Archive for the ‘Derry’ Category
13 Irish men and women from Belfast, Derry, Waterford and Kilkenny, will travel on the 2nd Freedom & Friendship Delegation to Gaza. Irish Friends of Palestine will be fulfilling our promises made during the 1st Delegation in March 2012 and we are returning with 6 Fishermen who will meet with Gazan fishermen and also with the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss the brutal conditions the fishermen operate under. We also have Teachers and Youth Workers on the delegation who will meet with the Ministry of Education and various schools and NGO’s to arrange work and links between Gaza and Ireland. We will be re-launching LINK FOR LEARNING our successful School Twinning program upon return to Ireland this autumn. For more about our program go HERE. You can follow our delegation by joining our Facebook page HERE
We currently have 3 projects we are working on for this trip. We need your help and support:
1. Ibrahim’s Dream CLICK HERE
2. Basma “SMILE” Center CLICK HERE
3. Crafting for Gaza Kids CLICK HERE
My Dear friend Mags O’Brien (SIPTU & TUFP and Irish Ship to Gaza comrade) who lives in Dublin contacted me around the beginning of March 2012 just before UNISON’S International women’s day festivities which would be held on March 8th 2012 in Belfast. She said that a quilt had been made by women in Ireland who were members of the trade unions and they wanted it delivered to Gaza, was I up for doing it. I said “yes!” and agreed to meet her in Belfast on 8th of March for International Women’s day.
March 8th arrived and I boarded the bus form Derry as Mag’s boarded the bus from Dublin. I was excited about the prospect of delivering this message of love and solidarity to our sisters in Gaza. As I was already planning to travel out to Gaza on March 28th, delivering the quilt on behalf of Irish women could easily be added into my schedule.
We both arrived in Belfast and attended the woman’s day march and speeches after. During the speeches I couldn’t help but think to myself “here we are in Ireland as women standing free, exerting our rights as women, marching for what women have achieved and what women will achieve as our struggle continues to move forward” yet, back in Gaza our sisters are struggling in a way many of us here cannot comprehend. See for yourself the reality of life in Gaza for poor women who have lost their homes and/or husbands in Cast Lead.
Women with children forced to live in refugee camps, in tiny 3 metre areas that more resemble a stable or a shed rather than a inhabitable home created by a brutal inhumane collective punishment siege! Women who have had to watch their homes destroyed in a flash of white light from Israeli drones or F-16’s. Women who have had to watch their own children die for lack of medical supplies, or parts, and still others have been forced to watch as their child lies dying needlessly before their eyes, simply waiting for a little permit to be approved by Israel for the child to leave Gaza to go to a specialist hospital in Egypt or Israel. Women who have lost their homes and their husbands in Cast Lead and are now left to fend for themselves in the streets of an open air prison. The refugee camps will haunt you, cramped and filled with women and children, so many children. With horrible sewage problems because Israel won’t allow pipes in to fix the bombed out sewer system. The smell of this is a constant reminder and it is never far away, even the sea is polluted with sewage, and the tap water is nothing but contaminated sea water with waste in it. This is life in Gaza, this is a man made disaster of epic proportions which is being ignored by most of the world. And the women are suffering the most. So I was very happy to facilitate this Quilt with a message of Solidarity to our sisters in Gaza from women in Ireland.
The quilt was sponsored by UNISON and in 2011 it was taken from Belfast in small pieces down to the Women’s Seminar in Cork where women began working on it. The Quilt was then brought back up to Belfast where the finishing work was carried out by Vivien Holding of the Communications Workers Union. Vivien put it together and laboriously sewed the binding and backing.
Mag’s and I met up with Patricia McKeown the Regional Secretary of UNISON in the North of Ireland who facilitated us in making our way to the UNISON building for the remainder of the day’s events and speeches. As we made our way to the UNISION building we discussed with Patricia the possibility of Irish women doing some solidarity work with our sisters in Gaza.
