Irish Government coy over detainees in Israel

The Irish Government are tonight coming under heavy criticism for their inexplicable lack of action in relation to the 14 Irish citizens currently being detained by Israeli authorities. They are being held at the Givon Detention Centre near the port of Ashdod.

The 14 man crew of the Irish vessel the MV Saoirse were taken into Israeli custody on Friday last when their ship was illegally boarded in international waters by Israeli forces.

The ship was en route to Gaza as part of the 'Freedom Waves' flotilla, alongside Canadian ship the 'Tahrir'. This was a humanitarian mission carrying medical aid and supplies, and aimed to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

A number of Irish political figures, including a current Member of the European Parliament, are among those being detained.

The decision by the Israeli authorities to board the vessel in international waters contravenes international law, and amounts to piracy. The subsequent decision to detain the crew of MV Saoirse therefore, can only by described as state sponsored kidnap.

In a three minute phone call from Givon prison in Israel, MEP Paul Murphy described the treatment of the detainees by the Israeli authorities:

“Our boat was almost sunk by the manner in which it was approached and boarded by the Israeli navy. People were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings.

“In Givon prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the removal of our watches and the prison clock recording the wrong time. We have been given no time frame as to how long we will be kept here before the deportation trial."

Co-ordinator Dr. Fintan Lane who is also among those detained, described the Israeli raid as "dangerous to human life."

"I was hosed down the stairs of the boat" Dr Lane said. "Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sank."

The Irish activists have so far refused to sign deportation papers which state that they came to Israel voluntarily and entered the country illegally. This is clearly quite absurd, since Israeli naval ships violently seized the MV Saoirse and the Tahrir, and forcibly transported the vessels and all crew on board to Ashdod.

Back home, the Irish Government have remained coy on the matter, and attempts by opposition TD's to have the issue openly debated in the Dáil have so far failed.

Tonight Deputy Richard Boyd-Barrett described the lack of action by the government as "nothing short of disgraceful".

Mr Boyd-Barrett said: "We are calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and the Government to speak out and condemn what Israel has done; and to demand the immediate release of Irish citizens and to demand an explanation from the Israeli authorities as to why they kidnapped, illegally on international waters, 14 Irish citizens."

This sentiment is echoed amongst the Irish general public, where there is a growing feeling that Israeli defiance of international law has become habitual, and worryingly appears to be without any consequence whatsoever.

In May of last year, the world was stunned when Israeli commandos murdered 9 Turkish humanitarian activists and wounded many more during the raid on the first 'Gaza Freedom Flotilla'. This incident also occurred in international waters and involved a number of Irish citizens.

The following June Ireland ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the country's embassy in Dublin. This move was in protest of Israel's forgery of Irish passports, eight of which were used in the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai.

This latest incident, the latest of eleven international attempts to break the blockade of Gaza via the sea, is sure to further damage relations between Ireland and the Israeli regime, if only for the time being in the continued disintegration of the Irish publics regard for Israel.

Some reports are suggesting that up to half of the 14 Irish detainees may be released on Thursday November 10th. There is however no word as of yet to suggest when the remainder of those who have been detained may be released.