Father tells of fears for son hurt in attack on peace ship
THE father of an Irish man on board one of the ships in the peace flotilla off Gaza stormed by the Israelis, said his son is reported to be among the injured.
Fiachra O'Luain (27), a candidate in last year's European elections, was one of three Irish people on board the Challenger II which was traveling in the first wave of the flotilla when it encountered Israeli naval commandos.
His father, Joseph Bangert, who lives in Brewster, Cape Cod, in the US, said he has heard unconfirmed reports that his son was wounded and taken into custody by the Israelis.
Speaking to the Cape Cod Times yesterday, Mr Bangert said information was hard to come by. "I'm horrified. I'm scared for Fiachra but I am also proud of him. My son is heroic," he said. Meanwhile another of the Irish activists was flying home last night while two of his countrymen are due to appear before an Israeli court.
Shane Dillon, and Fintan Lane were also on the ship with Mr O'Luain. Mr Dillon, who is in his mid-30s and is from Dublin, last night decided not to contest his deportation from Israel and was put on a flight home.
However, Mr Lane (42) and Mr O'Luain both decided to contest their deportation and are being held in a detention camp. They will be brought before a court within the next two days.
Meanwhile, a ship carrying another five Irish activists, the MV Rachel Corrie, which set sail two weeks ago from Dundalk, Co Louth, was last night continuing on its course bound for Gaza.
It had become separated from the main flotilla after developing engine trouble and was not boarded during the Israeli attack.
At 6pm yesterday it was in the seas around Malta and was due to arrive in Gaza early this morning, but it is certain to be intercepted by the Israeli navy.
Five Irish people are on board, including crew members Derek and Jenny Graham from Ballina, Co Mayo. The passengers are former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, Nobel peace prize laureate Mairead Maguire and Caoimhe Butterly, an activist from the Free Gaza group. Speaking from his home in Cork, Jim Lane, father of Fintan, said it had been an anxious wait for news of his son.
But he said the family was standing firmly behind him.
"I am proud of my son, not only for going on this solidarity mission to Gaza, but also for refusing deportation," Mr Lane said.
"He is making a point that Israel should have no control over who enters Gaza. He has done nothing wrong and I support him."
He said Fintan had visited them in Cork two weeks ago and was not nervous about the humanitarian mission.
"One has to a stand for one's principles. We stand with him," Mr Lane told the Irish Independent.
"We're shocked, of course, with the way they have been treated and dealt with. It was obviously a peaceful demonstration, that seemingly is accepted by governments all around the world."
In his final blog posting late on Sunday night before communications on Challenger II were cut, Mr Lane wrote: "Tension is mounting amongst the passengers. Everyone is wearing their lifejackets and preparing for an Israeli attack."
Challenger II was stationed alongside the Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara, at the head of the flotilla 80 miles from the Israeli coast and in international waters when the armed forces boarded using helicopters and small boats at 4am Irish time.
Mr Lane is a books editor with a publishing company and lives in Chapelizod in Dublin.
Mr Dillon is a brother of Eoin Dillon, the well-known uilleann piper with music group Kila. He is an experienced sailor and has served as chief officer on numerous Irish and British merchant ships.
A family friend of Eoin Dillon said he was "dreadfully upset" about his brother's plight and did not want to comment to the media.
Speaking just a few days ago, Shane said it was his brother who had first got him interested in the situation in Gaza.
"My parents are a bit concerned about me going over here . . . but they're very supportive."