Thursday, 31 July 2014
Seanad Éireann Debate
[Senator David Norris: ] We should stand against that contempt and in favour of human rights. I am in favour of human rights, whether one is Israeli, gay, a woman or black. I am not changing my position. I am not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, but I am pro-human rights for every human being.
Senator Michael Mullins: I thank the Leader, Senator Maurice Cummins, for arranging this discussion. In welcoming the Minister, I congratulate him on his recent appointment and wish him well in what is a very challenging role.
It is essential that we give these matters - the situations in Gaza and Ukraine - the time and consideration necessary, which is why I very much supported the recall of the Seanad. I compliment the Minister on the update he has given to us. It is a very comprehensive and detailed account of his efforts at national, European and international level in dealing with the two very serious matters we are discussing.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and foreign affairs spokesman, I am very conscious of the very unstable situation in many countries that border the European Union. We are witnessing what appears to be the disintegration of Iraq, with almost 6,000 civilians slaughtered by ISIS and other insurgents in the first six months of the year. At least 1.2 million people have been displaced from their homes by violence. France is now accepting Christian refugees from Iraq after ISIS issued Christians in Mosul with a 24 hour ultimatum to convert, pay a tax or be put to death. Houses of Christians are being daubed with the letter "N" to denote Nasrani - Arabic for Christians - reside there.
ISIS has also been active in Syria which continues to implode with a sustained civil war. The death toll is into staggeringly high figures and estimated to be in excess of 200,000 in the past three years, at least one third of whom are thought to have been civilians.
In this context, the resurgence of violence in Gaza, always a source of grave concern in this country, takes on a whole new dimension. Ireland has a very special link with Gaza and, historically, maintained close links with the Palestinian people. There is a long-standing relationship between Irish Aid and the United Nations in the region and I welcome the recent additional allocation of €500,000 in emergency aid for Gaza by the Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock, with the €10 million Ireland gives to the Palestinian people annually through a range of partners agencies. For this aid to be effective, we must see an immediate ceasefire. The Minister has made very clear his demand that the violence in the region should cease and that attempts to broker a peace deal should be actively pursued and supported.
The civilian casualties, in particular the appalling deaths of the children referred to, are deplorable and have rightly been condemned by the Government and the European Union. I support the very strong statement made by the Coalition for Children's Rights, chaired by Plan Ireland, which has expressed its deep concern about the current human rights abuses and the severe and lasting impacts the ongoing attacks in Gaza are likely to have on children. I call on both sides in the conflict to call an immediate ceasefire.
Ireland has maintained a strong voice on this issue in the European Union, through the Council of Ministers, and at the UN Human Rights Council, through the strongly worded statement of our permanent representative, Ms Patricia O'Brien, who has been very eloquent both in Geneva and on the public airwaves in giving voice to Ireland's intolerance of the indiscriminate violence.
While the need for an end to violence in Gaza is the single most pressing matter, we also need to see a longer term solution to the conflict, a lifting of the blockade on Gaza, progress towards a two-state solution, an end to terrorist attacks on Israel and a process put in place and a plan to prosecute those suspected of ordering or carrying out war crimes.
The obstruction of relief for the civilian population of Gaza must be halted and sufficient medical and fuel supplies must be allowed in. Humanitarian workers who are doing an amazing job there must be guaranteed safe passage.
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