Upon arriving at UNISON the quilt was presented to myself and Mags by Taryn Trainer of UNITE and the Chair of the Woman’s Committee in the North. In a message from Pauline Buchanan regarding the quilt, she said “ The women of Ireland thought that the quote which takes pride of place in the centre would appropriately express to our sisters in Palestine that we support them, and that we will continue to work towards the realization of their human rights.”
From the quilts idea and inception by women in Belfast shortly after Cast Lead, the quilt began its life in Belfast, travelled down to Cork where more women worked on it, then it travelled back to Belfast where still more women completed it. The quilt has travelled across Ireland, then by air across England, France, Italy, Greece to Cairo, Egypt. Where it then began the 7 hour ride across the Sinai desert where on March 28th it crossed into Rafah, Palestine, and then travelled to Kahn Younis where it was received and presented to Widyan Sha’at the Director of Ethar Woman’s Initiative. It is home now.
Sinead MacLochlainn made the presentation on behalf of the the Women’s Committee Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ and a mention of the ICTU, NIICTU, UNISON, UNITE, Communications Union Workers as well. Ms. Sha’at speaking on behalf of Ethar Initiative said she wishes to thank the women of Ireland for their solidarity, especially Taryn Trainer and the Women’s Committee in the North, Pauline Buchanan of ICTU and Patricia McKeown of UNISON and Vivien Holding of the Communications Workers Union. The quilt will stand as a reminder to women here in Gaza of the friendship and solidarity between Ireland and Palestine.
The Ethar Initiative will be sending a personal letter of thanks to the ICTU/NIICTU and to those organisations and women who participated in this project of solidarity by creating and sending the Quilt to Gaza.
The Ethar Initiative was set up by women, for women, and is run by women who get no salary, all donations go to the poor women and children that Ethar helps. Ethar is a labour of love run by our sisters, who need our help!! So, please check back on this website as we will be doing an entire report on the Ethar Woman’s Initiative and we hope all the women of Ireland will get on board and get invovled with the campaign to help woman in Gaza by working with our sisters at Ethar. Coming soon in solidarity we will be launching an all Ireland Initiative for women to work with our sisters in Gaza dubbed the “Ireland Gaza Woman’s Initiative ” and we hope Irish women will join us in working directly with our sisters in Gaza! Bookmark our coming website here www.igwi.org and check back to learn about the new Initiative between Ireland and Gaza.
Tuesday 10th April 2012
For Immediate Use
Irish Freedom & Friendship Delegation to Gaza a resounding success
Local Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine delegates returned from the first Irish “Freedom and Friendship Delegation” to Gaza promising to redouble their efforts to build links with our sister city of Khan Younis and to support the people of Gaza by continuing with more delegations in future.
Delegates from Irish Friends of Palestine were Gerry MacLochlainn delegation leader & Charlie McMenamin activist (both former Irish Political Prisoners), Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan, Alanna Campbell and Cathal Og Donnelly (Students and members of Sinn Fein Republican Youth), activist Liam McConway and Freedom & Friendship Delegation organiser Sinead MacLochlainn.
Speaking on arrival home, Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine Chairperson Sinead MacLochlainn said:
“Our delegation was hosted by the Mayor of Khan Younis Mr. Mohammed Al Farra, and the Municipality of Khan Younis, who so graciously offered us the most incredible hospitality, given the current conditions in Gaza which remains under a brutal blockade by Israel. Mayor Al Farra received us on our arrival and ensured a packed programme of visits and meetings with all aspects of society throughout Khan Younis and Gaza City.”
“The main purpose of the delegation was to build educational links with the Ministry of Education and HIgher Education and University students. As such our Delegation was received by the heads of some of the main Universities in the Gaza strip, including the Islamic University of Gaza, Al Aqsa University (both the Gaza and Khan Younis Campus) and Khan Younis College of Science and Technology. Despite the siege and lack of electricity or fuel, we were impressed to learn that some 40% of young people in Gaza have access to further or higher education and some 60% of these students are women.”
