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Dublin City councillors clash over next steps after failed 'peace flag' motion creates confusion

A vote on flying a so-called ‘peace flag’ above City Hall ran overtime, leading to ambiguity about its result.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCILLORS have expressed confusion and frustration after a chaotic monthly meeting where two emergency motions failed to pass.

An motion calling for the Palestinian flag to be flown above City Hall in an “act of solidarity with the people of Gaza” fell short of the required votes at last night’s meeting.

A separate vote of Dublin City Council for a so-called ‘peace flag’ to be flown instead ran overtime, leading to ambiguity about its result.

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, who represents the South East Inner City, described last night’s scenes as “peculiar and heated”, saying that the councillors “made a show of themselves”.

He said that the motion on a peace flag should not have happened without first determining what the peace flag – which has never been used before – would look like.

“You can’t fly what doesn’t exist on a flagpole,” he said.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney, who put forward the peace-flag motion, said that its exact design would be decided on at a later date, after the vote. There is confusion among councillors about when, if ever, voting on the motion will reoccur.

Flynn suggested that a competition be run for school children to design a peace flag. He says it would teach them that “out of conflict comes peace”.

The motion in favour of flying the Palestinian flag on Dame Street was brought by the Independent Group of councillors but it also had the backing of Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit.

Due to the numbers of representatives in attendance at the meeting, the ballot required three-quarters of the council – 45 councillors – to vote in favour for it to be passed.

The vote concluded with 39 votes in favour, 10 against and 8 abstentions – meaning the motion failed to pass.

Flynn has submitted his own motion to the council’s protocol committee, calling for the Irish flag above City Hall to be flown at half mast for three days as a sign of respect for those who have died in the conflict. It will be voted on at the committee’s next meeting at the end of the month.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Tom Brabazon believes that a peace flag is more appropriate if Ireland is to maintain its neutrality.

“I think picking sides in a conflict isn’t being neutral,” he said.

A neutral flag would be “a much more powerful signal and a less controversial signal”.

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner said that “in general” her party would favour symbols of peace over symbols of nationalism.

In the absence of “an obvious flag of peace”, Horner suggests planting an olive tree, which “holds huge significance in the middle east”, or making another gesture that demonstrates the desire for a ceasefire.

She said that, while she understands the merits of standing with Palestine, “our own experience in Ireland shows how powerful it is when the international community use their position and put their weight behind a peace process”.

‘Apartheid’ label

A separate motion, brought forward by Labour Councillor Declan Meenagh, asked that Dublin City Council vote to support a report by Amnesty International that labelled Israel’s occupation of Palestine as “apartheid”.

The council was asked to support the report entitled ‘Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and a Crime against Humanity’ as a “show of solidarity with the Palestinian people”.

The motion was suggested in April and was voted on this evening. The council voted in favour of endorsing the report, and therefore recognised that the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state is “apartheid”.

“I think we need to ask ourselves: What helped and what didn’t in our own conflicts?,” Meenagh said. “There’s lots of reasons it’s different, but more democracy helped. More violence didn’t help.

“I think it is appropriate that we recognise [Israel] as an apartheid state, and that’s to get out of this horrendous situation. I mean, I don’t have an answer. I just think that more democracy, more peace is how we do it,” the Labour councillor added.

The motion was supported widely by many councillors and passed this evening.

Meenagh said that he believes the council have served as an example to how the issue should be labelled and commended his colleagues for supporting the research conducted by Amnesty International.

Additional reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill