Dáil observes minute’s silence for people in Gaza, Middle East

Tánaiste rejects demand for special debate

An Israeli soldier prays today next to an Israeli self-propelled 155mm howitzer belonging to an artillery unit deployed at an unspecified location next to the Israeli border with Gaza. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

An Israeli soldier prays today next to an Israeli self-propelled 155mm howitzer belonging to an artillery unit deployed at an unspecified location next to the Israeli border with Gaza. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 13:49

The Dáil observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the Middle East at lunchtime today.

Ministers and TDs stood in response to a proposal from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams who, with members of his party, had copies of the Palestinian flag.

Earlier, Tánaiste Joan Burton, who was taking Opposition leaders’ questions, rejected a request by Mr Adams for a four-hour debate tomorrow on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“We are in a primary position, because of our own peace process, to make a stand and send a very clear message in that region - particularly the citizens and the families of those who have been killed,’’ he added.

Mr Adams was supported by Fianna Fáil and Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins. The House is scheduled to adjourn for the summer recess later today until Wednesday, September 17th.

Ms Burton said the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs could discuss the matter tomorrow and have a detailed discussion. “The Minister for Foreign Affairs will be available,” she added. The Government’s proposal to adjourn the House today was carried by 68 votes to 46.

Ms Burton earlier said Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan had no difficulty in meeting with the Israeli ambassador on the issue. She added that EU ministers would discuss the issue immediately after the weekend.

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs was closely monitoring the situation and keeping in contact with missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

Ms Burton said the last few weeks, in the wake of the horrendous murders of three young Israelis and a Palestinian youth, had been incredibly difficult for all concerned with promoting the cause of peace in the Middle East.

“Despite this, we cannot be deflected from addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and redoubling our efforts to promote a viable two-state solution which represents the only sustainable basis for a just settlement and resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict,’’ she added.

Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue said while the five-hour ceasefire announced last night was welcome and needed, it was not enough. Citizens in Gaza were unable to get access to essential medicines, he added.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Tánaiste of “a limp and lily-livered’’ response to the issue.