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The Occupied Territories Bill

Sir, – In her letter of October 12th, Jackie Goodall makes a series of false assertions in dismissing the three legal opinions relied upon to demonstrate the compatibility of the Occupied Territories Bill (“the Bill”) with EU law as having “no solid foundation”. The first opinion she refers to was written by Prof James Crawford, now a judge of the International Court of Justice. The fact that his opinion addressed the general principle of banning trade with Israeli settlements rather than the Bill specifically is immaterial insofar as that is exactly what the Bill aims to do.

The same is true of the second opinion referred to, that of Irish senior counsel Michael Lynn, rendering meaningless Ms Goodall’s reference to the fact that it was written “long before the Bill was ever conceived”. In any event, Mr Lynn has since confirmed in an opinion he was requested to submit to the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs that the Bill is compatible with EU law.

The third opinion referred to was authored by Prof Takis Tridimas of King’s College London, a leading authority on EU law who is cited frequently by both the Irish courts and the advocates general of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Ms Goodall’s casual dismissal of Prof Tridimas’s opinion – which unequivocally concludes that the Bill is compatible with EU law – as being based on “fundamental errors of fact” is risible.

The only facts he relied upon were those accepted by the International Court of Justice in 2004 as providing a basis for its finding that the settlements are illegal.

Ms Goodall also mischaracterises the position with regard to the potential of the Bill to expose Ireland to fines and damages claims. As outlined by Michael Lynn SC, if in the unlikely event that the Court of Justice of the European Union were to rule that the Bill is incompatible with EU law, Ireland would be exposed to fines and damages claims only if the Government (without need for the approval of the Oireachtas) subsequently refused to comply with that decision under the powers vested in it by the European Communities Act, 1972.

Finally, an opinion submitted to the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs by Sari Bashi of Yale Law School, an expert on US federal and state laws which prohibit boycotts of Israel, confirms that any fears about US companies pulling out of Ireland as a result of the Bill are unfounded. This is primarily because the Bill does not prescribe a boycott of Israel (indeed it does not even mention Israel) and because US multinationals do not tend to do business with the settlements – hardly surprising when the Department of Foreign Affairs has warned that to do so would “entail legal and economic risks” stemming from their illegality.

The reliability of the Ireland Israel Alliance’s legal claims are perhaps best judged in light of Ms Goodall’s final suggestion that the solution to Israel’s illegal settlements is to facilitate dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

Perhaps the Garda Síochána should now start tackling crime in Ireland by facilitating dialogue between criminals and their victims too? – Yours, etc,

GERRY LISTON,

Legal Officer,

Sadaka – the

Ireland Palestine Alliance,

PO Box 110,

Ballyshannon PO,

Co Donegal.