US lobbied FF to block Seanad vote on Israeli boycott

Ballot to ban Israeli goods from occupied Palestinian territories passes in Seanad

Fianna Fáil has confirmed that it was lobbied by the US State Department, the US embassy in Dublin and the Israeli embassy in an effort to get the party to withdraw its support for a Bill which would ban goods from occupied Palestinian territories.

A party spokesman confirmed to The Irish Times that the contacts were "cordial" and the party clarified its position, confirming that it intended to support the Bill.

Fianna Fáil support is crucial to the Bill as it is strongly opposed by the Government. The Bill, proposed by Independent Senator Frances Back, passed its first vote in the Seanad on Wednesday by 25 votes to 20 with the support of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and several Independent Senators.

Once it passes through the Seanad, it must then pass through the Dáil before becoming law. If supported by the same coalition of parties and Independents, it would have sufficient support to pass in the Dáil and become law.


However, the Government says the Bill cannot be brought into force as trade is an EU competence. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who spoke against the proposed legisation in the Seanad, said he was obliged to follow the advice of the Attorney General on the Bill.

Mr Coveney met with Ms Black and supporters of the Bill on Wednesday in an attempt to persuade them to withdraw it. Political sources said they expect the Government to use procedural devices to delay or block it when it returns to the Seanad in the autumn.

Nonetheless, supporters – which included many Palestinian representatives in the Oireachtas on Wednesday – were ecstatic at its passage. If passed, it would be the first such law in any western country and campaigners say they will use its example to campaign for a broader international movement against goods form Israeli settlements.

The vote was preceded by a sometimes emotional debate in which most speakers sympathised with the Palestinian cause.

Independent Senator Marie Louise O'Donnell said: "Personally, I would like to see sanctions against Israel for crimes against humanity." Several speakers compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, a comparison Israel rejects vigorously.

Mr Coveney said the Bill would not do anything to aid Ireland’s efforts to promote peace in the region. Palestinian representatives welcomed the vote, describing it as “historic”.

Chairwoman of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ms Fatin Al Tamimi, said: "Once again Ireland is making history and leading the way in its solidarity with the Palestinian people. These have been great months for Palestine in Ireland, a country which punches well above its weight when it comes to solidarity."

She said that seven local councils have voted to support the boycott and sanctions campaign and leading Irish artists were campaigning for a boycott of next year’s Eurovision song contest which takes place in Israel.

The Israeli embassy said the Seanad had supported “a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. The absurdity in the Seanad Éireann initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott. Israel will consider its response in accordance with developments regarding this legislation.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times