Irish abstention from UN Gaza vote ‘shameful’

Campaigner says decision ‘disgraceful’ while Israel ambassador criticises rights council

Protesters on Dublin’s O Connell Street earlier this month demonstrating against Isreal attacks on Gaza. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Protesters on Dublin’s O Connell Street earlier this month demonstrating against Isreal attacks on Gaza. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 22:12

Ireland’s decision to abstain from a United Nations vote to investigate allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza has been described as “shameful” and “disgraceful” by an Opposition politician and a campaign group.

Ireland yesterday joined other European Union countries in abstaining from the UN Human Rights Council resolution setting up a commission of inquiry into Gaza. The nine EU countries present raised concerns that the draft text was “unbalanced, inaccurate and prejudges the outcome of the investigation”.

The resolution was approved with 29 votes in favour, one against (the United States) and 17 abstentions.

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power said Ireland’s decision to abstain from the vote was “utterly shameful”.

“In just two weeks, Israel has killed over 650 people in Gaza, including more than 150 children. It is deliberating targeting civilians with a campaign designed to instil terror in the entire Palestinian population. Not only is this immoral, it is also completely illegal under international law,” Ms Power said in a statement.

“I am shocked and disgusted with the Irish government’s decision not to support an international inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza,” she added.

Chairman of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Martin O’Quigley said “we consider it disgraceful that Ireland abstained from the vote”.

“Our view is what is happening in Gaza are war crimes,” he said. “To shell deliberately on a beach is a war crime, to shell a hospital is a war crime.”

Mr O’Quigley said the Government is failing to represent Irish views on the conflict. “I don’t think the Irish Government is reflecting what the Irish people feel on this,” he said, adding: “I haven’t heard any people who are in the Government parties criticising what has happened.”

Ireland’s ambassador to the UN Patricia O’Brien today said Ireland had “a very valid reason not to support the resolution”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, she said the commission of inquiry is the establishment of a new mechanism and “we’ve always been convinced that the most efficient and effective way of reacting urgently to these sort of alarming circumstances is to make use of the existing mechanisms and the available expertise, for example through the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.”

Amnesty International Ireland said it supported the proposal to dispatch an independent commission of investigation to look into violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses by both sides involved in the conflict.

The organisation’s executive director Colm O’Gorman said Amnesty saw nothing in the mandate which would have excluded the actions of Hamas or other armed groups on the Palestinian side from the inquiry, but said it would have been better if the resolution placed greater emphasis on the need to also investigate Hamas as well as Israel.

The Israeli ambassador to Ireland Boaz Modai this morning criticised the UN Human Rights Council, saying it protected terrorists. “The UN Human Rights Council could have changed its name a long time ago to UN terrorist rights council. They are protecting terrorists. What they are doing now is encouraging Hamas to go on because they know that Israel is going to be condemned by this organisation.”

Asked on Newstalk FM whether he felt ashamed by the deaths of more than 700 people so far in the Israeli offensive in Gaza, he said: “I don’t feel even a bit of shame; I feel a lot of pride being part of this country. I was also in the Israeli army, the most moral army in the world.”