“The Delegation was invited to a lunch at the Ministry of Education where we were greeted by Mr. Ahmed Ayesh Alnajjar the Director of International and Public Relations of Ministry of Education and Higher Education on behalf of Dr. Osama Elmozini the Minister of Education and Higher Education. The Student leaders on our Delegation were presented with a beautiful Plaque from the Ministry of Education to be presented to the Minister of Education here in the North of Ireland. Additionally a Plaque was also give the the Delegation itself in appreciation of the Educational links being created between Ireland and Gaza.
“Members of the Irish Delegation also met with representatives of the main political parties in Palestine, including Dr. Hisham Abdelrazic the Fateh leader in Gaza, and Dr. Yousef Al-Mansi, One of Hamas leaders and also the Minister of Telecommunication in the Gaza Government and finally Dr. Ahmed Bahar, Deputy Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council.”
“In Khan Younis we visited the site of a large play park and International Garden area which is still under construction, here the student delegates joined local families in a soccer game with an idyllic view of the Mediterranean sea in the background. The Students played ball with local children at the park. Even here the realities of Israeli occupation were evident with armed Israeli drones and F-16 fighter planes flying over head. During our stay the F-16’s were our alarm clocks and the early morning call as they criss-crossed Gaza skies terrorising the population. They also dropped leaflets warning that anyone who went to within 300m of the border would be shot. Welcome to life in Palestine.”
“Visiting the packed refugee camps bears witness to the reality of life for many poor or homeless people in Gaza. Many of them had once been in full-time employment before the blockade, still others had their homes destroyed by Israel. Up to 4 generations all living in a 6 by 6 metre shed with broken walls, collapsed roofs and dirt floors with sewage problems. And still they smile at us for visiting them, this is the unbreakable spirit of Palestine!”
“On our last morning as we had our breakfast we were again reminded of the realities of life for the innocent civilians of Gaza. Fishermen in small wooden crafts who attempt to gather the ever shrinking available fish which swim in the three kilometres of their own waters, the only place that Israel allows them to fish, were to come under fire from Israeli naval ships. We could hear the heavy naval canons interspersed with the pulse of heavy machine guns. We were left wondering if we’d be hearing of yet another fishermen killed for trying to support his family.”
“We also learned that three young children had been burned to death during the night while attempting to read and study by candlelight. The candle fell over and they were trapped in their bedroom, God help them, all that was left of the three children were the scorched books on the floor which they had been studying from. Yet more tiny victims of the collective punishment siege as Israel only allows 6 hours of electricity each day, these few hours can come at any time even in the middle of the night when the population is asleep, so many students rely on dangerous burning candles to study! Myself and Ogra Alanna Campbell of Coalisland attended the children’s wake with other local women. Their Mother came over and handed me her last remaining child to hold in my arms as we cried together. The tiny 3 month old baby sister who was the only survivor, found under a pile of blankets which somehow managed to save her little life by protecting her from the smoke and flames which consumed her 3 siblings.”
“Leaving we were all very silent heading to Rafah to cross back into Egypt and then home to Ireland, just trying to absorb the gravity of what we had all witnessed for the last 8 days. But we pledged we would do all we can to support our friends in Gaza and to tell their stories to the world. Therefore Irish Friends of Palestine and Derry Frinds of Palestine will continue with more Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegations to Gaza until the murderous siege is lifted!”
BOOKMARK OUR PAGE AS WE WILL BE POSTING INDIVIDUAL REPORTS ABOUT ALL THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS WE ATTENDED IN GAZA
some of those inculded are:
Ministry of Education and HIgher Education
Islamic University of Gaza
Al Aqsa University
Khan Younis College of Science and Technology
Jabalia Martyrs Primary School
Refugee camps, meeting the poor and homeless
Global March to Jerusalem/Land Day Events
Khan Younis meetings
Political Meetings with Fateh, Hamas, and the PLC
Ministry of Youth and Sport
Effects of the Siege First Hand
Local Weekly Prisoner Protests
Prisoners and their Families
UFREE Prisoners Conference Gaza City
Emaar & Albasmah Centre
Khan Younis Park and Garden Development
plus much more…..
A fundraiser at Cultúrlann Uí Chanáinwas held on 11th March in support of an Irish Delegation to Gaza, Palestine organised by the Derry Friends of Palestine Educational committee. The Freedom & Friendship Delegation will travel to Gaza, Palestine at the end of March 2012 where students from Derry, Coalisland, Tyrone will spend a week attending seminars at various universities with their counterparts in Gaza, Palestine. Educational and Cultural links wil be created between the students in Gaza and Ireland for future work between the two countries.
The Fundraiser was quite a night. Music on the night by Kelly’s Men, Derry’s own Ciara & Sean McCafferty,, Declan McLaughlin, and big “Thank You” to Belfast’s own Gerry Og McConnell who travelled to Derry to lend his support for the Delegation. The event was well attended by the public including local Councillor Maeve McLaughlin among others and monies were raised for the Irish students to assist with their airfare to Egypt from Ireland. For updates on the Delegation while it is in Gaza you can check back on this website beginning on 30th March.
Enjoy the photos of the fundraiser below along with a video from the night.
FOGGY DEW performed by Ciara & Sean McCafferty at the Freedom & Friendship Fundraiser
The Derry Friends of Palestine attended a vigil at Derry’s Guildhall Square callling for the release of Palestinian Hungerstriker Khader Adnan a 33 year old baker being held without trial on Administrative Detention (internment). Khader has been on hungerstrike since the date of his internment on December 17th last and is said to be close to death after 64 days without food.
The medical human rights group Physicians for Human Rights said at the weekend that Mr Adnan had lost 30 kilos and that his condition has deteriorated so significantly that he may die at any time. Mr Adnan is one of more than 300 Palestinians being held under ”administrative detention”, which gives the Israeli authorities power to order the detention of individuals without charge or trial for six months at a time. The State can apply for successive extension of the detention period.
Mr Adnan started his hunger strike one day after his arrest to protest against the refusal of the Israeli authorities to reveal any evidence against him. Local media say this is the seventh time Mr. Adnan has been imprisoned without charge. His wife, Randa, six months pregnant with their third child, had denied that her husband was ever involved in violent activities. An appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court against his detention was denied last week.
Derry Friends of Palestine calls for the immediate release of Mr Adnan.
Clr Gerry MacLochlainn of Derry Friends of Palestine along with Jennifer McCann MLA were invited by the Council for European-Palestinian Relations (CEPR) to take part in the largest International Delegation to Gaza. The delegation of more than 100 government officials and advocates includes representatives from Ireland and 40 other countries and is the largest group of national officials yet to visit Gaza.
Saying it is long past time for the international community to step in and force Israel to end its siege on Gaza, a global coalition of statesmen and NGO representatives issued and adopted a unanimous resolution demanding immediate action through all diplomatic, cultural and economic means possible.
Before drafting the resolution, the delegation considered reports from experts documenting the following facts:
• Israel continues to maintain complete control over Gaza’s territorial waters, preventing all movement of people and goods by sea and limiting fishing to a distance of three nautical miles from the Strip’s coastline. Fishermen who defy the ban are shot at and /or their boats are confiscated. An estimated total of 4,5000 residents who had previously supported their families by fishing have thus been stripped of their livelihoods and the entire population of 1.5 million have been deprived of a vital source of natural inexpensive nutrition.
• Likewise, Israel prevents access to a 300-1,500m “buffer zone” along its border with Gaza, cutting residents off from one-third of their most arable land.
• All exports from Gaza continue to be virtually prohibited. Although a minimal amount of strawberries, flowers, peppers and tomatoes were allowed to be shipped out between November 2010 and May 2011, the average rate of export during that time was two truckloads per day, compared to Israel’s commitment in 2005 to allow the export of 400 trucks per day. Since May 12 of this year, no trucks have been allowed to leave the Strip. Without exports, it is impossible for Gazans to build anything close to a healthy, self-sufficient economy. Thus, the official unemployment rate now stands at 25.6%.
