Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I remind Senators that there are 15 minutes remaining, of which Senator Frances Black is entitled to five in which to reply as the proposer of the Bill. When the debate was adjourned on 30 January, Senator Michael McDowell had concluded his contribution. The Minister has already spoken. Those who have already spoken may not speak again, but there is enough time for two other Senators, possibly one from each side of the House, to speak for five minutes each, to be followed by Senator Frances Black.

Had I finished speaking?

The note I have indicates that the Senator had concluded his contribution.

Senator Terry Leyden is offering. Is there a Senator on the other side of the House offering?

(Interruptions).

Who is offering and has not already spoken?

Bang the Bill through. Get on with it.

We have had a full debate. Let us go to Senator Frances Black.

Senator Terry Leyden is offering.

I will not. This is a democracy.

(Interruptions).

Senator Terry Leyden has not spoken in the debate. He is not on the list I have.

I have not spoken about the Bill.

He made a statement on the situation in Palestine; he did not speak about the Bill. Senators should not challenge the Chair in that manner. Is Senator Terry Leyden offering to speak?

The Senator may do so.

The Fianna Fáil Party supports the Bill. The parliamentary party has decided the Bill has merit in sending a message to Israel that we are not satisfied with developments in Palestine and not impressed by the oppression of the Palestinians and the way they have been treated like dirt in their own country. Irish people have experience of being treated in a similar manner and know that action must be taken on the issue. Fianna Fáil has a long history of commitment to the Palestinian issue and no party has worked harder to seek a resolution. At one stage, the late Brian Lenihan Snr was the only Minister in the European Union to call for recognition of the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. That stance was not popular with other European Union member state, but he was visionary. I recommend that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, take a similar stance. I know that his heart is in the right place, that he is dong his utmost and that he is courageous.

I went to the Gaza Strip with Senator David Norris who I commend for making one of the most emotional speeches I had heard in the House since I was first elected 16 years ago. I commend him for the genuine sincerity he has displayed for a very long time and the commitment he has made to the people of Palestine. I also recognise the work of former Senator Michael Lanigan-----

------who was one of the most active Members of the House in pursuing the cause-----

I went there with the late Brian Lenihan.

I am obliged for that information. I am also very proud that this House established the Friends of Palestine group. In no other country was the same level of support received from Members of all parties and none as in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I am very proud of the work done by President Michael D. Higgins when chairman of that group and whose courage was evidenced by his visits to Palestine and the surrounding region. I wish him well in seeking re-election as President of Ireland. The Fianna Fáil Party and I are very proud to second his nomination.

That is not relevant to the Bill.

I am very proud that, as President, he has expounded human rights-----

It will save money if he is returned unopposed.

(Interruptions).

He was prepared to fly to Baghdad on the eve of the battle and war at risk to his life.

The Senator must speak to the Bill.

He also worked in South America and elsewhere. I am very privileged to have worked with him. As an extramural student of politics and sociology, I was lectured by him for two years. I have, therefore, a long connection with him.

The record of Fianna Fáil on this issue is second to none. Last Tuesday week it decided to support the Bill by unanimous decision and I do so in the House today.

Is Senator Gerard P. Craughwell offering?

Yes. I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I will not take up much time.

I understand the position of the Minister, but I support Senator Frances Black. For far too long, we have heard of initiatives to try to solve the problems, but sometimes we need to take a bold step. We cannot stand by and watch the destruction of an entire population. I understand the Government will fight the good fight to try to stop the Bill which I hope will be passed. Olive groves that had been in place for thousands of years have been destroyed, as have other crops, as Israel takes over properties as it sees fit. The Israeli army destroys not one but two, three or four streets in retaliation for each rocket fired into Israel. It is beyond belief the world has sat back for as long as I can remember and watched the conflict. Sometimes a bold step is taken. I compliment Senator Frances Black on the bold step represented by the Bill which I will support. I deeply regret that Ireland has had to take the lead on the issue. There are far more powerful countries that should and could have acted before now. Those arming each side involved in the conflict need to look at what they are doing. As Palestinians have suffered more than any other people, I support the Bill.

