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Minister seeks advice on taxpayers' €4.2m invested in companies in illegal Israeli settlements

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty says there can be no delay in the divestments.

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL McGrath has said he is seeking advice on how to deal with the €4.2 million of Irish taxpayers’ money that is invested in companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine Territories.

Speaking to reporters during the week, he said it is a “complex issue” which he has yet to come to a final determination on. 

Last November, the minister said his department was working with the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) “on the most appropriate way to address the issues”. 

ISIF is a sovereign investment fund with a mandate to invest on a commercial basis to support economic activity and employment in Ireland.

The minister said he had written to the CEO of the The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and to the chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee to seek their views.

“This process will allow the government to determine what is the most appropriate approach to adopt in this matter. I am aware that this is a difficult situation to resolve and it does require time and some careful consideration to get it right,” he added. 

The United Nations has a database of businesses drawn up that are operating within illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. 

When The Journal asked for an update this week, the minister said some of those listed are digital services, adding that “it’s not a comprehensive list”.

“So it is a complex issue, but it is one that I am continuing to examine. I am engaging across government and also seeking advice in relation to this issue. I haven’t come to a final determination on it, because I have to understand the full wider context. There are lots of moving parts here. It is a complex issue, but it is one that I am continuing to examine,” he said. 

McGrath said he also has to consider the assets that ISIF hold in the “wider context”, given that the Taoiseach and the Spanish Prime Minister only recently sought a review by the European Commission of the EU Israel Association Agreement, and in particular Israel’s compliance with the human rights obligations that are set out within that agreement. 

The minister did not commit to any timeline for action, stating that work is “ongoing”.

The minister’s comments come in the same week the International Criminal Court is hearing a case on the “legal consequences” of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967, in particular the West Bank, just a month after the court directed Tel Aviv to do all it could to prevent genocide in Gaza in a separate case focused on the ongoing Israeli onslaught on the Palestinian enclave.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty told The Journal that Ireland should have no part to play in the affront to human dignity and justice against the Palestinian people.

“Information provided to me by the Minister for Finance in November confirmed that the Irish State, through the NTMA, holds investments worth €4.2 million in companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

He said “these illegal settlements are a clear breach of international law, and amount to the annexation of Palestinian territories and dispossession of Palestinian lands, accompanied by campaigns of violence against Palestinian communities”.

He said some companies in which the Irish Strategic Investment Fund holds investment is listed by Human Rights Watch as providing services that help support, maintain, and expand unlawful settlements. 

“That the State, on behalf of the Irish people, holds investments in companies that are complicit in and facilitate the subjugation of the Palestinian people and clear breaches of international law is a stain on the conscience of the State.

“The Irish State must divest all investments in these companies without delay – there is no excuse for delay,” he told The Journal.

“In 2021, Norway’s largest pension fund divested €23 million worth of shares and bonds from 16 companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements, including all four banks which ISIF currently holds investments in.

He said Sinn Féin proposed legislation last year which would require the Irish State to divest all assets held in these companies.

“This legislation should be enacted immediately. There can be no delay – Ireland should play no part, financial or otherwise, in illegal actions of the Israeli regime,” said Doherty.