Posts Tagged ‘derry city’
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…..
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
Published on Tuesday 5 July 2011 13:40
Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn has called upon to Irish government to intervene and protect Irish citizens after an act of sabotage on board one of the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ ships put lives in grave danger.
Colr MacLochlainn and fellow traveller Charlie McMenamin have just returned from the Mediterranean where they were among twenty Irish people on board one of the ‘Freedom Flotilla ships docked in the Mediterranean sea attempting to break the Israeli blockade and get aid to Gaza.
However, their boat, the MV Saoirse, was, they believe, badly sabotaged by Israeli agents, forcing them to abandon their efforts.
Colr MacLochlainn has just returned from his second attempt to get to Gaza, having managed to board another ship in the flotilla in an attempt to get to Gaza. He then transferred to Greece where he was to board another boat to Gaza. It was not to be.
“The Greek authorities seized and raided a US boat at sea and arrested its captain, who is now in jail. Despite protests, they also impounded all other boats and subsequently announced that they were not going to allow any boats to leave Greece for Gaza. If it wasn’t for the Greek government banning boats, I would be in Gaza today.”
Colr MacLochlainn has vowed to continue his efforts to enter Gaza and colleagues are currently waiting for the Irish boat to be repaired.
“We’re very lucky they didn’t sink it,” he added. “There is no question that this was sabotage. The Israelis cut a V-shaped cut into the boat’s propeller shaft which means that shaft would have snapped at sea and went up through the ship’s hull, probably killing everyone on board. We were then contacted by a Greek boat and they had a photo of the damage done to their own boat – it showed the exact same V-shaped fault.”
Colr MacLochlainn is in no doubt that the trip could have ended in tragedy and the incident has been reported to the Turkish authorities.
“We could have sank at sea and no-one would ever have known what caused it. This was the attempted murder of twenty Irish citizens – it’s a disgrace. We need the Irish government to step up now and get the Israeli government to show respect to fellow countries and their citizens. The have no respect for any country in the world and are prepared to murder Irish citizens if we oppose their genocide in Gaza. Our government must protect us.”
For immediate release 5th July
Government must get answers on MV Saoirse – Mac Lochlainn
Sinn Féin raise sabotage of Irish aid boat with Tánaiste
At today’s meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, TD, has challenged the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore on what efforts he has made to get answers on the sabotage of the Irish aid boat, the MV Saoirse, while docked in Turkey, last week.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore confirmed that he has been in contact with the Turkish authorities, seeking an update on their investigations and also that he has raised the matter with the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“There is widespread outrage at the obvious sabotage of the MV Saoirse. Those responsible recklessly endangered the lives of the Irish citizens aboard the boat and prevented them from carrying out their mission of solidarity and aid for the beleaguered Palestinian people of Gaza”.
“The facts are that the lives of Irish citizens were put at serious risk and all efforts must be made to get to the truth of this affair in a fashion deployed by the previous Irish Government when Irish passports were utilised to facilitate the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai Hotel. Israeli intelligence agents acting on behalf of the Israeli Government were subsequently held responsible”.
“I welcome the initial efforts of the Tánaiste but I expect a relentless pursuit of the truth.
It is absolutely incumbent on the Irish Government to ensure that a full and comprehensive investigation in to this shocking incident is carried out by the Turkish authorities and that answers are demanded of the Israeli Government, believed by many to be responsible”
The US boat, The “Audacity of Hope” set sail yesterday for Gaza. Within minutes it was surrounded by heavily armed Greek commandos, who eventually boarded the ship forcing it to immediately turn back to port. At the same time the Canadian boat the “Tahrir” was being boarded and their paperwork confiscated. Additionally all other boats had armed Greek police and Coast Guard personnel guarding the ships to keep them from leaving port. The Greek Announcement on the Flotilla can be read below. It is now clear that the siege on Gaza extends to Greece and its islands.
Prohibition of the departure of ships with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza today
Pursuant to a decision by the Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. C. Papoutsis, the departure of ships with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza has been prohibited today.
By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all local Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are taken for the implementation of the said decision.
As it is known, the Hellenic Coast Guard local Authorities have already been instructed to submit to ships Masters of ships of any flag the relevant notice to mariners that designates the area of maritime blockade by Israel.
More specifically, for ships flying the Greek flag, relevant entries shall be made in the ships logbook together with the reception of the above mentioned notice to mariners as well as with the communication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated 22 June 2011.
Furthermore, the broader maritime area of eastern Mediterranean will be continuously monitored by electronic means for tracking, where applicable, the movements of the ships allegedly participating in such campaign.
Finally, police controls of passengers and crews are conducted while there is cooperation with local police and customs Authorities for rigorous controls on issues of their competence.
On Monday the ships 3 crew members along with Clr Gerry MacLochlainn, Charlie McMenamin (both from Derry) with John Mallon and Phil McCullough (both from Belfast) set sail on the MV Saoirse for re-fueling.
On the way back Pat Fitzgerald ship’s engineer noticed that something was very wrong with the boat. Upon returning to the dock the first inspections began, it was then we realised that sabotage had been done to Ireland’s boat.
Pat and the crew then hired experts to dive down and inspect the damage closer, upon their return to land it was noted that the boat has very serious damage done and that a piece was missing from one of the propeller shafts. The boat was then removed from the water and inspected on dry land (videos below) where the deep cuts inflicted onto the propeller shaft could be clearly seen and photos taken for evidence, the shaft was also very bent. These things together create a very dangerous life threatening situation for those who had just been sailing on the ship. The sabotage was intended to endanger and/or inflict injury or death on Irish citizens as the went abou their lawful right to sail on the high seas.
Clearly the terrorist divers had come up under the boat and intentionally cut out pieces of the propeller shaft, thus weakening it so that it would shear off and sink the boat or kill people onboard. As the boat’s engine placed stress on the shaft it would have given way and the propeller would have come up through the bottom of the boat, causing flooding in the engine room and the boat to sink. Moreover, any Irish passengers standing nearby when the propeller came through the deck could have been killed immediately, or seriously injured.
The passengers from Derry and Belfast who were onboard the ship travelling to the re-fueling point were a bit un-nerved when told the possibilities of what could have happened on that short journey they had just returned from.
The terrorists have now struck twice, in two different countries! This same type of sabotage was done to another vessel in Greece only days ago. We have the videos below of both the ship in Greece and the Irish Ship which was located in Turkey. Followed by a short video of Pat Fitzgerald the ship’s engineer after inspecting some of the damage.
This was a vicious attack on Irish property by terrorists against a boat flying the Irish flag. The ship is so damaged it will now be unable to take part in the Flotilla. However arrangements are being made to find seats on other ships for as many Irish passengers as possible including members of Derry Friends of Palestine. We will continue to keep you updated on this website regarding the Irish passengers who will be travelling now on other ships.
GREEK SABOTAGE DAMAGE
MV SAOIRSE SABOTAGE DAMAGE
Ships engineer Pat Fitzgerald inspects the damage, note that the damage was meant to sink the boat and would have cost Irish lives
Lia Tarachansky from RealNews interviews Israeli Defence Force Lieutenant Colonel Avital Liebovitz, Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer on board the US boat to Gaza the “Audacity of Hope” and Gerry MacLochlainn, an Irish politician and member of Derry Friends of Palestine, from on board the Irish boat the MV Saoirse.
Flotilla members spoke about the pressure the US and Israeli government put on Mediterranean countries to stop the Flotilla from sailing. Lieutenant Colonel Avital Liebovitz states that the IDF will avoid “personal contact” with passengers on the Flotilla.
As part of the Irish Ship to Gaza national campaign there will be coordinated protests held in Derry and Belfast as follows:
Sinead MacLochlainn, Chair Irish Ship to Gaza Committee
Liam Gallagher, Derry Trade Union Council
Liam McConway, Derry Friends of Palestine
Please show your support for the passengers sailing from Derry and Belfast on the Irish Ship the MV Saoirse as part of the Freedom Flotilla 2 to Gaza. Tell Israel to “Let Them Sail”
Steve Amsel at Desertpeace conducted an interview with Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn who is currently in the Mediterranean getting ready to set sail on the MV Saoirse, the Irish Ship to Gaza.
Gerry MacLochlainn is a Sinn Fein Councillor in Derry. Active in the Irish Civil Rights campaign, Gerry took part in the Burntollet Civil Rights march which was brutally attacked. Gerry is a former Maths teacher, he studied philosophy and maths at University College Wales, Aberystwyth. He is a former Irish Political Prisoner in England. On his release he headed up the Sinn Fein office in London and was active in the struggle to release of the Guildford 4. In 2009, Gerry led the 2nd convoy into Gaza after the invasion and he co-founded Derry Friends of Palestine. During operation Cast Lead he persuaded Derry City Council to support a boycott of Israeli goods until Israel withdraws from the occupied territories. Derry was the first city in Ireland to pass such a motion. He returned to Gaza again to bring the Mayor of Derry to meet with the Mayor of Khan Younis to begin a twinning process between the two cities. Gerry was a keynote speaker in Geneva at the first International Conference in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli Jails, organised by U-Free. He is a member of the International Steering Committee of Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human and a member of the Irish Ship to Gaza national committee.
DesertPeace: According to the inroduction, I believe this will be your third trip to Gaza. After the brutal attack by the Israeli navy on the Mavi Marmara a year ago, are you in any way concerned for your personal safety this time?
Gerry MacLochlainn: I have to be honest and yes – I am concerned and I think I would foolish if I were not. The shocking slaughter of unarmed people aboard the Mavi Marmara made it clear that Israel is prepared to cross any line to protect its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and blockade of Gaza. If you oppose, even peacefully as we are doing, Israeli policy in Palestine and against Palestinians you are fair game as far as the IDF is concerned.
But no matter how concerned I am – I have to do what is right. The governments of the world should be leading our flotilla into Gaza but they stand idly by. It falls to us then the ordinary citizens of this world to act for humanity. Someone has to step up and if not me who? I can’t leave it to others.
So we will set sail, we will strive to each Gaza, we do so publicly, peacefully and with no desire to harm to contribute to the harming of anyone, including the IDF who are threatening us with extreme violence if we do not turn back.
BUT although we are peaceful, although we threaten no-one, we will not be bullied, we will not turn back. We will not surrender our boats and we will try to reach Gaza.
We may not succeed on this occasion but the siege will be broken and the blockade will be lifted. Israel can menace, maim or even murder but it can no more stop us or those who follow than it can stop the tide.
Palestine will be free and its ports will be open to the world as are the ports of any other country.
DP: Are there any long term plans for activities back in Ireland once you return from this trip?
GM: Yes. I am a Sinn Féin Councillor as you know and my city council has voted to boycott Israeli goods. I recently brought our Mayor out to Gaza to meet the Mayor of Khan Younis, Mohammed al Farra, and we intend to build up a relationship between our two municipalities.
I am talking to business men and local community groups, schools and sporting associations to develop links with our sisters and brothers in Khan Younis.
The Derry Friends of Palestine, of which I am a member, has a programme of work to do to assist the people of Gaza. We will soon be making a significant contribution to health care in Khan Younis. The details of this intervention will be announced in the near future.
But more than that I plan to continue to bear witness to the crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. Along with my colleagues, the Irish Friends of Palestine and my party, Sinn Féin I intend to continue to mobilise opinion to peaceful protest at every manifestation of Zionist aggression.
I intend to be a peaceful but very persistent opponent of Israel so longs as it refuses to deal with its neighbours as equals.
DP: As an elected official, do you feel that your solidarity work for the people of Palestine in any way could hurt your political career? I am aware that many people in Ireland identify personally with the Palestinians because of their own struggles for Freedom and Independence. Can you elaborate on this?
GM: Well I suppose the big advantage of being in Ireland, and being an Irish Republican in Ireland is that your support comes from people who know all about imperialism, about land grabs about suppression, and who know just which side they are on. Consequently advocacy for Palestine will not damage anyone’s political career in Ireland.
I well remember, during my time in jail in England as our hungers strikers died, the women of Gaza took to the streets to salute and support our comrades. They reached into our prison cells on our behalf that day and we gladly reach into theirs now.
Our message is simple, Palestine, you have sisters and brothers in Ireland. You will never have to face the enemy alone. I shout aloud – The Irish are coming!
DP: Sinn Fein has always been in the forefront of the struggle, are there other groups working with you on these International issues?
GM: Sinn Fein is of course one of the largest parties on the island and one of the two major components of the government in the north and is a major opposition party in the South. The fact that our party has a principled position in support of Palestine means that these politics are now heard at the heart of government.
But it is fair to say that the breadth of support for Palestine in Ireland spreads beyond the Republican base. Nearly every party has some support for Palestine within its ranks. This is a potential major advantage for the people of Palestine because, as their case becomes better known, the support will spread further.
We believe that we can influence Irish foreign policy to take a principled stand on the Palestine issue at an international diplomatic level. We will co-operate with the widest array of parties and trends to achieve that.
DP: Gerry, it’s been a pleasure. I wish you a safe trip and hopeully one day we can celebrate together in a Jerusalem that belongs to all of the people, not just the chosen few.
GM: Inshallah! Thank you. It has been a pleasure for me too.
Published on Tuesday 21 June 2011 11:30
Two Derry men are travelling to Gaza this week as part of the ‘freedom flotilla’ to bring aid to Palestinians.
Sinn Féin councillor Gerry MacLochlainn and well-known Derry communnity worker Charlie McMenamin and 24 other Irish people are hoping to reach Gaza on one of the aid ships to bring medical supplies to Palestinians, who have been unable to import certain goods because of an Israeli blockade.
In May last year a similar convoy tried to reach Gaza with humanitarian supplies and a number of ships were boarded by commandos from the Israeli Defence Force who opened fire, killing nine peace activists onboard the Mavi Marmara ship.
Before leaving Derry, Mr McMenamin said he wanted to raise awareness of the situation in Gaza. “We are determined to bring world attention to the plight of the Palestinian people whose lives have come to a standstill because of the Israeli blockade of Gaza,” he said.
A number of fundraising events, including a skydive, were held in Derry in recent months to raise funds to buy supplies to take to the troubled middle eastern company. The fundraising events were organised by the Derry Friends of Palestine group, who have also been making links between local schoolchildren and children in Palentinian schools.
FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES FROM THE DERRY AND BELFAST PASSENGERS HERE