A majority of Fermanagh Councillors have agreed to write to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Prime Minister David Cameron, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan TD and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond MP with this request.
Independent Councillor Bernice Swift brought forward the proposal, saying: “I will not sit idly by and turn a blind eye to the horrors of genocide ongoing in Gaza on a daily basis. I want to send a clear diplomatic message to the state of Israel that these actions are not acceptable and the Irish people will not tolerate them.”
On the on-going conflict, Councillor Swift said: “Everyone wants peace but they want a peace with justice and that justice must include an ending of the blockade and a long term plan enabling the Palestinian and Israeli people to live in peace. To end this cycle of violence, Israel must begin to tackle the causes of Palestinian oppression not merely the symptoms.”
She feels strongly that “the Irish and UK governments must play a practical role.”
In response UUP Councillor Raymond Farrell said he would not support the proposal, stating: “No, I can’t support that. I truly believe that the Council should be concerned on a humanitarian level, but my concern is that this motion does not take on the full story.”
He said: “Hundreds of rockets are fired into Israel each day and if it wasn’t for Israel’s Iron Dome system, we would be looking thousands of casualties in the nation of Israel.” He added: “Hamas is no friend of anyone and, if we are to associate ourselves with that organisation, I would have no part to play in that.” He added: “We need to bring people together”, and said that “Hamas want to obliterate the nation of Israel.”
Chairman of Fermanagh District Council Bert Johnston interjected: “I couldn’t agree with you more.”
UUP Councillor Robert Irvine said it is “abominable” that Israel is targeting children, but pointed to “a dozen humanitarian crises across the globe, including Syria, Libya and Ukraine.” He said: “It’s not an issue that we can get to the bottom of.”
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGovern admitted that he is “no expert on the Middle East”, adding; “But I love children, and Palestinian children are being slaughtered.” He continued: “How Councillor Farrell, who is a decent man, could associate himself with Israel just beggars belief.”
An irate Councillor Farrell interjected: “Are you suggesting that I am supporting the murder of children in Gaza?”, to which Councillor McGovern replied: “I am not.”
Councillor Farrell said: “if I could do anything to help those children, I would”, to which Councillor McGovern replied: “It just beggars belief that there isn’t more outrage at the killing of innocent children.”
Sinn Féin’s Barry Doherty warned Raymond Farrell that “if you bring moral equivalence to the actions of Israel and Gaza, you are on dodgy ground,” to which Councillor Farrell retorted: “I don’t need any lectures from you on morals.”
Eleven Councillors (nine Sinn Féin; Independent Bernice Swift; and SDLP’s Brendan Gallagher) voted for the motion and 10 voted against (six UUP and four DUP Councillors), with the SDLP’s John O’Kane abstaining from the vote.