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Gazans Living in the Darkness CLICK to see



Message from Sinead MacLochlainn , Chair of Derry Friends of Palestine:

The first (of many more) Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegation to Gaza was a big success, we covered so much. As an organiser of the delegation, I think we delivered for our members an experience they wont soon forget. As we all begin to attempt to settle back into “normal” life, bits and pieces of the long trip begin to find their places in my memory. We will, of course, eventually post reports on all the meetings we had with various Universities, NGO’s, Schools, and the main political parties. But I first want to tell our supporters about the frustration and anger of the experience.

Israel only allows 6 hours of electricity within each 24 hours. And as even more cruel punishment, this 6 hours can occur at any time within that 24 hour period, day or night, morning or middle of the night, always at israel’s discretion. This is done to demoralise the Palestinians even more, so that they cannot plan for anything in their lives with any assurance that they will have electricity available. It’s all about keeping them suffering, always keeping Israel in control of most aspects of Palestinians lives, making sure the people of Gaza are unable to control even the simplest of activities in their lives, like when they can flip a switch and a light comes on, or when they use a washing machine, or when they can charge their computers or phones, or when their children can study or play. For those who can afford it, tiny Generators and candles are what they mostly rely on.

University Student studies using Tiny LED light

So night after night as we returned to our hotel, we climbed the 5 flights of stairs, usually in darkness, up to the top floor Cafe which seemed to have generator power most nights. We came in search of an internet signal, or a cup of tea, or just to unwind and digest the realities of what we had witnessed that day. So we often sat on the top floor café which is an open space with a balcony which faces the ocean and the Gaza seashore which was in front of us. As you stand on the balcony and look across the darkness, the most amazing fact will hit you, as you stand there in Gaza and look across the water, you can, within a matter of minutes see the entire desperate sad story of Palestine encapsulated into one glance across the ocean.

Once, long ago, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side by side in the land across the water, before Zionism took control of the Jewish religion and the region. For as I stood in the darkness on the balcony in Gaza and I cast my gaze across the water, I can see lights, millions and millions of lights twinkling in abundance. So what was once part of Palestine, it is lit up like a giant Christmas tree or Disney Land in the distance, welcoming the world to the now Jewish State as the people of Gaza suffer with candles in the darkness. This is the story of the “haves” and the “have nots” the occupiers and the occupied, the land stealers on one side, and on the other side in the darkness, those with the keys still in their hands.

And, what will strike you the most about Palestinians, is the smiles on their faces, and that they have nothing and yet want to give what they have to you to thank you for just visiting them, for just validating their story, and their existence. Because that is what this is really all about, Even the smallest child knows what the real battle is about, it’s the land, it’s always about the land, their land, their existence. They are fighting so as not to become a people without a land, they are fighting for their very existence in this world.

We must all redouble our efforts to help them in this noble fight for their existence!

Existance is Resistance

Big Greetings from Hassan Salama School Gaza

PRESS RELEASE
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.”

Delegation pictured with Mayor Mohammed Al Farra of Khan Younis, Palestine

“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.

Plaque Presented to Student Leaders, Alanna Campbell, Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan and Cathal Og Donnelly

“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!”

Delegation meeting with familly in Refugee Camp

“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
Gaza Harbour
Local Weekly Prisoner Protests
Prisoners and their Families
UFREE Prisoners Conference Gaza City
Ethar Initiative
Emaar & Albasmah Centre
Khan Younis Park and Garden Development
plus much more…..

Derry Friends of Palestine member Clr Gerry MacLochlainn and Jennifer McCann MLA part of CEPR delegation to Gaza

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.

Resolution

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.

Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their land

Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their land

(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 standingOnly 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.

The scene of yet another murder

(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.

pictured from left to right: Mr. Ahmed Al Najjar, Ministry of Education, Clr Gerry MacLochalinn, Mr. Muhammed Al Farra Mayor of Khan Younis, Palestine

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.

Clr Gerry MacLochlainn speaking at the Samouni Press Conference in Gaza

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.

Press Release – Nov 2nd

Irish and Canadian ships challenge Israel’s illegal blockade with Freedom Waves to Gaza

Responding to an urgent call for international solidarity from 46 civil society organisations in Gaza, an Irish ship MV Saoirse and a Canadian ship Tahrir have successfully reached international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on a mission dubbed Freedom Waves to Gaza. The boats, two civilian vessels carrying 27 passengers from nine countries, are currently en route to Gaza, Palestine. They will sail from international waters directly to Gaza, and will not pass through Israeli territorial waters.

This is the 11th attempt to break the siege of Gaza via the sea, with five missions arriving safely in Gaza between August and December 2008. The remaining six were violently intercepted by Israel. In May 2010, Israel attacked passengers participating in the first Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine civilians and injuring over 50. Israel’s actions were widely condemned and led to protests around the world. Efforts to bring a second flotilla to Gaza were thwarted by the government of Greece last July following pressure by Israel and Western governments. The Irish vessel, MV Saoirse, was sabotaged while in port in Turkey when its propeller shaft was gouged in a manner almost identical to damage suffered by the Swedish ship. The Irish ship has since been repaired, with funds raised via small donations from Irish citizens in all of the 32 counties. In total, the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign has raised over €140,000 for its mission, a clear sign of the depth of support among ordinary Irish people for the beleaguered people of Gaza.

Throughout the week Palestinian activists in the West Bank and inside Israel will be organizing solidarity actions with the Freedom Waves to Gaza, including a presence outside the UN compound and rallies across West Bank towns. Israel has intensified its aerial bombardments on Gaza in the last few days, killing at least nine people, underlining the need for international solidarity initiatives such as this one.

