Taoiseach (Ireland’s Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has expressed his sympathy to the Armenian people on the centenary of massacres which resulted in the deaths of up to 1.5 million of its people between 1915 and 1922, according to The Irish Times reports.
Dr Paul Manook, who is involved in the Armenian Church in Ireland, wrote to the Taoiseach to invite him to the community’s remembrance service on Sunday in Taney Parish Church, Dundrum. Dr Manook lost his grandfather during the massacres.
Mr Kenny said he was unable to attend but expressed his condolences to Dr Manook and stated it was a “an example of the terrible suffering and loss which Armenians endured a century ago”.
He added: “Here in Ireland, of course, we know well how difficult it can be to come to terms with the past through a process of reconciliation. It is fitting that the Armenian community in Ireland will mark these events with a service of commemoration.”
Dr Manook said he was impressed with the tone of the Taoiseach’s letter which he described as “very sensitive and understanding”, but he urged the Irish Government to recognise the Armenian massacres as a genocide.
“I just hope Ireland will help us in this area. It is not just forgive and forget. It needs to be dealt with. Perhaps Ireland can use its diplomatic channels to influence the US, UK as well as Turkey,” he said.
Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs are likely to be called before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade next week to explain the rationale behind the decision not to call the Armenian massacres a genocide.
Committee chair Pat Breen said he was not happy with the four line explanation given by the Department to the effect that it did not have the necessary information one way or another to make a definitive stand on the issue. Mr Breen asked for a “comprehensive reply”.
Senator Mark Daly brought a motion before the committee seeking to have the massacres acknowledged as a genocide. He said the DFA response amounted to a “four-line reply to the deaths of 1.5 million people” and called on Ireland to follow the example of countries such as France and Canada, along with the Vatican and theEuropean Parliament, in recognising what happened as genocide.
He added that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, acknowledged the events as genocide, but successive Turkish governments had chosen a different path.
A Department of Foreign Affairs statement earlier this week did not use the word genocide to describe the experiences of the Armenians.
It acknowledged the “enormous suffering of the Armenian people during that period. As we in Ireland know well, the process of reconciliation and coming to terms with the past is never easy.
“In this year of centenary commemorations, Ireland would urge Armenia and Turkey to take advantage of any opportunity to progress their bilateral relations for the good of their people, the region, and their shared future.”
The statement added that President Michael D Higgins had recently expressed the sympathy of the Irish people for the enormous suffering of Armenians in that era to Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan.