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

I welcome the Minister of State.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

I welcome the Minister of State. I will try to be as brief as I can, but this is an important section and I must ensure that people understand the issue, given that there have been many questions about it.

Section 3 mirrors section 2, as our aim is to focus solely on international law. While much of the debate has covered Israel's 50-year occupation of the West Bank and relentless settlement construction and the devastating human rights consequences that have resulted, colleagues will see that this section of the Bill is drafted generally. That is vital. It means that it can only apply to occupations and breaches of international law anywhere in the world if there is evidence and legal consensus.

As the House knows, I am deeply passionate about the human rights of the Palestinian people. I remember doing charity gigs for Gaza in 2014 and being devastated by what was happening, but the same standards should apply everywhere. I could have drafted a Bill relating only to Israel and Palestine, but I agree with those who say that it should not just be about any one conflict. This is about the rule of international law, applicable anywhere, and a commitment from Ireland that, if we are sure laws are being broken and certain goods are being produced as a result of war crimes, we will not support that.

Ireland cannot, nor would we want to, adjudicate on the status of every occupation or conflict in the world. Instead, we set a neutral objective standard that relies on international law and the decisions of the international courts listed. Here we set a high bar based firmly on international law. The reason the Israel-Palestine situation is covered from the outset is the overwhelming international legal consensus that the settlements violate international law. This is the long-standing and consistent position of the Irish Government, the EU, the UN and the International Court of Justice.

I agree with colleagues across the House and would welcome further rulings by the courts in question. For example, a strong case can be made for Western Sahara. Recognising that colleagues may feel passionately about a particular occupation and believe that international courts are moving too slowly, sections 3 and 4 give us the capacity to include other territories and move ahead of court rulings. If there is agreement between the Seanad, the Dáil and the Minister, there is a reasonable standard working on the basis of court judgments and strong consensus in the Oireachtas.

Given the confusion on this section, I wish to say clearly that we are not singling out any state. No individual state is mentioned anywhere in the Bill. Instead, we rely on the clear decisions of international courts as respected arbiters of international law.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.