• Imports of construction materials continue to be severely restricted, when allowed in at all. Each month since January 2011, approximately 17% of the materials that entered monthly in the years prior to June 2007 (when the siege began) has been allowed in. One consequence is a shortage of 250 schools.
• The resolution calls for free excess for both people and goods by land, sea and air, through both Israel and Egypt.
The time for words is past. Governments and human rights organisations worldwide must employ all peaceful powers at their disposal to force an end to the siege. These actions should include economic sanctions, cultural boycotts and diplomatic actions such as ambassador recalls.
Specifically, the International Delegation calls for all governments and NGO’s to use these measures to demand:
• An end to the prohibition on exports.
• An end to all import bans and restrictions related to consumables, healthcare and industry/business.
• The lifting of all control of Gaza’s territorial waters.
• The opening of the “buffer zone” along Gaza’s border with Israel.
• The free flow of people in and out of Gaza, limited only by reasonable security checks and document requirements.
• International acceptance of the Palestinian people’s democratic choices in the next elections, and a commitment to constructively engage with their elected representatives.
Delegation members will work through their own networks to lobby for the implementation of this resolution.
PLEASE JOIN AND SUPPORT THE WORK OF DERRY AND THE IRISH FRIENDS OF PALESTINE IN SUPPORT OF THE RESOLUTION TO END THE SIEGE!! FIND US ON FACEBOOK HERE
Clr Gerry MacLochlainn reports the following today:
I was happy to arrive again in Gaza and to visit old friends and new friends. However I was saddened to see that still nothing has changed from my last few visits. No rebuilding of homes, no cement allowed in.
(Above photo) In Zionist settlements north of Gaza – the area in front of these settlements was ethnically cleansed by Israeli Invasion forces in Operation Cast lead – No houses were left standing – Only those who fled survived the slaughter – the intensity of the Zionist aggression was such that a young girl of 3 years was killed running from her home but her body could not be recovered for another 20 days. Such is life in Gaza. Thousands of people are still being forced to live in tents or one room shacks 3 years on from the brutal attack on the civilian population.
(above photo) This crater which you now see, was once a fisheries police station until a week ago when Israel decided it had not killed enough Palestinians for a while. They bombed it and killed several policemen. There were no survivors – one policeman’s body was thrown some 30 metres away
I then spent the evening in Derry’s sister city of Khan Younis, meeting with my good friend Ahmed Al Najjar from the Gazan Ministry of Education, along with the Mayor of Khan Younis, Mr Muhammed Al Farra.
We spent the evening discussing future projects of mutual interest and ways that the people of Derry, Belfast and Ireland can help to improve the situation in Gaza. More on this when we get home to Ireland.
Today, Jennifer and I met the Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah. As Jennifer and I are both former Irish political prisoners, we asked the Prime Minister if there was anything that we, as former political prisoners, could do to work with, assist, or help the Palestinian prisoners. Hundreds of them were recently released by Israel under the “Shalit” deal and there will be 500 more released soon. The majority of these prisoners are released into Gaza, even if they were from the West Bank. So they wer free from Zionist prisons, but not free to go home to the West Bank. Jennifer and I were honoured to be told by the Prime Minister that a meeting will be arranged for the two of us to meet with the prisoners and their families later today to explore what further work we can do, Insha Allah.
After meeting the Prime minister, I was one of two people selected to attend and speak at a press conference being held today with the Samouni family.
The Samouni’s lost 29 members of their family, mostly women and children when their home was deliberately attacked. Israel has denied any wrong doing and after it’s own “investigation” has decided the Samouni’s case and other cases like these will be “dismissed and closed.” yet another murderous war crime being swept under the Zionist rug.
Insha Allah, tonight Jennifer and I look forward to an evening spent with good friends, good Palestinian food, and good discussions.
