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Fine Gael Ard Fheis

Fine Gael votes down motion to enact Occupied Territories Bill

Coveney says he hasn’t heard any negative feedback from senior decision-makers in business relating to Ireland’s position on Gaza.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Apr

FINE GAEL MEMBERS have voted down a motion calling for the Occupied Territories bill to be enacted. 

The motion was tabled by Minister Simon Coveney’s branch of Fine Gael in Carrigaline. 

The Occupied Territories bill is stalled in the Dáil and was left out of the programme for government at the behest of Coveney.

The motion also calls for the State of Palestine to be recognised. 

During a debate on the motion, a number of members, including TD John Paul Phelan said they were surprised the motion even made it onto the agenda of a Fine Gael Ard Fheis. 

One member in his contribution said the legislation was “anti-semitic”, stating that he would have expected to see it on the agenda of “another party”.

Another Fine Gael member  told the top table of ministers that the Irish government must “pass on a message” to the Israeli government to “stop killing innocent people and children in Palestine”. 

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”.

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.  

Speaking today ahead of the Fine Gael vote on the motion, Coveney said he wanted his party members to “think carefully” about the motion, stating that the Occupied Territories bill is “not legally sound”. 

When votes were called, the majority of Fine Gael members voted down the motion.

Coveney said he disagreed with people who said that the motion shouldn’t be before the Ard Fheis today, stating that he was “glad” members could have the debate today. 

He said the motion “reflects the outrage” that the Irish people feel about the situation in Gaza, but he added he didn’t believe that enacting the Occupied Territories bill was the “right way” to address that. 

Speaking to reporters earlier today about the bill, he said a number of Attorney General’s have said that legislation is not legally sound.

“Trade decisions, and sanctions are a matter for the EU to do collectively,” he added. 

 Earlier today, Coveney also welcomed the decision yesterday to divest Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) shareholdings of €2.95 million from six Israeli companies linked to activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The divestment relates to shareholdings in six companies: Bank Hapoalim BM; Bank Leumi-le Israel BM; Israel Discount Bank; Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd; First International Bank and Rami Levi CN Stores.

He said the decisions that ISIF has made has been described by Michael McGrath as one that is on the basis of risk.

“Those decisions make a lot of sense to me, both from a business risk investment point of view, but also from a political perspective,” he added. 

Coveney said Ireland’s position on the Gaza conflict “is one that is respected across the world”. 

“From a from an enterprise point of view, I haven’t received any negative feedback through the IDA, or from senior decision-makers in business,” he told The Journal.

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