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Criticism over lack of reference to Occupied Territories Bill in draft programme for government

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

Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Image: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS criticised the lack of reference to the Occupied Territories Bill in the draft programme for government published today. 

This afternoon, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party finally reached an agreement on a draft programme for government. 

Over the past few weeks, the parties have been hammering out the details for the programme for government – or a ‘to-do list’ of policies that they would implement if in power together.

Final sticking points over the weekend were said to have included a rise in the pension age to 67, potential tax cuts over the lifetime of the next government, taxation, and the Occupied Territories Bill.

There is no reference to the Occupied Territories Bill within the draft programme, published today. 

The Bill, which was brought to the Oireachtas 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 and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have repeatedly outlined their opposition to the Bill.

Speaking to reporters outside Government Buildings this afternoon, Coveney noted the decision not to include reference to the Bill in the document.

“I’m on the record on this issue, many times. I’ve spent a lot of my time on the Middle East peace process as a Minister for Foreign Affairs and I’ve been there many times, but this was a proposal and a piece of legislation that was being brought through the Oireachtas that I believed, and I still believe, wasn’t implementable,” Coveney said.

“I got pretty detailed advice from the Attorney General in relation to it and couldn’t support it on that basis,” he said.

“So, I made that case through these discussions as well and the decision was made to take it out of the document. I think that was the right decision.”

In a statement this evening, Amnesty International said the lack of reference to the Occupied Territories Bill within the draft programme is “hugely disappointing”. 

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“The very lack of a reference to the Occupied Territories Bill is hugely disappointing and a missed opportunity for Ireland to show global leadership,” Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman said. 

“While we welcome the strong commitments to oppose the imminent annexation, we call on the incoming government to enact this Bill,” O’Gorman said.

“Ireland has condemned illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. We now need to show leadership by banning the import of goods produced in those settlements, and put an end to the profits that fuel mass human rights violations.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews described the lack of reference to the Bill as “truly disappointing”. 

With reporting by Stephen McDermott   

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