Call on Ireland to seek safe passage for Gaza flotilla

AFP , Monday 20 Jun 2011

Activists from the Freedom ship urge the Irish government to seek access from Israel to reach the Gaza port amid fears of an Israeli attack similar to last year's

Irish activists who plan to join an international aid flotilla to Gaza called Monday for the Irish government to urge Israel to allow the ships free passage to the Palestinian enclave.

About 25 passengers and crew will travel on the ship "Saoirse" (Gaelic for freedom) in the flotilla of about a dozen vessels involving activists from more than 20 countries, the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign (ISG) announced.

In May last year, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists when they boarded a Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, during an attempt to break the Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza involving a flotilla that also included an Irish ship.

"This is going to be a very significant challenge to the Israeli blockade and we are absolutely determined to make it to Gaza and we hope that Israel will not impede the flotilla," ISG co-ordinator Fintan Lane, who participated in last year's flotilla, told a press conference in Dublin.

"We call upon the Irish government to ask the Israeli government to allow us free access to the port of Gaza. Israel has absolutely no right, legal or moral, to stop the flotilla," he said.

Lane called on the Irish government, along with other governments, to condemn the Israeli threats of violence.

"Israel has openly threatened to attack the flotilla. That is unacceptable and it should be condemned by all governments and the international community," Lane said.

"If the Israelis intervene it will be an attack," he added.

About 130,000 euros ($185,000) was raised in Ireland to fund the campaign and the ship will carry aid items such as medicines and sports equipment.

"This is a civil society project. It is an act of solidarity, an act of empathy between the ordinary people of Ireland and the ordinary people of Gaza," Lane said.

The ISG expects the Saoirse to reach a point at which the ships of the flotilla are expected to gather some time around 27 or 28 June.

It will then be about 16 hours sailing time from Gaza or about six hours from the area where the confrontation occurred with the Israelis last year.

The ISG named 19 people planning to sail on the Saoirse including a Socialist Party Euro-MP Paul Murphy, former Fianna Fail lawmaker Chris Andrews, former international rugby player Trevor Hogan and local councillors, trade unionists and activists from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Organisers said last week that the Mavi Marmara will not join the flotilla this year.

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