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Harris confirms he has received 'recent' legal advice on Occupied Territories Bill

The Occupied Territories Bill has been stalled for a number of years.

TAOISEACH SIMON HARRIS has confirmed that he has received updated legal advice on the Occupied Territories Bill from the Attorney General. 

Following the announcement that Ireland will recognise the State of Palestine, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns asked the Taoiseach yesterday if the government will take the next step and enact the Occupied Territories Bill.

“I have got recent legal advice,” he told the Dáil.

Speaking about the ”clear legal advice” the government has received to date on the proposed legislation, he said:

That legal advice, in short, is that trade agreements are a European competence.

The Bill, which was brought forward by independent senator Frances Black, seeks to prevent Ireland from trading in goods and services imported from Israeli-occupied territories.

Although it does not mention Israel or Palestine specifically, it aims to prohibit “the import and sales of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories”.

Bill stalled 

It passed in the Seanad in December 2018 despite government opposition, before passing second stage in the Dáil in January 2019, when Fianna Fáil and some members of the Independent Alliance abstained from the vote.

Fine Gael repeatedly outlined its opposition to the Bill, with then-Tánaiste Simon Coveney repeatedly saying that he could not support the Bill based on advice from the Attorney General.  

Despite the Green Party advocating for the bill in government negotiation talks in 2020, it was ultimately dropped from the Programme for Government. 

Following the dissolving of the 32nd Dáil, the bill lapsed, but Black succeeded in having the bill restored to the same stage in December 2020.

The bill is now stalled at Second Stage in the Dáil. 

Trade with Israel

Harris maintained that movement on the issue of trade must be done at European level, telling the Dáil yesterday:

“I say honestly here that I am continuing to push at a European level, as my predecessor did and as the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, for the review of the association [trade] agreement, because it has human rights clauses in it.

“The human rights clauses were not put in it to have nice flowery language, to pad it out or to make it longer. They are real and meaningful words. I am frustrated that we have not yet been successful in persuading people of the merits of the need for that review. We continue that work.”

“We are now witnessing a genocide unfold before our eyes,” said Cairns, who added that it should “change the legal advice and allow the government to enact this important Bill”. 

“Israel should not be entitled to slaughter with impunity and maintain normal trade and diplomatic relations. Things have changed,” she said.

“We should also be doing everything we can at EU level to stop this carnage. The Taoiseach mentioned what he is doing at EU level. The EU’s action in the face of these horrors inflicted on the people of Gaza is shameful. Israel’s cheerleaders in the EU, like outgoing Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, have created a permanent stain on the EU’s reputation,” said Cairns. 

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