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Martin demands entry to Gaza for Irish aid ship

Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin has demanded that Israel allows Irish humanitarian ship the MV Rachel Corrie through its military blockade of Gaza.

Mr Martin also called for authorities to free any Irish citizen detained during a deadly commando attack in which at least 10 activists were killed.

The minister, who called Israeli Ambassador Dr Zion Evrony to account yesterday, said the boat carrying Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire should be allow through peacefully.

Two Irish people, including activist Shane Dillon, have been deported and are expected at Dublin Airport late tonight.

Mr Martin said the Government had agreed Israel should guarantee safe passage to the Palestinian territories to ease tensions amid massive diplomatic anger over the killings.

"The Rachel Corrie, the Irish ship on which citizens of Ireland are on ... can be shadowed in, but unimpeded, given what has happened and the need to diffuse the situation rapidly and allow them to discharge their goods," he said.

Mr Martin said Israel was also obliged to respect its international obligations under the Vienna Convention and ensure Irish citizens have access to full consular support.

The minister also expressed his condolences to the Turkish government and the families of the people killed when Israeli commandoes raided an aid ship at the front of a flotilla yesterday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs repeated calls for a full independent international inquiry, preferably under the auspices of the United Nations.

Five other Irish campaigners - including leading activists Dr Fintan Lane and Fiachra O Luain - were being held in the Be'er Sheva detention camp, from where they face deportation.

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The three named activists were on board Free Gaza boat Challenger 1 which was boarded by Israeli forces in international waters as it travelled from Cyprus.

The Irish ambassador in Tel Aviv was finally given permission to meet Mr Dillon at Ben Gurion Airport before his departure. It is understood Mr Dillon said he was treated well.

Officials have been waiting to see other detained Irish citizens during the day.

The UN Security Council has also called for the immediate release of all the ships and citizens detained by Israeli authorities.

The MV Rachel Corrie was delayed following technical problems as the flotilla left Cyprus over the weekend.

Those on board include Denis Halliday, former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations. After more than 30 years in the UN, Kofi Annan appointed him Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in 1997. He has been a strong opponent of the war in Iraq.

Also on board are electrician Derek Graham, who has been on four of the five voyages which docked in Gaza, and his wife Jenny from Mayo. Both are members of the Free Gaza movement.

Ms Maguire and film-maker Fiona Thompson, from Dundalk, a member of the Free Gaza Movement, were also travelling on the ship.

Earlier Mr Martin said: "The seven individuals concerned did not enter Israel illegally; rather they were essentially seized from international waters, taken into Israel and asked to sign documents confirming that they entered illegally. This is simply not acceptable.

"I would note that the UN Security Council, in a presidential statement issued earlier today, has called for the immediate release of all the ships and citizens detained by the Israeli authorities.

"Israel needs to listen to and act in accordance with the united voice of the international community on this issue."

Meanwhile, Michael D Higgins, president of the Labour Party, said the Government should demand that Israeli authorities allow the MV Rachel Corrie free passage to discharge its humanitarian cargo in Gaza.

Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen to initiate a trade boycott of Israel at national and EU level.

Elsewhere, Lord Mayor of Cork Dara Murphy opened a book of condolences for the dead aid workers.

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