Dublin councilor Hugh Lewis of People Before Profit has defended pulling down an Israeli flag at an international children’s sailing event.

Three girls and four boys from Israel participated in the European Optimist championship, a four day event for under-16 sailors.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour officials had refused Lewis’s requests during the week to remove the Israeli flag, so he and three other members of the party brought a ladder to the seafront where flags from 44 countries were flying to mark the event and removed it on Friday morning, reports the Irish Independent.

Lewis posted a picture of himself climbing the ladder to take down the flag with the comment: “After many attempts appealing to the Harbour Company they still refused to remove the flag of the apartheid regime of Israel. As a result People Before Profit have removed the flag. Today alone there have been over 14 more deaths in Gaza due to Israeli brutality, please join the protest tomorrow at 2pm at the Spire. Demand justice for Palestine.”

He said he had “nothing personal” against the Israeli children who were participating in the event.

He had thought the event was for under 18s, but after being informed it was for under 16s, he said: “That means very little to me. When they are 17 they are going into to be drafted into the Israeli Army. They’re not that young then. Maybe this will make them understand what Israel is doing in Gaza.

“I was informed about the flying of the flag by constituents and I wrote to the Harbour Company requesting them to take it down. I was told at one stage they would take it down as they were being inundated with calls.

“I received a letter on Friday from the Harbour Company saying they were not taking down the flag and I undertook to do it myself. I did not want the flag flying at such an inappropriate time with what is happening in Gaza.

“In my opinion there should be a sporting boycott of Israel. This (event) legitimises the State of Israel.”

Frank O’Byrne, the organizer of the event, said some 600 people, mostly in family groups, traveled from all round the world to Dun Laoghaire for the event.

“It is the biggest junior class in the world. It is the cradle of sailing. In terms of the London 2012 Olympics north of 50 percent of the sailors who won medals are former Optimist sailors.

“The healthy smiling outdoor faces: that is the genuine payback of this event. A bunch of happy kids from all round the world. There are 33 European and 11 beyond. There are kids here from Brazil, New Zealand, Japan. It wonderful to see kids from Brazil telling Irish kids what their country is like, kids from Slovenia chatting to kids from Japan.”

O’Byrne said he had no comment on Councillor Lewis’ removal of the Israeli flag.

The Israeli flag outside the ferry terminal was still down on Friday; however, the flag inside the grounds of the Royal St George club was still flying along with the 43 other nations.