Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Taoiseach warns Israel of 'consequences' over arrests

irishtimes.com - Last Updated: Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 18:16

Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire pictured beside the 'MV Rachel Corrie' before it left Dundalk for Gaza last month. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

There will be “most serious consequences” should any harm come to Irish citizens involved with the aid flotilla destined for Gaza, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said today.

Both the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin called on Israel to allow Irish humanitarian ship, the MV Rachel Corrie , pass through its military blockade of Gaza.

The cargo vessel is ploughing ahead with its attempt to deliver aid to Gaza despite yesterday’s deadly attack by the Israeli navy on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

Mr Cowen called today called for the immediate establishment of "a full, independent international inquiry into yesterday’s events, preferably under UN auspices”.

He called on Israel to release "unconditionally" Irish citizens who he said had been taken to Gaza by the Israeli authorities and asked to sign papers allowing for their deportation.

Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders' Questions, the Taoiseach said said the presence of Irish diplomatic personnel in Israel provided "better prospects" that the citizens would be released "sooner rather than later"

"But I will make this point. If any harm comes to any of our citizens, it will have the most serious consequences.”

Mr Cowen said Ireland’s longstanding position was that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was “immoral and counterproductive” and should be ended.

“Israel must listen and respond to the clear concerns of the international community on this issue. To do otherwise will only serve to reinforce the position of the extremists on both sides and jeopardise the hope of achieving some urgently needed political progress in the region, which the current proximity talks represent," he said.

The Israeli army has warned that it will be stopped if it attempts to enter Israeli waters.

The Rachel Corrie,  which has five Irish nationals and five Malaysians aboard, is due to arrive in Gazan waters over the coming days, a spokeswoman for the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said. It became separated from the main aid flotilla after being delayed for 48 hours in Malta due to logistical reasons, and is currently off the coast of Libya.

Mr Martin, who called Israeli Ambassador Dr Zion Evrony to a meeting yesterday, said the boat should be allowed through peacefully.

Mr Martin said Israel was also obliged to respect its international obligations under the Vienna Convention and ensure Irish citizens have access to full consular support. He also expressed his condolences to the Turkish government and the families of the people killed when Israeli commandos raided the Turkish registered Mavi Marmara  aid ship in international waters as it travelled from Cyprus, killing nine people.

Five Irish campaigners - including leading activists Dr Fintan Lane and Fiachra Ó Luain - are being held in the Be’er Sheva detention camp, from where they face deportation. Dr Lane and Mr Ó Luain were on board Free Gaza boat Challenger 1  which was boarded by Israeli forces.

Mr Ó Luain’s father, Joseph Bangert, said he supported his son’s actions. "He marches to a different drummer than most of us,” he told RTÉ today. “I’m sure he is sticking it to them. I think they have a Trojan horse on their hands".

Two Irish people, including activist Shane Dillon, have been deported and are expected at Dublin airport late tonight. The Irish ambassador in Tel Aviv was given permission to meet Mr Dillon at Ben Gurion Airport before his departure. It is understood Mr Dillon said he was treated well. Officials have been waiting to see the other detained Irish citizens during the day.

Nobel laureate Maireád Corrigan-Maguire, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, film maker Fiona Thompson and husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham are the Irish nationals on board the Rachel Corrie.

Speaking from the ship today, Mr Graham said the vessel was carrying educational materials, construction materials, medical equipment and some toys. “Everything aboard has been inspected in Ireland,” he said. “We would hope to have safe passage through.”

Ms Maguire said none of the aid ships carry arms and are "purely humanitarian". She said it was necessary for the vessel to complete its mission to assure the people of Gaza the world does care. “Could you imagine if that happened to the 1.5 million people in Northern Ireland? The world would be absolutely crying out that this stop immediately."

Free Gaza Movement activist Greta Berlin, who is based in Cyprus, said the group wanted to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. "Our mission has not changed and this is not going to be the last flotilla."

However, an Israeli marine lieutenant, who was not identified, told Israel's army radio his unit was prepared to block the Rachel Corrie.  "We as a unit are studying, and we will carry out professional investigations to reach conclusions," the lieutenant said, referring to yesterday's confrontation. "And we will also be ready for the Rachel Corrie ," he added.

Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins and Labour’s Michael D Higgins today called for the safe passage of the vessel, while

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen to initiate a trade boycott of Israel at national and EU level.


Special thanks to Ian Curtis at the WarOnYou Forums for finding this.

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