UNFIL Commander’s attendance at Israeli military event needs to be explained – Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has questioned the Minister of Defence Paul Kehoe in the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee this morning after the Head of the UN's peacekeeping forces stationed in Lebanon, and Irish Major General, tweeted about his attendance at an Israeli military event to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Israeli State.
Speaking at the committee, Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“Michael Beary is an Irish Army Major General. He is the Head of Missions and Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since May 2016.
“On 18 April 2018, he posted on twitter about his attendance alongside Israeli soldiers at an event in Jerusalem to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Israeli State. The tweet included the words ‘great display’ and one photo was of Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the crowd, a Prime Minister renowned for human rights abuses and war crimes.
“Serious questions need to be asked as to why an Irish soldier and head of the peacekeeping forces meant to stop Israeli forces attacking Lebanon again and killing Lebanese and Palestinian citizens in the area would attend such an event.
“The date of the event, 18 April, also marked the anniversary of the Qana massacre in 1996 when the Israeli army fired shells at a UN compound, killing 106 civilians and injuring 4 Fijian UNFIL soldiers.
“The event also took place after Israeli soldiers had murdered 39 Palestinian civilians who were protesting in Gaza over the previous weeks, including a Palestinian journalist.
“Would it not have been more appropriate for the head of the UN force in the area to have been attending a commemorative event of the Qana massacre, rather than a celebration with members of the force that carried out such an atrocity?
“Will the UN Commander be attending events to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba, when the Palestinians were forced from their land and 700,000 refugees were forced to seek protection in Lebanon and other countries?
“The impartiality and neutrality of UN forces is fundamental to their role and to the public confidence and goodwill they enjoy. This must be protected and strengthened.
“The Minister has a duty to ensure that Irish soldiers deployed on UN missions act in a manner consistent with our neutrality. I believe he must get answers on this matter and seek to ensure that it does not happen again.”