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File image of Israeli settlement of Betar Illit looming over Palestinian village of Nahalin in occupied West Bank territories.
National Treasury Management Agency

Irish government to stop investing almost €3m in companies based in illegal Israeli settlements

The Minister for Finance Michael McGrath announced the decision this morning.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that it is 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 Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said he had been advised of the decision by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) this morning. 

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.

“ISIF has determined that the risk profile of these investments is no longer within its investment parameters and that the commercial objectives of these investments can be achieved via other investments,” McGrath said. 

“The decision will be implemented as soon as possible over the coming weeks.”

McGrath said ISIF will keep the alignment of relevant investments within its investment parameters and commercial objectives under review. 

“While recognising the independence of ISIF in the management of the investment portfolio, I believe this is the correct investment decision in respect of the assets it manages on behalf of the State.”

It comes after McGrath said last November he would bring a proposal to government 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.

The minister said he had written to the CEO of the NTMA and to the chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee to seek their views.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the divestment is a step in the right direction, calling the move “heartening” but adding that “this is just the beginning”. 

“Labour has been steadfast in its call for Government to cease investment and trade in the occupied territories altogether,” she said.

“The scale of destruction witnessed by the people of Gaza is nothing short of horrific. The case for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza becomes even more compelling each day, as the death toll mounts. We are bearing witness to awful devastation, unleashed by the Israeli Government upon this civilian population trapped in a small, besieged enclave.”

A Sinn Féin Bill is currently seeking to impose “prohibitions and restrictions” on the NTMA in dealings with any entities that appear on a UN Database of companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

The database was mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2016.

It aims to ensure transparency around business activities in the West Bank and to prompt companies to rethink their activities in the occupied territories.

The ISIF, which is managed and controlled by the NTMA, currently has direct investments in 11 companies on the UN database, totalling around €4.2 million.

The Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill 2023 would require that the NTMA ensure that assets are not invested in companies on this UN database and that where it becomes aware of such an undertaking, to divest the assets of the fund from these investments.

The Department of Finance had raised concerns about adopting the Bill as recently as two weeks ago, saying it would make Ireland an “international outlier”. 

It is currently at second stage in the Dáil. 

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD John Brady has described the move as a “welcome first step”, but said it doesn’t go far enough.

A Bill by Sinn Féin would mandate the ISIF to divest itself of all current assets, and to prohibit future investments in any companies which operate in the illegal Israeli settlements, and which are included on the UN Database of companies.

“Yet since this Bill came before the Dáil at second stage last May, the government has attempted to obstruct its progress at every single turn,” said Brady.

He wants the government to commit to enacting the Bill, making sure that “all shareholdings in businesses that support and make illegal settlements viable are also divested from”.

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