “photo ops” with the Taoiseach, or Sinn Fein, or any other Irish politician who wants to show up on March 17. Nobody will listen to what they have to say and the world will just move on.

While the US is bankrolling and backing the genocide of an oppressed people in a tiny enclave, it seems more shameful than ever to see politicians from this former colony fawning over the leader of a “superpower” which is causing so much death and destruction in Palestine right now.

Imagine if the leaders of Irish politicial parties had the strength of their convictions and denied ‘Genocide Joe’ his opportunity to exploit his “Irishness” on the day of our national holiday in an election year.

Imagine the statement our politicians could make if they denied him that opportunity and just stayed at home.

The US networks might have to explain to their viewers why there were no Irish voices to be heard in DC on St. Patrick’s Day.

Staying away would be the right thing to do.

Because sharing the shamrock with a leader who has enabled a mass slaughter is a betrayal of our country’s history and the oppressed Palestinians who have looked up to the Irish, and taken hope from our struggle, for more than seven decades.

It’s shameful and it’s wrong.

Please follow Ciaran Tierney on Medium. You can find him on Twitter:

A mural in West Belfast. Photo: Ciaran Tierney



Ciaran Tierney

A former newspaper journalist, with an interest in human rights, travel, and current affairs, Ciaran won the 2018 Irish Current Affairs Blog of The Year award.