Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Assembly motion to appeal for Israeli restraint

Peter Venner was seized by Israeli authorities

The Assembly has been recalled to debate an emergency motion urging Israel to exercise restraint in dealing with the Irish ship carrying aid to Gaza.

In a highly unusual move, MLAs will debate the emergency motion proposed by independent members Gerry McHugh and Kieran Deeny this afternoon.

It is the second time in its history that the Assembly has been recalled — the other was after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

But the DUP last night blasted the move as “a stunt”, claiming it was a waste of time.

The MV Rachel Corrie, which is carrying veteran Belfast peace campaigner Mairead Corrigan Maguire, is expected to dock in Gaza in the next 24 hours.

The ship is continuing despite Israel’s insistence that it will not allow any vessel to break its blockade of the territory.

The Assembly motion calls on Israel to adhere to international law and join with the British and Irish governments to condemn the storming of the aid flotilla on Monday.

It also calls on Israel to ensure that humanitarian efforts in Gaza are facilitated, that the blockade is ended immediately and that the Rachel Corrie is given safe passage to Gaza.

Mr McHugh last night told the Belfast Telegraph it was right that the Assembly added its voice to the international outrage.

“You’ve got a situation pending in the next 24 hours where a ship, travelling under an Irish flag and with Mairead Corrigan Maguire, is going into a situation where we don’t know what will happen. The lives of Irish and British citizens in the Mediterranean, who have volunteered with the best of intentions of helping ordinary Palestinians, remain at risk.

“The last move by the Israelis to stop the boats coming in took place in international waters and they haven’t guaranteed that they won’t do anything different this time. It is a very serious situation, and we don’t want to see any further loss of life.”

Last night DUP Assembly Member William Irwin branded the motion a waste of time.

“Calling a special sitting of the Assembly to debate the situation in Gaza is nothing more than a publicity stunt,” he said.

Friday is traditionally the day which MLAs use for constituency work, and Mr Irwin said this would be disrupted.

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