Irish Gaza activists 'in good health'


Human rights activists awaiting deportation from Israel for attempting to sail to Gaza are in good health, it was reported last night.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said he was closely monitoring the detention of 14 Irish nationals at Givon prison.

Former rugby player Trevor Hogan, an MEP and politicians were among the group on board the MV Saoirse when it was intercepted as it attempted to break the naval blockade on Gaza on Friday.

The Tánaiste said an official from the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv met the 14 yesterday morning.

“I understand that they are in good health and (there) have been no complaints about their physical treatment,” he said. “They are being held at Givon prison.

“I understand that the Israeli authorities were ready to deport them immediately provided they were prepared to waive their right to appeal such a decision.”

The Irish boat was one of two vessels towed to the port of Ashdod by Israeli military after what it described as a peaceful takeover.

But it is understood activists have refused to sign deportation orders as they were brought to Israel against their will.

They include Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, Siptu official Mags O’Brien, artist Felim Egan, People Before Profit councillor Hugh Lewis, Sinn Féin councillors Pat Fitzgerald and John Hearne, and Zoe Lawlor, who teaches at the University of Limerick.

The Israeli military said the boats were attempting to break the maritime security blockade that is in place in accordance with international law. Mr Gilmore said embassy officials are providing all possible consular assistance to the group.

“The Embassy will also raise with the Israeli authorities a number of issues arising from yesterday’s events, including allegations that the MV Saoirse sustained damage during its interception,” he added.

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign raised concerns over the welfare of the crew and passengers of the MV Saoirse.

Claudia Saba, spokeswoman, said there has been no contact from anyone onboard since it was hijacked, apart from a single text message from Mr Hogan’s mobile phone.

“Once again, as with the flotilla of June 2010, Israel has managed to gain a monopoly on the narrative of what happened when the Gaza-bound boats were hijacked by Israel at sea,” she said.

“The footage released by Israel of the boarding of the boats is vague and lacking in detail.

“Since we have no direct contact with our fellow citizens, and since they are not allowed to communicate with the outside world, we do not know exactly what happened or how those aboard were treated.”

Campaigners called on the Government to suspend Israel from the Euromed Agreement, end all arms trade with Israel and take steps to ensure no Irish state-funded institution engages in any cultural, academic, or economic cooperation with the state of Israel or its associated institutions.