We have already discussed this matter to some degree during Question Time. We know that on Saturday, 9 September, four Irish citizens, Elaine Daly, Fidelma Bonass, Joan Nolan and Stephen McCloskey, were deported from Tel Aviv in Israel. They were deported because they were organising and travelling with a delegation of 31 people, primarily Irish citizens, on an awareness-raising visit to the West Bank. I understand their itinerary was to include meetings with Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations and individuals, a visit to a refugee camp and a tour of settlements, together with day trips to some of the main towns in the West Bank. The aim of the trip was to bear witness to the everyday hardships suffered by Palestinian people as a result of the restrictions imposed by the apartheid wall, permanent checkpoints and settlements. The other 27 members of the delegation, two of whom are present today, were allowed to continue into Israel–Palestine and they arrived back to Ireland a week ago. The Minister accepted that we do not have a good explanation from the Israeli State.
For all four deportations, the grounds given were considerations concerning the prevention of illegal immigration. This is a utterly bizarre because the individuals were travelling on valid Irish passports. An additional reason was given for Ms Elaine Daly involving considerations associated with public security, public safety or public order. Again, this is complete nonsense. She did not even participate in the completely legitimate protests in Bil'in in which she was accused of participating.
The conclusion that is strongly pointed towards is precisely that the Israeli Government, at a time of increasing repression and oppression, is increasing the rate of illegal settlement-building and attempting to put an end to any possibility of a viable Palestinian state through brute force, effectively through house demolition, etc. It does not want people to make these trips. It does not want people to see the reality of what is happening. In doing so, ironically, it demonstrates in a small way the absence of freedom of movement, repression and interference by security forces faced by the Palestinian people on a daily basis. What is the Government going to do about it? It can rightly state the explanation but that it does not really know what lies behind it. More has to be done, however.
I was deported from Israel four or five years ago, or maybe more, along with others. At that time, the Irish Government said it was going to ask the relevant questions and that we would be out quickly and get back our laptops, telephones and everything else. The authorities still have all the stuff they took from me then. The Government did not make any very loud public pronouncements about it afterwards. What is the Government going to do about this to illustrate the oppression facing the people in Palestine on a daily basis? Has any contact been made with the Israeli ambassador in Ireland? Have we had a meeting with him and asked for a clear explanation? Has there been any mention of consequences if we do not get a clear explanation? Can we get a commitment that we will not have these deportations in the future? Will the Israeli Government just be able to discourage people from going to witness what is taking place and to witness the human rights abuses by deporting people in this completely arbitrary and illegal way?