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Palestine: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith] We have the opportunity to outline our position now instead of seeking to hide behind the EU's lack of consensus on this matter. Sweden is not hiding behind the lack of an EU Common Position or accepting the Israeli line that the recognition of Palestine is something in Israel's gift in future negotiations. Nor should we. In supporting this motion and taking this step to help build a lasting and just peace in the region based on human rights and respect for international law, we are sending a clear message on behalf of all Irish people. We should take this step and join the many others in the international community who want a lasting peace in the Middle East. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to support the recognition of the state of Palestine. We should also use all other international fora available to us to encourage other states to make the same moves.

The Acting Chairman will recall how the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, stated his belief at the last meeting of our foreign affairs committee that the EU had to take a more proactive approach in seeking a peace settlement. I hope that the Minister strongly puts to the European Council the message that, along with other members of the international community, the EU has a binding and moral duty to ensure basic justice and equality for a people who have been downtrodden for many decades.

I recall reading some essays on the work and political life of one of Deputy O'Dowd's predecessors in Louth, Frank Aiken, who served for many years as Minister for External Affairs and was one of Fianna Fáil's founding members. During his time at the UN in the 1940s and 1950s, he often spoke at length about the need for justice and equality for everyone in the Middle East. Many years later, we are speaking about the same subject. Unfortunately, there has been no progress for the Palestinian people.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney On 22 October, Fianna Fáil proposed a motion calling on the Government to recognise Palestine formally as an independent and sovereign state. The motion was passed by Seanad Éireann, having been unanimously accepted because of the careful work of colleagues in that House. I will take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication, commitment and, above all, action of Senator Power in securing the type of consensus that was required to ensure sufficient support for the motion.

The motion before the Dáil reflects the motion that was presented to the Seanad on 22 October. Unlike in the Seanad, however, the movers of this motion - Sinn Féin - did not seek to build the type of consensus that was required to see its implementation. It is unfortunate that Sinn Féin has tried to engage in a political trick by tabling this motion while failing to build on the momentum of the consensus in the Seanad. It has endangered that opportunity. The Government could have opposed it, meaning we could have been the first country in the EU to reject a proposal of this sort. It was dangerous not to pursue a cross-party approach to get this across the line in the interests of the people of Palestine.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan We did.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney I welcome the Government's acceptance of the motion. It has risen above itself and political strategy. I also welcome the fact that the Government has recognised the greater good by supporting the passage of this motion.

As quickly as possible, let us address the "whataboutary" that we consistently hear from those who are pro-Israeli and who lobby on and engage in this debate. I fully accept the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state. I fully accept its people's right to defend themselves, but only within the confines of internationally accepted norms, particularly in the conduct in war. As a sovereign state, Israel has a solemn duty to respect and honour international law as well as the human rights and, in particular, civilian rights of populations in the region. We should take this opportunity to condemn out of hand the attacks on civilian targets - hospitals, ambulances, schools and homes. These must stop, as we cannot have the horrific practice of imposing pain in what can be best described as the collective punishment of the most vulnerable people in the region as a consequence of the evils done by a small minority.

In line with this philosophy, I condemn terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens and call on Hamas to take whatever action is necessary to reflect on the efforts being made by the international community, including Ireland, and to step up to the mark where the lives of innocents in Israel are concerned. The Palestinian leadership must condemn this violence and rise above the brute force approach taken by its opponents. It must also respect sovereign responsibility and conform to the human rights standards to which sovereign states are bound.

The Palestinian people are a proud people with a long history, a rich culture and a strong sense of identity. Undoubtedly, they are a stronger people as a consequence of the suffering and misery they have had to endure. In the 1980s under a Fianna Fáil-led Government, Ireland became the first EU member state to declare that an essential feature of any resolution to the conflict in the Middle East had to be a two-state strategy. In the past decade, however, and especially this summer, Israel has sought to establish a new set of facts through a new type of engagement of violence on the ground. The future of any Palestinian state is only sustainable if the population has a chance to establish itself and develop a society, but that would not be in Israel's strategic interests.

We cannot deny the dignity of Palestinian individuals or their families and children who are being slaughtered by a military regime in pursuit of an unclear and unhealthy cause. Even now, the Israeli Government is attempting to colonise east Jerusalem. The Minister of State should take whatever action is necessary to outline to Israel's Dublin-based diplomatic unit our protest over Palestine's right to recognise that area of Jerusalem as its future capital.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputies Catherine Murphy and Healy are sharing time.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I thank Sinn Féin for tabling this motion. I am happy to support it. I am glad the Government is also supportive of it. Obviously, this motion follows the work in the Seanad. I acknowledge Senator Power's work in particular. It has been important.

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