Independent Alliance may have free vote on Israeli goods Bill

Coveney says Government cannot support legislation on AG advice it is not legally sound

“We think this legislation is not sound, it is not enforceable, and therefore I can’t support it,” Simon Coveney said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

“We think this legislation is not sound, it is not enforceable, and therefore I can’t support it,” Simon Coveney said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Independent Alliance may be given a free vote on a Bill banning the importation or sale of goods or services from settlements condemned by the United Nations and European Union as illegal.

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the Government would not support the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill on advice from the Attorney General that the legislation was not sound.

But he said he had held talks with the Independent Alliance about a free vote and that the matter would be discussed at Cabinet.

“I have had an initial discussion with [Minister for Transport] Shane Ross and [Minister of State] Finian [McGrath] on this issue and we will discuss it again in Cabinet, but that is a matter for discussion in a Government meeting rather than through the media.”

The two Independent Alliance TDs are understood to have previously told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar they support the Bill.

The Seanad passed the legislation in December. The Bill now goes to the Dáil, where it is supported by Fianna Fáil, which indicated it would introduce the Bill early this year.

Not legally sound

Mr Coveney said the Government had to take into account the advice of the Attorney General.

I am not shy about having firm positions on the Middle East peace process, I think my record on that is pretty strong

“First of all the Government never publishes legal advice, but the Government has clear advice from the Attorney General on this issue. I as a Government Minister cannot support legislation when I am told by the legal advice that is available to the Government that it is not legally sound. That is our position. I have been very upfront about that.

“I am not shy about having firm positions on the Middle East peace process, I think my record on that is pretty strong. We work very closely with the Palestinian authorities and we also work very closely with the Israeli government.

“We have been working with the US team as well, who are trying to put together a peace initiative for the Middle East peace process and we have been working in the EU and UN structures with a very clear perspective on a very clear need for a fair and balanced peace initiative that can result in a two-state solution that is fair to Palestinians and Israelis. That is our position.”

No animosity

Independent Senator Frances Black championed the legislation and has sought cross-party support.

“We think this legislation is not sound, it is not enforceable, and therefore I can’t support it,” Mr Coveney said.

“I have explained that to Frances Black in detail, she accepts that explanation actually, there is no animosity there. I can understand where this legislation is coming from because of the frustration and lack of progress towards a peace process, but I cannot recommend to the Government that we support a piece of legislation when the Attorney General has given me such clear advice.”