Derry Friends of Palestine member Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn along with Sinn Fein MLA Jennifer McCann from Belfast, both arrived in Gaza on Monday night to a big Gazan weclome. They are part of the (Council for European Palestinian Relations) CEPR’s largest delegation yet. A fact finding mission consisting of elected members and Parliamentarians from around the world.
Jennifer McCann MLA reports from yesterday:
There’s over 100 people from all over the world on this delegation. Today we visited the Health Facility for wounded children and as you can see from the pictures they have lost limbs in the bombing, one other young girl of 10 years had been shot.
We then went through Beit Lahia just north of Jabalia,the area was totally devastated in the bombing of Dec 2008. This is an area where entire families were wiped out in a single attack, and where the UN school was bombed. We visited the makeshift homes in one of the refugee camps and the conditions over 130,000 people are living in are atrocious, 7 people all living in one or two tiny rooms. They cannot rebuild any of the houses that were bombed as they can’t get access to building materials due to the blockade.
There were a number of other meetings and presentations with NGO’s and leaders of Civil Society here and we had a reception in the University for applied sciences, the young students have increased in numbers from 300 to 9,000. The Palestinians are very resilient people. There are students who had gained University places in other countries but can’t go due to the blockade.
West Belfast Sinn Féin representatives call for the release and repatriation of MV Saoirse passengers
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and MLA Pat Sheehan MLA have called on to Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore to ensure the Israeli authorities expedite the repatriation of the passengers of the MV Saoirse including two of their constituents John Mallon and Phil McCullough.
The West Belfast MP met both families on the day of their relatives illegal arrests and has been in contact with the Friends of Palestine Belfast group on a regular basis with updates.
Paul Maskey said:
“I have been contacted by the family of John Mallon and Phil McCullough, two West Belfast passengers who were on board the Gaza bound MV Saoirse and are being held by Israel.
“Eamon Gilmore needs to do more to ensure safe return of the Irish citizens who were illegally seized in international waters and taken to Israel against their will. The 72 hour period that Israel said they would keep them in custody before releasing them has now passed yet they are still being held.
Local MLA Pat Sheehan said:
“Israel seem intent on playing games regards the repatriation of those passengers they illegally took hostage. Israel was wrong in the first place and the Irish Government must impress upon Israel that their citizens be repatriated immediately.” CRíOCH/END
Irish Friends of Palestine member John Mallon has been in touch with family today asking a message be delivered to us. We were informed that the Irish Prisoners are not co-operating with Israeli authorities and because of continued harassment some are now being punished accordingly.
In a phone call today John said that the Israeli authorities had already completed searches of all the prisoners. Then they approached John again at which point he was told to submit to yet another full search. He refused to cooperate in this farce and was immediately placed in handcuffs and shackles.
We do not know how he is physically but he remains in excellent spirits. He says that the hostages will not be intimidated by their kidnappers and they will continue to demand their civil rights and their release from the illegal kidnapping.
The Political Prisoners ask that you contact the Irish Foreign Minister and demand that he ensure the immediate release of the kidnapped hostages and to afford them proper treatment until they are returned to Irish soil.
PLEASE SEND YOUR COMPLAINTS TO MFA:
Eamon Gilmore TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs: 00 353 1 478 082
Israeli Ambassador: 00 353 1 230 9400
A Reminder of what kind of rogue state we are dealing with, from our good friends over at If Americans Knew:
Isarel has more than 62 UN resolutions passed against it, which, it ignores. Palestine has none! Aside from the core issues—refugees, Jerusalem, borders—the major themes reflected in the U.N. resolutions against Israel over the years are its unlawful attacks on its neighbors; its violations of the human rights of the Palestinians, including deportations, demolitions of homes and other collective punishments; its confiscation of Palestinian land; its establishment of illegal settlements; and its refusal to abide by the U.N. Charter and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Full list of 62 resolutions against Israel up to 1992 can be seen HERE