Martin calls on Israel to show restraint with Irish boat

MARY FITZGERALD and ALISON HEALY, The Irish Times, June 3, 2010

IRISH APPEAL: THE GOVERNMENT yesterday repeated calls for Israel to exercise restraint in dealing with an Irish-owned boat currently en route to Gaza to deliver aid in defiance of the Israeli blockade of the territory.

The Government has urged Israel to allow the MV Rachel Corrie, whose crew includes five Irish citizens, safe passage to discharge its cargo.

The activists onboard expect to reach the exclusion zone off Gaza by late Friday. Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil yesterday that the Government has been maintaining close contact with the 1,200-ton boat which was supposed to join the aid flotilla raided by Israeli commandos on Monday but had been delayed due to mechanical problems.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he had stressed the importance of restraint in conversations with Israel’s ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony.

“We have continued to make it clear to the Israeli government ... that we want maximum restraint and we do not want any interception in international waters,” Mr Martin said.

“It has been a terrible week in terms of the loss of life and there is now an obligation on all involved to reduce tensions ... It is extremely important that we do not have a repeat of what happened earlier this week.”

Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, whose plans to travel with the flotilla were scuppered when authorities in Cyprus did not allow him board the ships last week, said there were plans for another aid flotilla to Gaza.

“The events ... have only made people more determined,” he said, adding that if force were used against the MV Rachel Corrie , there “will be consequences for that”.

Green Party leader John Gormley said Israel’s attack on the flotilla showed it can act with “virtual impunity” because of “policy incoherence” at EU level.

“We don’t have that coherent response at a foreign policy level. That’s what’s required and if we had that I think Israel would listen.

“But at the moment they can act with virtual impunity because of the incoherence at European level and because they continue to get not just outright support but tacit support as well from the US.”

Mr Evrony has postponed an appearance in front of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee, which was scheduled to take place today. Committee chairman Dr Michael Woods said the postponement was “most disappointing”.

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