Like many of you I have been shocked and distressed by the appalling events in the Middle East. The attack by Hamas fighters which targeted civilians cannot be defended. Mary Lou McDonald spoke for all of us when she unreservedly condemned these actions and called for the release of all hostages.
The response of the Israeli regime demands equal repudiation and condemnation. Its apartheid regime has inflicted decades of brutality on the Palestinian people. The denial of basic civil and human rights, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, the ruthless suppression of everything Palestinian, and the repeated breaches of international law are the backdrop to the current horror that is dominating our news.
I find it very difficult to believe that Israeli intelligence agencies did not have some advance information on the Hamas attacks. Operations involving hundreds, perhaps thousands of Hamas personnel are obviously very hard to keep secret. Yet those involved were able to go deep into Israeli territory and to return without being challenged in many cases.
If the Israeli authorities did not know of the threat then that raises many questions. But if someone did know and allowed it to proceed unchallenged then it is even worse. It is clear that the Zionists have no interest in a two state settlement. Recent developments, intentionally or otherwise, suit this agenda.
The international community has much to answer for in this regard. Gaza and its two million inhabitants has been a prison for almost 20 years. Israel steals Palestinian land, water, and builds settlements in breach of international law. There is no peace process in the Middle East. The international community has turned a blind eye to the ill-treatment of the Palestinian people and in refusing to challenge Israeli occupation and apartheid law they have created the context for the current crisis.
In addition, Israeli politicians are increasingly and openly speaking of annexing the West Bank. The demand that one million people evacuate Gaza City suggests that if Israel successfully occupies Gaza City they will not leave.
Gaza is an impoverished beleaguered society where more than half of its citizens are children. They are innocent civilians facing the might of Israeli military forces armed with the most modern weapons of destruction. For too long the international community has failed to uphold international law and norms. On the contrary, they have supported the law breakers.
Support for an Israeli assault on Gaza is totally wrong. Even conditional or qualified support is wrong. There is no military solution. The ongoing Israeli assault will not end the conflict. It will simply store up more grievances and more bitterness to feed the current and future conflicts.
There is an onus on the United Nations, as the lead international authority, to urgently and immediately put forward its own peace initiative. As a start all armed actions by all sides should cease. Humanitarian aid is immediately required for all those impacted by the events of the last two weeks, but especially in Gaza where the infrastructure has been devastated. People have a right to the basics of living. That means water, food, shelter, electricity and medical treatment. We need dialogue to begin right away. The United States, the European Union, the Organisation of African Unity, and the countless other international bodies that exist, have a responsibility to encourage a ceasefire and dialogue.
The Irish government has an important international voice in this. It has already spoken publicly of Israel breaching international law and of engaging in collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza. It must use that voice loudly and clearly now by demanding that international law is applied equally. The Irish government should join with other governments in a peacemaking initiative.Statements on their own are not enough. Now is the time for Ireland to take the lead.
The Moore Street Preservation Trusts 1916 Women’s Tour was a great success. Hosted by renowned singer and actress Imelda May, and narrated by Liz Gillis and Honor Ó Brolcháin, everyone on the tour learned a lot.
A huge crowd gathered Saturday, October14 at the GPO in Dublin before making its way through the laneways of history. We said YES to a regenerated 1916 Cultural Quarter to celebrate and enhance this national monument site and NO to a developer’s plan to destroy it. Well done to everyone involved.
CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY VOTE
Exactly one year after the first Peoples Assembly on Irish Unity was held in Belfast the ninth such conference took place in Waterford. The Waterford event was held Thursday October 12 in the Tower Hotel in Waterford. Other conversations have taken place in Belfast, Derry, on the border at Carrickcarnon, in Donegal, Dublin and now in Waterford. Another is planned for 27 November in the Galway Gaeltacht. There have also been online events attracting hundreds of participants.
The Commission on the Future of Ireland was established by Sinn Féin to undertake a grassroots consultation with the people of Ireland and internationally on the future of our island. The underlying ethos of this significant initiative is "The New Ireland is for Everyone - Have Your Say." Consequently, the public meetings have also included engagements with young people, women, and trade unionists. An important theme has also been reaching out to those from the Unionist/Protestant/Loyalist section of our people.
The Waterford event was chaired by Liz Reddy and the panel included Catherine Ní Fhaoláin, John Halligan and Irial Mac Murchú. For two hours the panel and audience held a fascinating conversation on the future of the island of Ireland. At the end of the meeting the packed hall unanimously backed the call for the Irish government to organise a Citizens’ Assembly to begin the work of planning for the unity referendum that is part of the Good Friday Agreement.
The contributions during the discussion ranged across the adverse impact of partition on Waterford and the southern economy; the advantage of building a single all-island health service funded by direct taxation; the damage done by Brexit; engaging with the Protestant/Unionist people, and the imperative of creating a new Ireland that embraces everyone on the basis of equality and respect.
It was also pointed out that in recent years there has been a significant growth in North/South trade and this underpins the enormous economic potential that can be generated by unity.
Thus far, the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green government has resisted any arguments in favor of a citizens’ assembly. Their approach is dictated by a desire to avoid challenging the British government and to maintain a Southern status quo that has benefited Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for almost a century. This is not acceptable. There is a growing demand for constitutional change.
Sinn Féin is very keen to hear the views of as many citizens as possible on the future of Ireland. Submissions to the Commission can be made online at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the webpage www.sinnfein.ie/futureofireland