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Irish peace process offers lessons for Palestine – Mac Lochlainn

22 November, 2014 - by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn


Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice has outlined how Palestine can learn lessons from the Irish peace process in terms of international assistance with conflict resolution.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn was addressing a major international conference in Palestine today.

Hundreds of delegates from all over the world, including Government Ministers, City Mayors, and Local Authority leaders joined hundreds of Palestinian political leaders and activists in Ramallah.

His key note address on the need for international solidarity and assistance with the Palestinian people was delivered alongside the famous PLO spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn stated:

“All over the world, people were marching to support freedom and justice for the Palestinian people. Throughout July and August thousands of people right across the island of Ireland came out on to the streets to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza. They protested the Israeli war crimes and wanted the international community to act and stop appeasing Israel. The message for Palestine was clear. You are not alone.

“However, the continued refusal of the Israeli Government to enter into meaningful peace negotiations to create a robust peace process is wrong. The Israeli Government must recognise the need for conflict resolution which in turn requires all representatives of the Palestinian people to be at the table and all causes of conflict up for discussion. Inclusive dialogue is central to an agreement and to bring an end to conflict.

“The International community needs to take the lead on this basic and important requirement for peace. Greater focus and pressure from world leaders and organisations is a necessity for real change.

“There are many lessons from our Irish peace process. The Good Friday Agreement was signed back in 1998. It would not have happened without the active participation of Governments and administrations in the United States, Ireland and Britain. The support of the South African Government with their experience of conflict resolution, led by the great Nelson Mandela, was also vital.

“Peace and the ending of hostilities is not enough. The emphasis should not just be on peace but on process. What was agreed must be fully implemented. It is a process that requires ongoing care and attention. In the North of Ireland, despite the progress made over the years, much remains to be done.

“While there are huge differences when we compare Ireland and Palestine, and I don’t seek to tell Palestinians how they should move forward, I think they and others can learn from our experience. Sinn Féin stands ready and willing to help the Palestinian Government and Palestinian people in any way we can.

“Please know that despite the failure of our political leaders in the international community to protect your rights and facilitate your freedom, you are supported by millions of people all over the world. I encourage you to reach out again.”

See below full text of Deputy Mac Lochlainn's address:

I want to thank you for inviting me here today. It is truly an honour to address this conference. I bring warm and fraternal solidarity greetings from Sinn Féin, but as a member of the Irish Parliament, I also bring greetings on behalf of the people of Ireland.

The Irish people are almost unique in Europe for the exploitation and discrimination that they have faced because of colonisation. Therefore we have a strong love and empathy for the Palestinian people.

Irish Republicans have long struggled for the freedom and dignity of the Irish people and we find a common cause with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Throughout July and August thousands of people right across the island of Ireland came out on to the streets to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza being massacred by the Israeli army. They protested the Israeli war crimes and wanted the international community to act and stop appeasing Israel. There was huge protests marching through the heart of Dublin city and ending at the Israeli Embassy. The message for Palestine was clear. You are not alone.

And this wasn’t just in Ireland. All over the world, people were marching to support freedom and justice for the Palestinian people. The message for Israel was equally clear. We are awake and aware to your disgraceful and abhorrent human rights abuses. Your slaughter of innocent Palestinians cannot be hidden. Your excuses for continuing settlement building, for blockading Gaza, and for refusing to abide by international law and norms do not fool us. Those of us in Ireland and across the world who condemn the Israeli Government for their human rights abuses also condemn the killings of Israelis and Palestinians over recent times in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

However, the continued refusal of the Israeli Government to enter into meaningful peace negotiations to create a robust peace process is wrong and indeed against the interests and long term security of their own people. The Israeli Government must recognise the need for conflict resolution which in turn requires all representatives of the Palestinian people to be at the table and all causes of conflict up for discussion. Inclusive dialogue is central to an agreement and to bring an end to conflict.

