Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said Ireland abstained on a UN vote on Gaza because it wanted swifter action using mechanisms that have already been set up.

The UN Human Rights Council voted to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate violations of human rights and it also condemned Israel for potential infractions of international law.

Mr Flanagan said Ireland had spent all day engaging with its European colleagues and with other members to ensure that the result was going to be swift, workable and all-embracing.

He said that Ireland acknowledged that this did not happen, but it was going to work within the structures as agreed because the objective is to ensure a ceasefire at the earliest opportunity and an end to the unacceptable level of violence and killing.

Mr Flanagan said there is no time at this point to introduce new inquiries and, while acknowledging the decision that was made, Ireland regrets that the decision wasn't of a more all-embracing nature.   

Ireland's Permanent Representative to the UN has also defended abstaining on the vote, which ultimately passed.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Patricia O'Brien outlined why Ireland did not support the vote, saying Ireland wanted immediate action, and even though it supported the establishment of commission of inquiry that this would take some time.

Ireland preferred the involvement of the office of the High Commissioner, which has an office in Ramallah, as it is ready to go and has the necessary infrastructure in place, she said.

Ms O'Brien said Ireland's second reservation over supporting yesterday's vote was the failure to adequately condemn the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas against civilian areas in Israel.

She said Ireland feels this is quite important.

Ireland wanted to see a full reflection of its humanitarian concerns, she said, and that the integrity of Ireland's position and standing as a member of the Human Rights Council, and a member of the United Nations, would not be well reflected by a partial addressing of its humanitarian concerns.

Ms O'Brien said Ireland has been very strong within the council as a voice in condemnation of what has been taking place.

She said Ireland has made a very clear statement that it fully accepts that Israel has the right to defend its people.

However, she said it also made it very clear that this right does not negate the rights of others and went on to emphasise that any use of military force has to be in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power said the Government should use its voice to stand up for the people of Palestine.

Ms Power criticised Ireland's abstention from the UN vote on a commission of inquiry.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council backed the Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Power said the campaigns by the Israelis and Hamas militants were not the same: "Any attempt to portray the impact of the two as equals gives cover to what Israel is doing."

Ms Power said that while she accepted Israel's right to defend itself, she said that response should be "proportionate".

The fact that over 650 Palestinian civilians had been killed in the Israeli bombardment, and that Hamas had killed two civilians, indicated Israel was carrying out a "mass orchestrated campaign against Palestinian civilians, including children," she said.

The number of Palestinian dead now stands at over 750 since she gave the interview.

She said that UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had criticised both sides, but had reserved most of her criticism for Israel.

"The scale of the violence there means the UN should target the bulk of its energies on stopping Israel's campaign."

Ms Power said she believed there had been a shift in Government policy on Gaza, "in stark contrast" to the position the Irish government took during a previous major offensive in 2009.