A decision by the Government to recognise the state of Palestine would boost Ireland's campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the head of the Arab League has indicated.
At a meeting in Cairo earlier this month with Ahmed Aboul-Gleit, secretary general of the Arab League, a delegation of eight TDs raised Ireland's candidature for one of the rotating seats on the security council for the term 2021-22. Dublin faces competition from Norway and Canada for the seat.
According to an account of the meeting circulated among TDs this week, Mr Aboul-Gleit advised the delegation to bring its security council campaign directly to Arab states. "Ireland is respected in the Arab world, a good deal of which comes from Ireland's involvement in peacekeeping missions in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, " he said, according to the TDs' account.
“Early formal recognition by Ireland of the state of Palestine would also be viewed positively by the Arab world.”
State of Palestine
More than two-thirds of UN member states have recognised the state of Palestine. In 2011 Ireland accorded the Palestinian delegation in Dublin diplomatic status, while in 2014 both houses of the Oireachtas passed motions calling on the Government to recognise Palestinian statehood. The Government has left open the possibility of recognition but has so far has stopped short of setting out a timetable.
The report on the delegation's four-day visit to Egypt outlines its discussions with senior Egyptian figures on the case of Ibrahim Halawa, the 21-year-old Irish man who has been in prison awaiting trial for more than three years.
At a meeting with Mr Halawa at Wadi el Natrun prison in Cairo, according to the report, the young man was “in good spirits” but complained of mistreatment and poor conditions.
He told the TDs he lived in a cell with 10 other detainees, giving him little privacy and making sleep difficult. “He described episodes of maltreatment and periods of solitary confinement, denial of medical treatment and curtailed family visits. He complained of numbness in his right arm and added that a cardiology test ordered by the prison doctor three months previously still had not been arranged,” the report states.
Mr Halawa told the delegation he was on hunger strike, taking only water and glucose injections.
Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi told the TDs that if it were within his powers to release Mr Halawa he would have done so when Taoiseach Enda Kenny first raised the case with him. Mr Sisi said that under the constitution he could not “interfere” in the trial or influence its outcome until a final verdict is given.
“However, the president assured the delegation that he would use the powers available to him to ensure that Ibrahim Halawa was returned safely to Ireland once the trial had concluded,” the report states.
Mr Halawa’s lawyers and human rights groups have insisted Mr Sisi has the power to order the Irish man’s release and return to Ireland at any time.
At a separate meeting, Egypt's deputy head of homeland security, Gen Mahmoud Tawfik, denied Mr Halawa had been mistreated "and suggested that prisoners often invent or exaggerate such concerns," the report states.
Gen Tawfik told the TDs Mr Halawa had been examined by a doctor, who found him in good health. A further examination would be ordered, he told the TDs.
The delegation comprised Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien of Fianna Fáil, Colm Brophy of Fine Gael, Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Paul Murphy of the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin, Eamon Ryan of the Green Party and Independent Noel Grealish.