The International community needs to take the lead on this basic and important requirement for peace. Greater focus and pressure from world leaders and organisations is a necessity for real change. We are seeing a huge increase in support for grassroots movements that stand up for the rights of Palestinians and Governments in Europe are being forced to listen. It’s our job to ensure that they go beyond empty rhetoric and ensure that they take meaningful steps to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine and allow the Palestinians their rightful place in the International community, becoming a nation amongst nations.

As the Palestinian people know, sometimes making an agreement is the easy part. The implementation of that agreement is the hard part. This is something we are keenly aware of in Ireland due to our own peace process. There are many lessons from our Irish peace process. The Good Friday Agreement was signed back in 1998. It would not have happened without the active participation of Governments and administrations in the United States, Ireland and Britain. The support of the South African Government with their experience of conflict resolution, led by the great Nelson Mandela, was also vital. The Irish and British Governments are co- guarantors of that agreement and are responsible for the implementation of all aspects of that agreement.

Peace and the ending of hostilities is not enough. The emphasis should not just be on peace but on process. What was agreed must be fully implemented. It is a process that requires ongoing care and attention. Guns can fall silent on both sides on an agreed date, but all sides need to continually work on and respect the agreement or the process will be in danger of stalling, reversing or indeed collapsing.

In the North of Ireland, despite the progress made over the years, much remains to be done. The legacy of 25 years of terrible conflict haunts our future. We are at a standstill. This has arisen because the British and Irish Governments have abandoned their responsibilities as co- guarantors to the Good Friday Agreement and the other agreements that followed and allowed the situation to drift for years now. Again, we require international intervention from the United States to assist negotiations on the next steps of our peace process. As we gather here today those negotiations are ongoing.

The Palestinian people have also endured this international complacency and indifference since the Oslo accord. However, the terrible cost to your people of that failure by the international community is incomparable to that of the people of the North of Ireland. For you, it means occupation, poverty, devastating death and destruction. It means that the immense potential of the Palestinian people is suppressed and strangled.

Please know that despite the failure of our political leaders in the international community to protect your rights and facilitate your freedom, you are supported by millions of people all over the world. I encourage you to reach out again. Just this month we have seen Sweden formally recognise the State of Palestine. It has become the first EU country to do this while a member of the EU. It has opened the door for other countries to follow suit, and break the EU’s empty rhetoric with tangible action.

Palestinian Ambassadors have played a vital role in gaining grassroots and official support for the Palestinian cause across the world. We have been extremely lucky to have two excellent Palestinian Ambassadors in Ireland who I know personally. Dr. Hikmat Ajjuri and current Ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek. They have represented the Palestinian people with passion and dignity in Ireland. I also acknowledge the efforts of all of the Palestinian Ambassadors to Ireland down the years. When the Palestinian Ambassadors to Ireland have addressed our Sinn Féin Ard Fheisenna, our annual party meeting, they have received standing ovations from the 1,000 plus party members assembled.

Through our struggle in Ireland we know how important unity is and that the oppressor will always try to divide the oppressed in order to continue to dominate them. Therefore I believe Palestinian Unity is vital in the struggle for Palestinian freedom. I warmly welcome the establishment of the Palestinian Unity government and encourage all Palestinians to continue to unite on this common cause. Palestinian Unity scares the Israeli Government so much that they launched a massive and brutal crackdown on political activists in the West Bank and the so-called Operation Protective Edge on Gaza.

I urge you to stay steadfast and focus on what unites Palestinians rather than what divides them.

In Ireland it wasn’t until we had unity on the Irish nationalist side that we were fully able to progress into a peace process situation. Sinn Féin disagrees with the Irish Government and the nationalist SDLP on a wide range of issues, but we knew we had to focus on what unites us in order to achieve our rights and demands. While there are huge differences when we compare Ireland and Palestine, and I don’t seek to tell Palestinians how they should move forward, I think they and others can learn from our experience.

Sinn Féin stands ready and willing to help the Palestinian Government and Palestinian people in any way we can.

The Irish people stand shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinian people and we will not rest until the Palestinian people are living in peace and prosperity in their own State. Viva Palestine. Long live Palestine.

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