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Sinn Féin Senators speak during Gaza debate

31 July, 2014 - by David Cullinane TD

Speaking this afternoon on Statements on the situation in Gaza during the special recalling of the Seanad Senator David Cullinane said:

"Minister, I am glad the Seanad has been recalled for this debate, but I wish the Dail would follow suit and allow many TDs to voice their opinion on the human catastrophe of Gaza. The reality is, this isn't a war, it's slaughter.

"Since July 8th over 1,200 Palestinians have been killed and over 6,500 have been injured by Israel’s continued offensive and the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza. The UN says over 75% of those killed have been innocent civilians and children. 22,145 homes have been damaged, 120 schools have been hit, 6 hospitals have been struck, and health personal have been killed by Israel attacks. There's over 240,000 internal refugees and the UN refugee agency has said it has exhausted its absorption capacity in Gaza City and northern Gaza. Shelters are completely over crowding risking the break out of epidemics. Gaza is a living hell and the world's largest open air prison.

"In the face of all this you Minister, decided to abstain on voting on a UN Human Rights Council resolution. A resolution which would have created a Commission of Inquiry to independently investigate Israel’s actions in Gaza and its violations of international law.

"People from all over this island have marched in their hundreds and thousands to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza and their war crimes.Yet when acting on behalf of the Irish people at the UN Human Rights Council, and in the face of Israel’s bloody actions, you abstained!

"This decision was not taken independently, you rolled in beyond other EU countries. What ever happened to Ireland’s independent and progressive Foreign Affairs policy? Why have a Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin if the decisions will be created in Brussels and followed by your Government?

"Israel must change it's policy immediately and needs to support a peace process based around justice. This is not about Israel defending itself, it's about collective punishment for how the Palestinian people voted in the last election.

"Cowardly abstaining has ruined Ireland’s reputation as a strong and independent voice in international affairs. A voice that will stand on the side of the abused, the colonised, and the oppressed. A voice that will speak out against human rights abuses and international law violations, no matter what geo-political and powerful actions are at stake.

"Minister you have let the Irish people down, but more importantly you have let the besieged and imprisoned people of Gaza down."

Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

"I'm happy the Seanad has been recalled for this debate. It's a debate that should have been given immediate priority before going into recess. As many here will be returning to the chamber from their holidays, I'd like to share something that's been stuck in my mind over the past few days - 2 drastically contrasting images. The first being of those 3 young boys running along Gaza beach before being targeted and killed by an Israeli sniper. The second, an image shared by a CNN Danish news reporter of a large group of Israeli citizens sitting on top of a hillside outside Sderot in central Israel cheering as bombs fell on Gaza. To me, it's hard to shake. The disparity between those to realities and the absolute injustice and horrific lack of humanity in both instances.

"Minister, we have already abstained on one UN Human Rights Council vote, we disagree on that but there is other practical moves you can do to help the Palestinian people and those being slaughtered in Gaza.

"In the face of Israel’s continued human rights abuses and their rejection of the norms of international law I believe it is time for the Irish Government to take a more proactive and principled stand in its bilateral and multilateral relations with Israel. Firstly, in the face of Israeli actions in Gaza, you can expel the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland.

"How many more dead children and civilians will it take before your Government sends a strong message to the Israeli Government that it cannot continue to kill civilians with impunity and without reaction? At the very least you could recall the Irish Ambassador from Tel Aviv to Ireland. Countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador and Chile have all done this.

"Another pro-active response would be to support an arms boycott of Israel. We know the Department of Defence has spent over €14 million in recent years on military equipment made by Israeli manufacturers. Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and arms trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world.

"Why doesn’t this Government send a clear and unequivocal message to Israel that it will not buy and sell military equipment with a country that is massacring civilians and enforcing an illegal and brutal occupation on millions of Palestinians?

"'I hated the brutality, the sadism, and the insanity of Nazism. I just couldn't stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do. That's all there is to it. Really, nothing more.' These were the words of Oscar Schindler on his metamorphosis from a Nazi party member to a saviour of Jews in witnessing the genocidal practices of the "Final Solution". Poignant words that should resonate today as much as they did then.”

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