79 Irish parliamentarians have signed a statement condemning Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza strip and supporting a large humanitarian sailing ship, the SV Estelle, that is now on its way from Europe to the port of Gaza.
Northern Irish Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has also signed his name to the statement that expresses unambiguous support for the non-violent Gaza flotilla movement.
Those who have signed their support to Gaza span both Northern and the Republic of Ireland, as well as an array of political parties. TDs, MEPs, senators, MLAs and MPs have signed, as well as many independents.
The list includes members of the Labour Party (such as Nessa Childers MEP and Ciaran Lynch TD), Sinn Fein (such as Conor Murphy MP and Gerry Adams TD), Fianna Fail (such as Senators Darragh O’Brien and Jim Walsh), SDLP (such as Mark Durkan MP and Conall McDevitt MLA), Fine Gael (James Bannon TD) and United Left Alliance (such as Paul Murphy MEP and Joan Collins TD).
The ship, Estelle, aims to break through Israel’s illegal maritime blockade. A tall ship built in the 1920s, the Estelle sailed from Sweden several weeks ago, before stopping twice along the coast of Spain. It is now in Corsica and will head for Italy soon, before sailing directly for the port of Gaza.
It is expected to reach Gaza in early to mid October. On board the aid ship are reconstruction materials and other humanitarian goods that are banned or heavily restricted by Israel.
An Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, attempted to reach Gaza in November 2011, but 60 miles from its destination was surrounded in international waters by up to 20 Israeli naval vessels and forcibly seized. Fourteen Irish citizens were on board the Saoirse at the time.
Fintan Lane, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland, said: “Gaza Action Ireland would like to sincerely thank all the politicians who signed this letter. It is an important statement in that political figures from across the island of Ireland have united to say that enough is enough and the blockade of Gaza must end now.
“It is also a recognition that, unfortunately, little has changed since Gaza became a huge international issue – the Israeli blockade has been condemned by many governments, and deemed illegal by the UN, but nothing concrete has been done to end the suffering. Men, women and children continue to subsist in the largest open-air prison in the world.”
Fintan continued, “This statement is an expression of human empathy with the people of Gaza and a declaration to Israel that the Palestinian people will not be forgotten. Palestinians and Israelis are equally entitled to have their political and human rights respected. What Israel is doing to Gaza is indefensible and must end now.”
The politicians’ signatures were collected by Gaza Action Ireland, which was formed in July 2012 as a successor to the Irish Ship to Gaza organization, which was behind the MV Saoirse, the Irish ship that participated in Freedom Flotilla 2 in June 2011, and later in the Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla in November last year.