It is “hypocritical” that Ireland has investments in businesses that operate in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard. Sinn Féin TD John Brady made the remarks as he quizzed Department of Finance secretary general John Hogan on Irish investments in companies that do business in the controversial settlements in Palestinian territory.
Earlier this year Mr Brady’s party put forward a proposed Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill 2023. The Government passed an amendment that delayed progress on the Bill to allow for further consideration of the legislation.
Mr Brady told PAC that the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (Isif) has made investments in business entities that are included in a United Nations database of companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He asked Mr Hogan about Sinn Féin’s legislation aimed at ending such investments.
Mr Hogan confirmed he was aware of the Bill, and said his officials recently appeared at the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs in relation to it. He said both that committee and the department were seeking legal advice on the legislation.
Mr Hogan said his understanding was that the Isif has invested in 11 companies that appear on the UN’s database. There were “challenges” surrounding Sinn Féin’s legislation, and the rationale behind the timed amendment was so that work could be done in the background “to see...what is feasible in relation to this”.
Mr Brady said the scale of the investments was €4.2 million overall, “which is €4.2 million too much”.
Mr Hogan said one issue was that the UN’s database was “probably incomplete” and businesses were added but also removed. He said that in the past when there have been issues in relation to particular industries or aspects of investments the Isif had made changes. He referenced instances related to cluster munitions, fossil fuels and tobacco. “I think the challenge here is just to make sure that we understand the issues at play and what the implications are.”
He later said the €4.2 million was “a relatively modest sum of money” in the context of Isif’s overall portfolio.
Mr Brady agreed, but said “the point is that it is the stated Government position that the settlements are illegal”. It was a “hypocritical position” that the State and taxpayers were shareholders “in the expansion of the illegal settlements”.
Mr Hogan said: “We’re engaging with the Bill, we’re looking at it and the implications.”
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