I welcome the Minister of State. As Senator Ned O'Sullivan said, Fianna Fáil is supporting the Bill. I welcome Deputy Niall Collins, our party spokesperson in the Dáil, who has been very supportive of the legislation. In July the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party made a decision to support the Bill on the basis of the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza. I also welcome the ambassador from Palestine and commend the lobbyists and activists in this country who are working on behalf of the Palestinian people.
Ireland has a long and honourable tradition of providing support for Palestine. I am very proud of the fact that Brian Lenihan Snr was one of the first politicians in the European Union to recognise the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and their right to live in harmony with Israel. He argued in favour of the two-state solution, the only solution that will work in the region. The actions of the President of the United States, particularly in moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, are most divisive and unhelpful.
In 2003 I was involved in setting up in the Oireachtas the Friends of Palestine group which drew support from the largest number of Oireachtas Members ever. The chairman was the current President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who played a pivotal role in the area of foreign affairs during his time in the Oireachtas. I welcome the Bill which was brought forward by Senator Black and her colleagues. It is very important, not least because it serves to highlight the situation in Israel and gives the House an opportunity to remind itself again of the oppression of the Palestinian people.
On the section, we are talking about occupied territories, specifically occupied Palestine. We could talk about Crimea and other parts of the world that are also occupied, but I am interested in this particular region. I led a delegation from the Dáil and the Seanad to the occupied territories. We saw for ourselves the occupation of Palestinian lands and the building of a wall 30 feet high, fences and so on. The beautiful city of Bethlehem is surrounded by a massive wall.
The people there are crying out for justice.
I am delighted the Seanad was retained by the Irish people because it is a forum where we can speak out on behalf of people who are persecuted in the region. I led a delegation to the region and I was appalled to see the occupied areas and settlements, all built to a certain design. The buildings were white with a red roof and there were swimming pools where water is scarce. The sewerage system pours the sewage on to Palestinian farms. I was absolutely appalled by the way the Palestinians were treated. That is why we must take a stand. I would like to see the other 26 countries of the European Union taking a stand on this, along with the UK. A delegation from France is visiting the Oireachtas and human rights are very important in that country. Speaking of friends of Palestine, there was no greater friend to the region than former Senator Michael Lanigan from Kilkenny, who was the leading spokesperson on the matter in this House and was recognised by the Palestinian people for it.
The Bill is not unconstitutional or against the law so the Attorney General should review it because it does not specifically mention the occupied areas of Palestine. It is a general Bill relating to areas that are occupied throughout the world. I recommend to those in the House who have not yet travelled to Palestine or Israel to go there. I was wearing a Palestine-Ireland badge on my lapel on my visit and I was stopped at the airport. I was almost refused admission to Israel because I had this badge. When I was asked where I got the badge, I said I got it from the Palestinian people, whom I support.
We will support the Bill and I know the sponsor, Senator Black, is anxious to get it through. I will not make any further contribution, other than to say that we categorically support the Bill, which will pass Committee Stage in this House tonight.