Shatter writes letter of complaint to Dáil over parliamentary question about Israel

Government clear on Israel’s responsibility under international law, Coveney says

 Alan Shatter: he asked that an apology be issued to the Irish Jewish community. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Alan Shatter: he asked that an apology be issued to the Irish Jewish community. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has written a letter of complaint to the clerk of the Dáil following a parliamentary question asked by Leas Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly about Israel and Palestine.

The Galway West TD wrote to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on October 5th asking “if his department by indicating support for the Jewish character of the Israeli state agrees with the treatment by Israel of Palestinian communities in its attempts to accomplish Jewish supremacy; his views on whether these attempts to perpetuate the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians amount to apartheid; and if he will make a statement on the matter”.

In response to the question, Mr Shatter has written to the clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, seeking an apology and also an examination of the issue by the Dáil’s Oversight Committee.

Mr Shatter said the content of the question was “deeply offensive”, and “caused both me and other members of Ireland’s Jewish community distress and considerable unease”.

He also said the “seriousness of the matter is compounded by the question’s author being the Leas Cheann Comhairle”.

“This is a dangerous and slippery slope, and I am asking specifically that the conduct, question and appropriateness of the language used by the Deputy be addressed by the committee, and that consideration be given as to whether her retaining her position as Leas Cheann Comhairle damages the Dáil’s credibility and reputation.”

He also asked that an apology be issued to the Irish Jewish community.

The Irish Times submitted written questions to Ms Connolly’s office and she did not respond.

Strong connection

In his response to the parliamentary question, Mr Coveney said the Government respected “the strong connection between the Jewish people and the state of Israel”.

“By their very nature all states have certain inherent characteristics. However, regardless of how a state may name and define itself – be it socialist, democratic, united, Islamic, Arab or Jewish – full respect for the equal rights of all citizens – irrespective of ethnicity, religion, or other similar factors – is strictly required under international human rights law.

“It is imperative that the rights of non-Jewish citizens of Israel are not infringed and that there is respect and tolerance for the diversity of its population.”

He said that in respect of the occupied Palestinian territory, the Government was clear on Israel’s responsibility under international humanitarian law “to respect the rights of the civilian population living under its occupation, who have the status of protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, for as long as the occupation continues”.

“I have raised these issues consistently and vocally, both publicly and in conversations with Israeli government interlocutors. I will continue to do so.”

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