I thank all of the Senators who are supporting the Bill. I thank Sinn Féin, the Labour Party and, of course, the Independent Senators who support it. I especially thank Fianna Fáil. Deputy Niall Collins travelled to Palestine to educate himself on the issue. When he came back, he was clear about how he felt. He saw the situation in Palestine at first hand, as I did. I am delighted that the Bill now has the support of every political party and grouping in the Oireachtas, except those in government. I regret that that is the case, but I remain hopeful the Tánaiste will hear us out and come on board as the Bill progresses.

I am pursuing this initiative because I want Ireland to take a stronger lead on issues of human rights and social justice and do not believe such a stance would hinder our international standing but, rather, that it would enhance it. I saw the impact of settlement expansion when I visited the West Bank earlier this year. I spoke to the Tánaiste about it yesterday. I witnessed the restrictions on movement, the shrinking space for housing and healthcare facilities, a chronic lack of supply of electricity and the crushing indignity of a Palestinian community having been cut off from its water supply which had been diverted to support an Israeli chicken farm. That is horrendous and the injustice of it will stay with me forever. That commercial settlement built on stolen land beyond Israel's internationally recognised borders is a war crime. I know that I am repeating myself, but I ask my colleagues across the House whether the moral response is to condemn that action as illegal but then ask how much the eggs cost? There is deep hypocrisy in such a position.

Senators and the Minister have spoken at length about the legal aspects of the issue and our obligations as an EU member state.

In researching my speech today, I was reminded of similar debates that took place in the early 1980s, when courageous Dunnes Stores workers refused to sell goods from apartheid South Africa. Faced with clear injustice, they followed their conscience and changed history, but their courage was not always matched here in Leinster House. There is a great set of State papers, covered in the Irish Examiner a few years back, that show the opposition from Government and senior officials at the time. As the Irish Examiner reported, "State papers show that the Department of Foreign Affairs had no objection on political grounds to the proposals, but expressed concern that they could cause legal difficulties because of Ireland’s Membership of the EEC”, now the EU. In fact, the Attorney General advised at the time that we could not legally ban apartheid produce unilaterally, a position that was of course later reversed.

The papers are interesting because they show that even on one of the most internationally applauded stances we have ever taken, there was still an unwillingness for Ireland to be the first to act. We see the concern that no other EEC state had moved before us. The papers quote a Minister who worried that "a unilateral ban on trade with South Africa is inappropriate at present in that it would be unlikely to influence the South African Government". The Minister went on to say that the huge amount of global attention could have "damaging consequences for the country’s international reputation."

The cases of South Africa and Palestine are not identical, but the parallels struck me all the same. We see that same fear of taking the first step, of making a novel legal argument, of charting a course for others to follow. Ultimately, history has shown that the brave stance in favour of justice and human rights did not undermine Ireland’s reputation but instead greatly enhanced it. We sent a signal to our partners that tangible, credible steps could be taken that went beyond empty condemnation, and others followed. We did not isolate ourselves; we took the opportunity to lead.

We may have a long path ahead of us, but I believe that Ireland can play that role again. When we look at how the settlement project is crippling the West Bank, the damage on the ground and the unforgivable human cost, it should summon in us the same sense of injustice and anger that compelled us to action in the 1980s. Ultimately, the striking Dunnes Stores workers forced Irish politicians to stand up and show some leadership. The same applies today. I actually met one of the original striking workers, Tommy Davis, outside Leinster House this morning, and it was inspiring to see them coming to show support for this Bill.

We have made the case clearly that Ireland has the legal capacity to pursue this, if the political will is there. Today I am calling on my Oireachtas colleagues to show that it is and to state firmly that Irish foreign policy will always stand on the side of international law, human rights and justice. Go raibh maith agaibh.

Question put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 20.

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Frances Black and Grace O'Sullivan; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 17 July 2018.