Sunday 19 November 2017

Seanad to be recalled from summer break to discuss Gaza conflict

Children pay respect at Palestinian Ambassador's residence in Dublin
Children pay respect at Palestinian Ambassador's residence in Dublin
Nessa Childers
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

The Seanad will be recalled from its summer break to debate the crisis in Gaza, as the Israel-Palestine conflict continues.

The Upper House is expected to sit on either Wednesday or Thursday, but the Dail will not be returning.

Fine Gael Seanad leader Maurice Cummins said the Seanad will sit as soon as possible and it is expected that Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan will debate with senators.

However, the move to recall the house has angered some within Fine Gael who have dismissed the calls to come back early as a political stunt.

"What can they do about this other than yap about it?" said one Fine Gael source.

The move to bring Mr Flanagan into the chamber is seen to seize the agenda back from the opposition.

The recall comes on foot of pressure from a group of opposition senators. Independent senator David Norris initially tabled a motion for recall last week and the demands for reconvening are also coming from Fianna Fail, Independents and some Labour senators.

Despite the move, the Government has rejected opposition calls to reconvene the Dail because of the crisis in Gaza as "unnecessary".

The rejection comes as Independent Dublin MEP Nessa Childers has severely criticised the Government's response to the violence.

She was particularly critical of her former party Labour in the wake of Ireland's abstention last week on a United Nations resolution vote.

"Where is the Labour Party? If they agree with Fine Gael, then why all these statements from Labour TDs voicing concern. Statements are not enough, we need action. I totally agree with the calls for the Dail to be recalled," she told the Irish Independent.

Ms Childers said the decision not to support the United Nations Resolution which called for the establishment of a committee of inquiry into this latest wave of violence, was an "appalling decision".

Ms Childers was speaking at Howth at a commemoration of the 1914 voyage of the landing of the Asgard by her grandparents Erskine and Molly Childers with hundreds of guns, later used in the 1916 Rising.

In response, the Labour Party reiterated its strong support for the Palestinian people and especially the beleaguered civilian population of Gaza.

It emphasised the Government's consistent position that all violence in Gaza and Israel must end immediately.

The move to abstain sparked fury from the Opposition and criticism of Mr Flanagan.

The Opposition has pressed in recent days to have both Houses of the Oireachtas called back from holidays in order to discuss the violence between Israel and Palestine.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has written to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams saying he did not think a recall of the Dail was merited given the various avenues of contact currently under way.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, speaking to this newspaper, said there is not sufficient need for the Dail to be recalled. "I would be of the same view with the Taoiseach who doesn't intend to recall the Dail. Charlie Flanagan is making every possible effort and is engaged in bilateral meetings but is making every effort.

"It is terrible what is happening there, but they are going to have to work with everyone they can, but the most important thing is to get the ceasefire."

Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power, who has been vocal in her criticism of the Israeli action in Gaza, has welcomed the decision to recall the Seanad.

"Senators of all parties and none have been horrified by the deteriorating situation in Gaza and particularly the huge number of civilians that have been killed there," she said.

Last night people queued at the Palestinian Ambassador's residence in Blackrock, Dublin to sign the book of condolences for people who have died in Gaza. An estimated 3,000 people marched in Dublin on Saturday afternoon in support of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, Tesco Ireland said it does not currently source products from the West Bank region, but that this has been the case for a while and was not an action taken because of recent events.

A spokesperson said that "like all major retailers, we sell some products that are sourced form Israel. In particular, Tesco Ireland occasionally sources some seasonal products from Israel.

"We do not currently source products from the West Bank."

Irish Independent

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