Rhetoric on fake Irish passport use for killing hardens

Fri, Feb 26, 2010, 00:00

THE GOVERNMENT has hardened its rhetoric on the use of fake Irish passports by suspects in the killing of a senior Hamas figure, echoing comments made by Australian officials that the use of forged documentation was not “the act of a friend”.

It has also emerged that the Department of Foreign Affairs has provided the Israeli embassy in Dublin with copies of all six forged Irish passports used by the alleged assassins, and has requested that the Israeli authorities provide any assistance it can in identifying the persons whose photographs appear on the passports.

Minister of State Dick Roche said in the Dáil yesterday that it was unacceptable that the six Irish citizens, whose legitimate passport numbers and expiry dates were used by the suspects, “could have been placed in danger by the irresponsible actions of others, particularly a State”. He added: “These are not the actions of a friendly country.”

Mr Roche said it was also unacceptable that the Irish passport had been “denigrated and besmirched” in this way.

“Whoever is responsible for having sullied Ireland’s reputation in this way has not acted as we have the right to expect of our friends,” he said.

Mr Roche said the Government did not have “categorical proof” of who was responsible for forging the passports, “but like everybody else we have our suspicions”.

The Minister noted that while the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad is “believed by many” to have orchestrated the murder, Israel had stated that there is no hard proof that this is the case.

Ireland deplored the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Mr Roche said.

“His murder was wrong in law and made no sense politically. Regardless of what he is alleged to have been or done, his killing will not bring peace to the Middle East but has served to create yet another martyr whose death, regrettably, will inspire others to follow the path of senseless violence.”

Earlier this week, Dubai police released detail of 15 more people they believe were involved in the assassination, bringing the total number of suspects to 26.

The total number of fraudulent passports used stands at 12 British, six Irish, four French, three Australian and one German.

Australia warned Israel that the strong bond between the two countries would be in danger if evidence proved that Israel was involved in forging Australian documentation.

After a meeting with the Israeli ambassador in Canberra, foreign minister Stephen Smith said Australian police had begun an investigation.

“I’ve made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend,” Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith told the ambassador the government expected full co-operation from Israel. “I also indicated to him that if we didn’t receive that co-operation, then we would potentially draw adverse conclusions from that,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Garda is liaising with the police forces of the other affected countries, including through Interpol, as efforts continue to determine how Irish passports were counterfeited by the suspects.

Labour TD Joe Costello called for a special Garda team to be sent to Dubai “to investigate at first hand” the role of fake Irish passports in the killing. He said the lack of political action by Ireland and the EU was “not good enough” to address concerns.

“The Taoiseach should inform the Israeli ambassador that without a categorical denial of involvement, Ireland could no longer consider Israel to be a friendly country with all the implications that that would have for travel, trade and diplomatic relations,” Mr Costello added.