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Dublin City Hall Alamy Stock Photo
Dublin City Council

Confusion over Palestinian and peace flag votes at Dublin City Council

The Independent Group put forth the emergency motion as a ‘sign of solidarity’ but it failed to reach a majority.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 6th 2023, 11:15 PM

AN EMERGENCY MOTION calling for the Palestinian flag to be flown above City Hall in an “act of solidarity with the people of Gaza” has fallen short of the required votes.

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

The motion in favour of flying the Palestinian flag 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.

A vote on a second emergency motion, calling for a so-called ‘peace flag’ to be flown over City Hall on Dame Street in Dublin, was set to be held after the Palestinian flag motion.

However, the meeting had run out of time before votes were counted.

Some members of the council shouted that they agreed with the motion, attempting to partake in what is called a pallet vote, but one councillor called for the motion to go to a ballot.

This meant the meeting’s administrator would be required to call on each councillor to vote one-by-one. 

Lord Mayor Daithí De Róiste acknowledged that the pallet vote would be accepted, as is protocol, but then called for voting to commence.

After this, the meeting’s administrator, Ruth Dowling, notified the Lord Mayor that the session had run out of time.

De Róiste then concluded the meeting without announcing the result of vote on the second emergency motion to fly the peace-flag.

Neither vote – to fly a peace flag or a Palestinian flag above City Hall – passed.

Earlier in the meeting, after Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney put forward the peace-flag motion, Independent councillor Mannix Flynn requested to know what a peace flag actually looked like, and whether or not it had been decided.

Heney explained that what would be pictured on the flag could be decided on a later date, after the vote took place.

After the first failed vote took place, many councillors were unsure which motion had just been voting on. 

Seeking clarification, Councillor Flynn asked if the second motion was related to the “flag that doesn’t exist”.

A disagreement broke out between councillors Flynn and Heney, with the Fianna Fáil councillor labelling Flynn’s question as “disrespectful”.

De Róiste then put the motion to a vote but, as detailed previously, it is unclear whether the pallet vote was accepted or not as the Lord Mayor did not announce the result before concluding the session.

Ahead of this evening’s vote, the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Dana Erlich wrote to all members of the Council to reconsider its vote.

In an email to city councillors, she said she was aware of media reports regarding the motion and asked that the councillors “examine the full facts of the current tragic conflict, which was instigated by the Hamas terrorist organisation”.

Former Lord Mayor and Sinn Féin councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha called on Erlich to withdraw her remarks and requested that she withdraw her previous remarks, which labelled the Irish state as “antisemitic”.

Israel has banned Mac Donncha from entering Israel for his links to Palestine. In 2018, Mac Donncha used the Irish version of Lord Mayor - Ardmhéara - on his documents and successfully entered Israel after it went unnoticed by Israeli officials.

Voted in favour of ‘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.

Peace flag is ‘more appropriate’

Earlier, Fianna Fáil Councillor Daryl Barron, who represents Donaghmede, argued that he believes a peace flag flying above council buildings is “more appropriate” than a Palestinian flag.

“I’m very much in agreement that we would have some sort of message above City Hall or the Mansion House, wherever it may be … a sign of peace or a flag that would signify peace I think would be important,” he said.

The Independent Group said that the support shown by Dublin City Council for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion “has set a precedent”.

According to Barron, “the two situations are different”.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want to be seen to be putting flags all the time up … i’m not interested in making a massive political statement about this,” he said.

“I don’t like having different [countries'] flags above Dublin City Council buildings, whereas a peace flag is something I’d like to see more of in use.

Barron said it is for the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and government ministers to determine Ireland’s approach to the conflict.

“I’m horrified at what’s going on and there’s a lot to be answered for there but what I would say is that it is above our pay grade as councillors,” he said.

‘Nothing to do with us’

Fine Gael Councillor Danny Byrne, who represents the South East Inner City,earlier  echoed Barron’s sentiment, saying it’s not within the remit of city councillors “to fight the fights of foreign nations”.

“It’s nothing to do with us,” he said.

“If there’s any flag to be put up over City Hall for me it should be the Dublin flag, simple as that.”

On the comparison with the war in Ukraine, Byrne said that it is “a completely different war”.

Green Party Councillor for the North Inner City Janet Horner said that her party was “happy enough” for the Palestinian flag to be raised but, like Fianna Fáil, would prefer a symbol of peace rather than one of nationalism. 

“We feel that the role of the international community is that of promoting a ceasefire and a peace agreement,” she said, adding that the party is seeking a two-state solution to the occupation of Palestine.

“We need to see an end to the violence, we need to see an end to acts that are clearly genocidal.”

Horner said we should take a “lesson” from Irish history and promote a peace process.

‘Massacre’

The Independent Group earlier today said that the “indiscriminate targeting of people in Gaza, similar to the indiscriminate targeting of the Ukrainian people, warrants an equivalent public display of opposition”.

The group’s leader, councillor Cieran Perry, said that close to 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since war broke out, including over 3,600 children.

“Every effort must be made to stop the slaughter and tackle the humanitarian crisis caused by the relentless assault on the population of Gaza,” said Perry.

He added: “The flying of the Palestinian flag will show our disgust at the continuation of the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians, and hopefully encourage an immediate ceasefire.”

Councillor Noeleen Reilly meanwhile said that “flying the flag will offer public support for the people of Gaza and increase the pressure for an immediate ceasefire”.

Elsewhere, former Lord Mayor of Dublin and Independent councillor Christy Burke said: “The hypocrisy of world leaders rightly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine while supporting or ignoring the indiscriminate Israeli targeting of innocent people in Gaza is disgraceful.

“The world cannot stand idly by while the massacre of the people of Gaza takes place before our eyes.”

With reporting by Mairead Maguire

Author
Muiris O'Cearbhaill & Diarmuid Pepper