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Council sparks diplomatic row by snubbing Israeli ambassador

The Israeli ambassador to Ireland is at the centre of a diplomatic row after councillors voted to rip out the page of a town's distinguished visitors' book, which he had signed during an impromptu visit in January.

Town councillors in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, voted five to four last Friday week to remove the page, which was signed by Zion Evrony during a visit to the market town. Those in favour of deleting his entry in the visitors' book included one Fianna Fail councillor, two Greens and two Sinn Fein.

The councillors delivered their diplomatic snub following the visit by the Israeli ambassador to the town's civic offices.

The diplomatic snub has been widely reported in Jewish newspapers, with one columnist likening his deletion from the visitors' book to a scene from Father Ted.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between Ireland and Israel following allegations that Mossad agents travelled on fake Irish passports to Dubai last month to assassinate a Hamas leader. Israel has said it has no information about the plot.

The Israeli ambassador was in Monaghan on a 'tour' of Ireland, aimed at countering what he said were 'misconceptions' about Israel.

He contacted the town council hoping to meet councillors and other local people, but his visit sparked a flurry of protesters to convene for a demonstration that was hastily arranged by Sinn Fein.

Around 30 protesters heckled the ambassador as he arrived at the town council offices, accompanied by a heavy garda presence.

The chief protester, Matt Carthy, a Sinn Fein councillor, told the ambassador he wasn't welcome and asked him to leave. However, the ambassador ended up having refreshments with the Fine Gael mayor, Mary Kerr-Conlon.

At a council meeting 10 days ago, Cllr Carthy proposed "that the page in our distinguished visitors' book signed by Zion Evrony be removed and that the council write to the Israeli Embassy stating that any further visit will not be welcome."

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Fine Gael councillors dissented but the motion was passed and the page has now been removed. "I don't think it was proper diplomacy," said Fine Gael councillor Mark Clarke, "even though the issue itself is 100 per cent justified, in that the Arab-Israeli conflict needs to be resolved."

Mr Evrony reportedly wrote to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams to condemn the protesters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said this weekend it did not approve of how the ambassador was treated.

A spokesman declined to say whether the Israeli ambassador had raised the matter of the protest during a meeting with the secretary general of the department to discuss the alleged use of fake Irish passports by suspected Israeli assassins in Dubai.

The Government's anger at the alleged use of Irish passports in the plot has gathered momentum. It only learnt that the suspected assassins travelled to Dubai on Irish passports through Dubai newspaper reports on February 4.

The Irish Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Ciaran Madden, sought more information from the Dubai authorities. He met them on February 8, but the full extent of the use of Irish passports only emerged after the Dubai police held a press conference on February 15.

Gardai have been in regular contact with Dubai police since then. They are investigating how members of the assassination team came by the Irish addresses they gave when filling in hotel forms.

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