Taoiseach warns Israel of 'serious consequences'


TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has issued a stern warning to the Israeli government about the safety of Irish people at risk in the storming of a ship carrying aid supplies to Gaza.

“I want to make this point: if any harm comes to any of our citizens, it will have the most serious consequences,” he said yesterday.

Mr Cowen was replying to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore during Opposition leaders’ questions in the Dáil.

Mr Gilmore said he was very glad to hear the Taoiseach’s response. “The Labour Party will support the Government in communicating that in the strongest possible terms to the government of Israel”

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the incident had happened in international waters. He added that he supported the Government’s comments on the issue.

Mr Cowen said the Government was calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Irish citizens. “They are being detained by Israel. We call on Israel to respect its international obligations under the Vienna convention.

“We want to ensure full consular access by Irish embassy officials to those detained. That is still not available to us and we are calling for it to be done immediately.”

Mr Cowen said the Government was very unhappy with the whole situation. He and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin had made clear that the Government’s condemnation of the attack by Israeli military personnel on the humanitarian flotilla.

“The actions, which have resulted in at least nine people killed and approximately 30 people injured, are completely disproportionate and unacceptable,” he added.

“It is clear that this incident took place in international waters and the legal basis for the Israelis’ actions is, at the very least, open to very serious question.”

Mr Cowen said that Ireland fully supported the many calls made by the international community for a full independent and impartial inquiry, preferably under the auspices of the United Nations.

Later, during a special Dáil debate, Micheál Martin expressed his condolences to the families of those who had been killed and sent best wishes to those who had been injured.

He added that on receipt of the news of the tragic events, he had made a statement condemning what happened and summoned the Israeli ambassador to a meeting in his department.

“I have made the strong point to the ambassador, very similar to what I said at the time of the assault on Gaza in January 2009, that when you use excessive military force among civilians, you cannot expect to control all the outcomes and you must accept responsibility for the results of your actions,” the Minister added.

“Who now could possibly argue that preventing this cargo from reaching Gaza was so important that an outcome such as this could be thought to be reasonable force?”

Mr Martin said he had also made it clear that all of the Irish citizens involved should be immediately and unconditionally released.

He said told the ambassador of his strong view that those citizens were constrained to enter Israel, which was not their intention and that, therefore, questions of illegal entry should not arise. He had taken issue with the description by the Israeli deputy foreign minister of the flotilla as “an armada of hate and violence”.