Business of Committee

The next item on the agenda is a motion on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Before calling Senator Daly to move the motion, I remind members that this matter was dealt with last week by the committee, at which it was noted by the clerk that in the opinion of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, this matter came within its remit and that it has agreed to hold meetings on it in the autumn with a cross section of interested groups. As Chairman, it is my view, and that of members who attended last week's meeting, that there is no point in this committee holding similar meetings to those proposed by the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. In fact, it would be a duplication of the work being done by both committees. Also, legacy and reconciliation issues form part of the 2015 work programme of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Does Senator Daly wish to comment?

I attended the meeting of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement yesterday, at which I spoke to other members about the correspondence received by that committee on the matter. I was not, unfortunately, in attendance at the committee when it dealt with correspondence matters. I retabled the motion for discussion at this meeting following on from the discussion at the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement yesterday on the letter sent by this committee requesting the holding of a joint meeting of both committees, which is what was agreed. It has subsequently transpired that there is to be no joint meeting with this committee, which is news to me and other members who attended the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, where it had been agreed.

Perhaps I could make a suggestion. The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is to meet next week.

I suggest to the Senator that he attend that meeting and discuss with the secretariat what transpired at last week's meeting, following which he can come back to me on the matter. The reality may be that the committee does not want to hold a joint meeting with this committee.

I was at the meeting when it was agreed to hold a joint meeting of the two committees.

I have received a letter from the clerk to the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, who is a person I respect very much. That letter states that as the issues are predominantly the responsibility of that committee, in its view a joint meeting of both committees is not necessary at this juncture but that members of this committee are welcome to attend future meetings of that committee at which these issues are being discussed.

I am just saying I was at the meeting.

I spoke to the clerk.

When she said there were briefing notes for the Chairman, I said I was there and he did not read them out. His failure to read them out meant everyone was saying it was a joint meeting.

That is what we were agreeing. Otherwise, I would have objected.

I suggest that the Senator should go to next week's meeting of that committee.

I will go back through the minutes.

He can come back to me afterwards.

Is that all right?

Yes, but I cannot see why they-----

I take it that the Senator does not want to press-----

-----would not agree to a joint meeting with this committee.

It is their work programme.

I know that, but that is not-----

It is as if the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs started doing work on Irish aid.

If they wanted to do something on a joint basis-----

I do not think we would be very happy about that in this committee. We would see it as part of our work programme. I assume the Senator is not pressing the motion at the moment.

No, I am not.

I thank the Senator. We will move on to the next motion in the name of Senator Daly, which relates to the proposed demolition and transfer of Susiya in the Israeli settlement of the West Bank. I invite the Senator to speak in support of this motion.

I move:

That the Foreign Affairs Committee condemns the proposed demolition and transfer of the inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Susiya in the Israeli settlement of the West Bank. Forcible transfer of the protected population is prohibited according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered to be a grave breach of international humanitarian law according to Article 147 of the Convention. We instruct the Minister to contact the Government of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon, Military Advocate General Danny Efroni, Israeli Military Judge Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit, and Israeli Military Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to express Ireland’s condemnation of the proposal to demolish the village of Susiya and expel its residents.

Many of us have received correspondence on this issue, which epitomises the situation in the West Bank and the occupied territories, especially in relation to a community like the Bedouin community. Permits are impossible to come by. We all know the situation with regard to the settlements we have opposed. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, has taken a question on this matter in the Seanad and the Minister spoke about it yesterday. Ireland as a country has raised its objections to settlements and the activities of the Israeli Government in the West Bank. The future of this village is a particular case that we have been asked to highlight. I do not think it is much to ask of the Minister. We have done so in other cases. If the Israeli Government has its way, the village in question will not exist this time next year. I can only imagine the reply we are going to get. I have read a reply that refers to not intervening in specific cases. This affects future actions. If Ireland says it is going to raise the matter in a general sense, I do not think that is strong enough. This is continuing to happen to a particular community. We have received replies from the Israeli Embassy on this matter. We have also received counter-replies. It is very simple - we have been asked to highlight this issue, which affects a particular village. I think we should support that cause because this is a manifestation of national policy on Israel and Palestine.

Before I bring in the other members of the committee, I remind them that a briefing note from the Department on this matter has been circulated to them. It appears from the note that the Minister has already made known his view and that of Ireland on this matter, which is that this is a breach of international law. The Minister has acknowledged that view, which has been brought to the attention of the Israeli ambassador, the European Union and the United Nations. The Minister also brought it to the attention of the Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs during his visit to Israel earlier this year. Members will recall that the Minister restated this view at yesterday's meeting of the joint committee. Does anybody else want to speak on this motion?

