Thursday 22 February 2018

'In fear of my life' claims are rubbished

Maria Pepper

Paul O’Hanlon (second from left, light pink shirt) making his point before the Vigil for Gaza started at The Lockout gate in The Faythe last week
Paul O’Hanlon (second from left, light pink shirt) making his point before the Vigil for Gaza started at The Lockout gate in The Faythe last week

A claim by local man Paul O'Hanlon that he was 'in fear of my life' at a Wexford vigil for Gaza has been dismissed as 'absolute nonsense' by one of the organisers.

The vigil, held last week at the Lockout Gate in The Faythe, was hosted by the Wexford branch of Amnesty International at the request of Cllrs. David Hynes and Deirdre Wadding.

Paul O'Hanlon, an unsuccessful Independent candidate in the recent local elections, said he was 'nearly lynched' when he turned up at the event and tried to speak about human rights for Israelis.

But Cllr. Wadding dismissed his version of what took place, saying she and others tried to calm Mr. O'Hanlon down after he tried to interrupt the proceedings.

She accepted that he was called a 'Zionist' by a member of the New Ross branch of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Cllr. Hynes (Independent) said Mr. O'Hanlon 'started up before anyone even opened their mouths.'

He said Mr. O'Hanlon was demanding to know who was going to speak for the Israelis.

Members of a group carrying a Palestinian flag ran towards him and an altercation took place, said Cllr. Hynes.

A few minutes later, Mr. O'Hanlon walked off.

The vigil was organised as an expression of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Up to 150 people attended, including the Mayor of Wexford Cllr. George Lawlor (Labour) and Cllrs. Fergie Kehoe (Fianna Fail) and Anthony Kelly (Sinn Fein), along with Cllrs. Hynes and Wadding (People Before Profit).

Everyone was welcomed by Trish Robinson, a local co-ordinator for Amnesty, who repeated the organisation's call for urgent international action and an immediate ceasefire to protect civilians in Gaza and Israel from further war crimes by both sides.

Ms. Robinson said Amnesty's focus is on human rights and it does not take sides politically.

Wearing his official chains of office, the Mayor addressed the crowd, expressing his support for the people of Gaza in the face of what he described as a 'disproportionate' Israeli response.

Paul O'Hanlon said he tried to make the point that each side was to blame and to remind people about the three Israeli teenagers who were killed.

'I've been a member of Amnesty International for a number of years and I believe it does great work all around the world. But there was no freedom of speech on this occasion,' he maintained.

'Certain people ran at me. They were chanting and I was called an Israeli lover and a Zionist. I didn't show it but I was in fear of my life,' he said.

Mr. O'Hanlon said he left for his own safety but added that he was 'extremely upset' over what happened. In his view, the Mayor of Wexford should not be taking sides, he said.

Cllr. Wadding said Mr. O'Hanlon jumped up before the vigil started and asked if this was going to be all about one side and what about the Jews and the Holocaust.

She banged her drum to call for order and went over and tried to calm Mr. O'Hanlon down, advising him this was not the time or place.

Members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign moved towards Mr. O'Hanlon when he began his objection, she said.

Ms. Robinson said there was a danger at this point that the meeting would have to be disbanded.

But she and the other organisers managed to defuse the situation.

Cllr. Wadding said some people present did get hot under the collar but she rejected Mr. O'Hanlon's claim that he was in fear .

'That's absolute nonsense as far as I'm concerned,' she said.

In her address, Cllr. Wadding called for boycotts and sanctions against Israel and for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ireland. Cllr. Hynes called for mounting public pressure to force a peaceful solution to the decades old Israeli conflict so that the people of Palestine can have the dignity of a place to live with parity of esteem.

Members of the IPS campaign including Seamus O'Brien, a People Before Profit candidate in the New Ross local elections, wore tee-shirts with the slogan 'Boycott Israeli Goods'.

Phil Lyons of the Wexford branch of Amnesty read a poem written by a Palestinian woman.

The New Ross branch of IPSC carried the Palestinian flag as they led a parade by some of the attendance to the quayfront where a discussion took place on the setting up of a Wexford town branch of the campaign.

An inaugural meeting is due to take place within a few weeks.

Wexford People

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