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Occupied Territories Bill would not make any 'practical difference', says Taoiseach

The Taoiseach has said the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is untenable.

General view of Gaza region.
General view of Gaza region.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE REINTRODUCTION OF the Occupied Territories Bill would not make any “practical difference” and would be “more symbolic”, according to the Taoiseach. 

Micheál Martin addressed the UN General Assembly yesterday, stating that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is untenable.

He said the issue is raised each month by Ireland, yet nothing has changed. 

“Israeli settlement building continues to undermine – it would seem knowingly and deliberately – the viability and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian State, and to jeopardise the two-State solution. Settlements are a clear violation of international law and today stand in the way of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

“Let us be clear. The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is untenable. We cannot – and must not – become inured to it,” Martin said during his speech.

Given his strong criticisms yesterday, the Taoiseach was asked if he would support the reintroduction of the Occupied Territories Bill.

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”.

The Bill passed in the Seanad in December 2018 despite government opposition, before passing second stage in the Dáil in January 2019. Fine Gael and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have repeatedly outlined their opposition to the Bill.

During Government formation negotiations, the Green Party pushed to have the Bill included in the Programme for Government document.

However, Fine Gael resisted. When the Green Party’s Neasa Hourigan was asked what happened to the Bill, she said “Simon Coveney happened”.

Speaking to reporters in New York this morning, the Taoiseach said the bill would “definitely not make a practical difference if we’re honest, it’s more symbolic than actually having a practical impact”.

He said it would also have an impact in terms of European Union competency on trade.

Speaking about his statement to the UN Assembly, he said his remarks were focused on the continued settlements and the need to ensure the “situation doesn’t get worse”.

“There’s issues on all sides, by the way, that need to be advanced, they need elections within the Palestinian area, and within the West Bank,” he said.

“That hasn’t happened since 2006. So there are issues there. But there is a need for a high-level intervention, because the situation could become far worse into the future.

“And the point I’m making, and I’ve always consistently made, voices of moderation need to be heard. And there’s a real danger that more hardline voices will emerge in the absence of sensible interventions and a sensible approach to make sure that the middle ground can govern with authority within in the West Bank and within Gaza,” he said. 

Christina will be reporting from the UN throughout the week. You can follow her updates on Twitter @christinafinn8.

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