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Greens discuss councillors' call to support Occupied Territories Bill as Coveney says Ireland will continue to speak up

A group of Green Party councillors have called on their Dáil colleagues to support a boycott on goods from occupied Israeli territories.

Fine Gael and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have repeatedly outlined their opposition to the Bill.
Fine Gael and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have repeatedly outlined their opposition to the Bill.
Image: PA

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney has said he spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Shtayyeh yesterday and expressed Ireland’s condolences on the deaths and violence of the past week.

Speaking in the Dáil about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Coveney said Ireland will continue to use its voice at the Security Council to draw attention to the issues.

“We will speak up even if it is not comfortable to do so,” he said. 

“The loss of life, destruction and trauma we have seen in the last week across Israel and Palestine have been horrifying, but must be a wake-up call for the international community in terms of its responsibilities,” added the minister. 

Letter on the Occupied Territories Bill

His comments come after the Green Party parliamentary party last night discussed a letter signed by a group of 12 party councillors who have called on their Dáil colleagues to support legislation which would introduce a boycott on goods from occupied Israeli territories in Palestine.

In a letter to the Green’s parliamentary party, seen by The Journal, it highlights that the party was co-signatories to the Occupied Territories Bill when it was introduced to the Oireachtas in 2018 by Senator Frances Black. 

The Bill was passed in the last Dáil, with the Green Party and Fianna Fáil voting in favour of the legislation. 

While in opposition, Fianna Fáil backed the Bill, with both Niall Collins and Billy Kelleher speaking passionately about the Bill.

“Having done that and having met with a wide range of agencies and groups, it is my view that Ireland passing the Occupied Territories Bill has the potential to send a strong message that the issue of illegal settlements is being taken seriously and needs to be addressed,” said Collins in 2018.

While there had been concerns at the time that the Israeli embassy in Ireland might shut down over the Occupied Territories Bill, Collins said it was an “overreaction”

Three years ago, Coveney said he recognised that to prohibit the import and sales of goods from the territories would “send an important signal to the Palestinian people”.

However, he argued that the memory of such a signal may fade over time and Ireland’s reputation would be of a country willing to go it alone, rather than a country determined to influence, persuade and bring others with Ireland.

“I understand that Coveney is coming from a place where he would like to see EU leadership on this, but I feel if we wait for the EU to take the lead, we could be waiting forever,” Black told The Journal in 2018.

The letter from Green Party councillors sent this week said Fine Gael relied on “unpublished legal advice from the Attorney General to defend their decision” to block the Bill.

A number of charities, including Trocaire, supported the proposed legislation. Former AG and Justice Minister, and now senator Michael McDowell, also disagreed that the Bill was unconstitutional.

The Journal also reported that at the time the government was lobbied by US representatives and groups in a bid to halt the Bill. 

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Sticking point in government formation talks

The proposed legislation was a sticking point during the government formation talks, and despite the Green Party pushing for the Bill to be included, it was dropped from the programme for government

The letter from councillors on the Occupied Territories Bill was discussed yesterday by  Green Party ministers, TDs and senators, with one members stating that the parliamentary party was “very much” in favour of action, but said Fine Gael remain steadfastly opposed to the Bill. 

TD Patrick Costello tweeted last week that the government should support the Bill.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Costello called for the recognition of the Occupied Territories Bill and recognition of de-facto annexation. 

Hazel Chu, Dublin Lord Mayor and chair of the Green Party, is understood to have set up a meeting with the Palestinian ambassador for Dublin City Councillors today and a meeting with the Israeli Ambassador for next week.

Coveney said today that the UN Security Council must speak on this issue, adding that he has been in close contact with his counterparts in the region, including Egypt, Qatar and  Jordan.

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