Friday, June 4, 2010
Meeting An Taoiseach
Outside Government Buildings
Last Thursday a Sinn Féin Delegation led by this blog and including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Party Vice President Mary Lou McDonald, Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew and Dáil Group Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD met the Taoiseach Brian Cowen at Government Buildings.
The focus of our conversation was the recent Westminster election and its implications; the imminent publication of the Bloody Sunday report; the need to ensure that the new British Coalition Government honours its obligations under the Good Friday and St Andrew’s Agreements; and the opportunity to develop the all-Ireland economy as part of the fightback against the current economic recession, and the Israeli attack on the aid convoy to the Gaza strip and the events surrounding the MV Rachel Corrie.
The Sinn Fein delegation made very clear our view that summoning the Israeli Ambassador to talks is not enough.
A clear message must be sent to the Israeli government that its constant breaches of international law must end. Consequently we argued very strongly that the Israeli Ambassador should be expelled.
This blog was not impressed by some news reports that Israeli might ease its blockade if international inspectors were able to examine any boats destined for Gaza to ensure they contain no weapons.
The fact is that much of what is currently on the Rachel Corrie, including cement and school equipment, pencils, and footballs is not allowed into Gaza under Israel’s illegal blockade. If boats are now to be diverted to Ashdod in southern Israel or to a port in Egypt what guarantee is there that these much needed humanitarian supplies will be allowed through?
So, today all eyes are on the 1200 tonne Rachel Corrie and its 15 passengers as they slowly sail toward Gaza.
This afternoon there was a debate in the Assembly which called on Israel to conform with international human rights norms, condemns the actions by Israel, accepts that nations have the right to defend themselves but also have a responsibility to respect and comply with international law; and called on the Israel government to ensure that “humanitarian efforts in Gaza are facilitated, that an immediate end to the blockade is effected and that the MV Rachel Corrie is given safe passage to Gaza.”
The debate was lively as unionists found various reasons to object to the motion. Under a procedure available in the Assembly rules unionist MLAs introduced a ‘motion of concern’ which means that whatever is passed is not binding. What it does mean is that the vote on the motion can not be taken for 24 hours or in this case until Monday morning.
By then we will know what has happened to the Rachel Corrie.
Tomorrow there will be a rally at Belfast City hall and no doubt elsewhere as well.
By then the fate of the Rachel Corrie will almost certainly be known.
One potentially positive development to come out of all this is the welcome news that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is to send a high-level delegation of Fatah and PLO officials to the Gaza Strip in the next few days.
Ending the divisions among the many Palestinian organisations, but in particular Fatah and Hamas, would significantly lift Palestinian morale and help increase international pressure on Israel.
President Abbas has also decided to honour all of those who took part in the flotilla by presenting them with Palestinian citizenship.
On a completely different note former DUP leader Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen were also in Dublin yesterday. They met An Taoiseach Brian Cowan, attended sessions of the Dáil and Seanad, had lunch with President McAleese in Áras an Uachtaráin, and visited the National Library and Glasnevin Cemetery.
The Paisley’s witnessed some rowdy scenes in the Dáil. Next week the Dáil was supposed to be in recess. However, the government then decided to take the bad look off TDs taking a week off by arranging for what one pundit described as a ‘makey-up working week consisting of a day and a half of waffle’.
There will be no order of business, no question time, no adjournment debates and no votes. They will apparently pass the time by reading out statements!
Opposition TDs, including the Shinners, got up and gave out to the government side for what is clearly a charade.
With Ian and Eileen looking on amused from the public gallery Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin suggested that having just watched the scenes in the Dáil that Ian might be saying to himself: “Why have I missed such craic down here in the past? I would have no objection if he went back and said, ‘the craic down there is mighty, we should go look again’.”