I think these matters are best left to the appropriate section to deal with in the normal manner. The original motion, parts of which have been disallowed, referred to issues that are not pertinent to the function of any committee. Some of the things that were being suggested are not possible. We do not direct Ministers in this committee because we do not have the power to do so. I suggest that we reiterate what we can do. For that reason, I am proposing an amendment to delete all the words in Senator Daly's motion after "Article 147 of the Convention" and include in their place "and the Joint Committee calls on the Minister to convey Ireland’s concerns to the Israeli authorities". That is the normal procedure to be followed in a situation like this. If we do otherwise at this stage, we will reduce the level of debate. In that context, I would like to make a point about something I have noticed in the House in general. The level of debate and the manner in which we make our case can have a huge bearing on the manner in which what we say is greeted by the intended recipients. If we decide to lower the tone of debate in the Houses or the committees, the subject matter is diminished considerably by virtue of that. I strongly urge us all to recognise that in future when we are making our case to a Minister, an ambassador or whoever it may well be. I accept that there was no intention to offend anybody, but the original motion I saw was certainly offensive and argumentative and was ruled out of order for those reasons.

What was offensive about the motion?

I ask the Senator to let Deputy Durkan finish. I will let him in again.

If the Deputy saw something offensive in asking the Minister to do something-----

I ask the Senator to respect the Chair.

-----I would like him to outline what that was.

I will let the Senator back in.

Is it all right to speak?

He said he was offended.

I will let the Senator address that when he speaks again.

Maybe I should apologise to him for offending him.

As I was saying, this is a typical example of the way we do our business. I believe we have to follow certain procedures, decorum and protocols. If we depart from that, we diminish the strength of our case and our cause. When we are working within the committee, within the Houses of the Oireachtas or in our discussions with other entities such as embassies or ambassadors, we should make our submissions in line with the normal procedures that apply in such cases. To do otherwise is to reduce the debate to a level that I will not offend anybody by describing.

There is a particular word that comes to mind, but I do not wish to go there. I would like to propose an amendment to the motion before the committee.

I ask the Deputy to move the amendment formally. I understand he is happy with the first part of the motion, which reads:

That the Foreign Affairs Committee condemns the proposed demolition and transfer of the inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Susiya in the Israeli settlement of the West Bank. Forcible transfer of the protected population is prohibited according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered to be a grave breach of international humanitarian law according to Article 147 of the Convention.

I will bring in Senator Daly and anyone else who wants to come in on the amendment after it has been moved.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all the words after "Convention" and substitute the following:

"and the Joint Committee calls on the Minister to convey Ireland’s concerns to the Israeli authorities".

I ask the Deputy to pass a note setting out the content of the amendment to us.

Can I second that?

Does anybody else want to come in here?

I do not have a difficulty with the amendment, but obviously there is a huge difference of opinion in the correspondence we have received, including from a number of citizens. We have received correspondence from the Israeli ambassador which refutes completely the arguments in the correspondence we have received. Do we need to get an unbiased or independent view or opinion?

That is something we can put on the work programme. Maybe we can bring in some experts in the autumn schedule.

The real situation is somewhere in between.

Okay. We can do that.

Obviously, the Israeli ambassador is completely refuting the arguments that are in the correspondence we have received.

Okay. I will invite the two ambassadors - the Palestinian representative ambassador in Ireland and the new Israeli ambassador who will be sent to Ireland - to come before the committee in September.

Can I clarify that if Deputy Durkan's amendment is accepted, the first paragraph of my motion will remain and we will additionally call on the Minister "to convey Ireland’s concerns to the Israeli authorities"?

Would Senator Daly be happy with that?

Yes, if the first paragraph remains.

Does the Senator want to leave it as correspondence or agree the motion as amended?

We will agree the motion.

The first paragraph of it remains, and then we are calling on the Minister-----

That is fine.

I have a concern. If there is a major injustice here, I would like us to exert as much pressure and force as we can. Given that we have two totally opposing views and opinions in this case, I think it would be appropriate to have both ambassadors in to try to tease this out.

I hope the village is there by then.

I would have a concern about that as well.

I agree with Senator Mullins and thank him for asking for the two parties to be brought in to discuss this case, which is a crystallisation of events that are happening all the time. I think it would be helpful if we were to bring them in on this issue.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.

I propose that we send the motion to both the Israeli and Palestinian embassies, noting that it was discussed. Is that agreed? Agreed.

For the benefit of members, I do not table motions to cause an argument. If members have amendments and are willing to discuss them with me, I will be pleased to accept them. I chose a specific form of words but I have no problem accepting sensible amendments, and in that connection the amendment proposed by Deputy Durkan was helpful.

While I understand the need to adhere to protocols and show decorum, that approach has not worked in this case. In 1993, there were 250,000 illegal Israeli settlers in Palestine. Today, that figure has increased to 600,000. Clearly, a different approach is required. Will the Chairman confirm that the amendment will result only in the word "instruct" being replaced with the words "calls on"?

That is correct.

The Middle East peace process is part of the joint committee's work programme and an issue on which we work at all times. In that regard, I commend Deputy Colreavy's party colleague, Deputy Seán Crowe, on the work he does on the issue.

Deputy Crowe apologises for being unable to attend today.

While I accept the points made by Deputy Colreavy, it is my view that decorum will always win provided everyone shows it. It is when we resort to other means that we must ask ourselves whether they always succeed.

The evidence from various empires suggests otherwise.

The joint committee went into private session at 4 p.m. and adjourned at 4.20 p.m. sine die.