“The Freedom Waves to Gaza emerged from the Freedom Flotilla initiatives,” says Irish Ship to Gaza organiser Fintan Lane from on board the MV Saoirse. “While the Freedom Waves to Gaza will be delivering some much-needed medicines, our primary goal is to help free Palestinians from their inhumane isolation in what is in effect an open air prison.”

Also on board in this civil society to civil society initiative are delegates from Canada, Australia, the US, Greece, Palestine, Poland and Egypt. “We have just entered international waters and hope to reach the shores of Gaza in a couple of days. The only obstacles in our way are Israel’s military, but international public opinion is behind this effort, and so is civil society in Gaza.”

“The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity – not charity. They have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Palestinians are still prisoners with no freedom of movement,” adds Ehab Lotayef, the Canadian boat organizer. “Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.”

The Freedom Waves to Gaza Initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement the primary aim of which is to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Bios of delegates are available at http://irishshiptogaza.org/

There will also be various media outlets reporting on developments aboard the Tahrir, including Al Jazeera and Democracy Now.

A press conference will be held in Dublin on November 3rd at 11.30am. Details to follow.

ENDS

Irish Ship to Gaza media contact for the North:

Derry/Belfast
Aoife McLaughlin local 0788 652 4999
outside Ireland 00 44 788 652 4999

Dr Nabil Shaath shakes hands with Dr Ismail Haniyeh after Palestinian Unity Deal

Derry Friends of Palestine fully supports the work of Sadaka, we call on our members and supporters to get behind this campaign calling on Ireland to support the Palestinians in their bid for statehood:

UN vote to recognise Palestine

Support the Sadaka Campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote from Ireland

In September 2011, the Palestinian Authority will seek UN membership for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders (Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem). Sadaka believes that the Irish government should not only vote for UN membership but should also encourage other EU states to do the same. Over the next couple of months, Sadaka’s priority is to secure a positive Irish vote in the UN.

SADAKA The Ireland Palestine Alliance

European Push for Palestinian Recognition

Gilmore tells Palestinians that they have no greater friend

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore TD, today said that Palestine and support for the rights of the Palestinian People continue to be a priority for Ireland. He said that Palestine had no greater friend in Europe.

He told former Palestinian foreign minister Dr. Nabeel Shaath that Ireland would be an advocate for Palestine when the issue of recognition is discussed at the European General Affairs Council next Monday. Palestine had “been waiting in the wings for a long time,” he said.

Dr Shaath is in Dublin as a guest of Sadaka, Ireland Palestine Alliance, to rally Irish support for the Palestinian push for membership at the UN General Assembly in September. He said that Palestinians rely on Ireland as one of its strongest European supporters. He said that he was now hopeful that Ireland would vote yes to UN membership in the Autumn.

“We rely on Ireland and hope that it won’t let us down at this crucial time,” Dr Shaath said. “Irish support is a very important part of our psyche. We have received support for the achievement of statehood from Ireland for a very long time and we are pleased to hear that it will continue to play a leading role in supporting our quest for the creation of our independent Palestinian State. Ireland will also support the subsequent negotiations with Israel to end its occupation and create a permanent peace in the Middle East”.

The Palestinians are currently seeking a vote to allow them UN membership, which would constitute international recognition of statehood, based on 1967 borders. To date, 117 countries have committed to supporting the Palestinians at the UN. Ireland first recognised the Palestinian right to statehood in 1980.

Dr. Shaath is a member of the Central Committee of Fatah and Commissioner of International Relations. He has been a senior member of Palestinian negotiating teams for over 40 years and has attended Wye River, Camp David, Taba, Annapolis among major negotiating arenas.

For more information contact:
Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Read SADAKA’S PDF report “Ireland’s position on the recognition of a Palestinian state”
HERE

© rikwalton - all rights reserved

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.”

source

July 6th 2011


Israel must answer questions on MV Saoirse

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD this morning raised the damage done to the MV Saoirse in its efforts bring much needed humanitarian aid to the besieged citizens of Gaza.

Mr. Adams asked the Taoiseach if the government had spoken with the Irish crew who were aboard the MV Saoirse to seek their account of what occurred last week and their belief that their ship was sabotaged and that the lives of Irish citizens were placed in danger.

He also asked the Taoiseach if the government has spoken to either the Israeli or Turkish authorities on this matter.

Regrettably, the Taoiseach could not answer these questions but said he was raise these matters with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and come back to the Sinn Féin President.


Speaking after Taoiseach’s Questions Mr. Adams said:

“Serious questions must be asked of the Israeli government about the events surrounding the MV Saoirse and a thorough investigation of the damage done to the Irish boat is required.

The blockade of the Gaza strip is illegal. The boarding of the flotilla by Israeli forces last May and the killing of 9 aid workers was illegal. The separation wall is obscene and illegal and the construction of settlements on stolen Palestinian land is illegal.

I strongly support the right of the humanitarian aid workers and others to deliver very necessary humanitarian aid to the people of that region which they are being illegally denied by the Israeli authorities.

Providing humanitarian aid for the million and a half people who live under siege in Gaza and making a stand against the aggression and illegal actions of the Israeli state is hugely important.

The situation in that region and the illegal blockade of Gaza will not go away. It must be faced up to and the siege ended if there is to be any hope for peace.

The Irish government can play a key role in this by giving leadership within Europe and supporting the right of the Palestinian peoples to their own state.”

Note to editor: Gaza Statistics:

· 1.5 million people live in a piece of land 40 km long by 10 km wide.

· 80% of Gazans are now dependent on some form of aid.

· 100,000 estimated to have lost their jobs in the private sector since 2004/5.

· 56% of the population of Gaza is under 18. Schools in Gaza have often classes of over 50 children.

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”.

He concluded:

“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.

Armed Greek Commandos board American ship

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.

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