The Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which includes 11 Irish people, expects to arrive at it's destination within 48 hours despite Israel's vow to block the mission from delivering much needed aid to the beleaguered coastal strip. A forum of seven senior Israeli ministers who met on Wednesday 26th May have decided that the Israeli Navy will enforce a twenty mile exclusion zone around Gaza and will arrest all 800 crew and passengers taking part in the Freedom Flotilla should they pursue their mission to break the ongoing siege of Gaza.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) wishes to express its solidarity with the 'Freedom Flotilla', consisting of nine ships, that is currently attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Among the ships heading towards Gaza is the 1,200 tonne Irish cargo ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, which is owned by the Free Gaza Movement. The ship is carrying a cargo of cement and other vital reconstruction materials for the people of Gaza.
Israel has vowed to block the Freedom Flotilla from docking in Gaza. After a hearing from defence officials a forum of seven senior ministers decided on Wednesday not to let the ships dock, but to offer to unload the cargo inspect it and send it to Gaza via the United Nations.The ministers decided that the ships would be directed to Ashdod by force if necessary. The activists would be arrested and expelled from the country.
Speaking on behalf of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Dr Fintan Lane (IPSC Media Officer and a 'Freedom Flotilla' participant) said: "The siege of Gaza has created a humanitarian and political crisis that cannot be ignored. We are determined to break Israel's blockade and will not be intimidated. The people of Gaza have a right to access to the outside world and the right to determine their own future."
He continued: "The siege of Gaza is a collective punishment against the Palestinian people because they dared to resist Israeli apartheid rule. The suffering that Israel is causing is an outrage and the international community must stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Direct action is entirely appropriate and we intend to make it clear that we stand with the Palestinian resistance to oppression and apartheid. We are not neutral in this struggle for human rights and self-determination."
Aengus O’Snodaigh TD who is also a participant said,“We will not allow our flotilla to be divided. We will stay with our cargo ships – they are the core of the flotilla carrying essential construction materials denied entry into Gaza – cement, steel, and houses. This action is not a symbolic gesture but a concrete intervention to allow the people of Gaza to rebuild their lives with dignity."
In addition to the involvement of the MV Rachel Corrie, a number of Irish politicians and human rights activists will be participating in the flotilla as crew and as passengers. The Irish participants in the flotilla are Denis Halliday (Dublin), Caoimhe Butterly (Dublin/Cork), Chris Andrews TD (Dublin), Fintan Lane (Cork/Dublin), Mairead Maguire (Belfast), Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (Dublin), Senator Mark Daly (Kerry) and Fiachra Ó Luain (Donegal). The Irish crew members on the MV Rachel Corrie are Derek Graham (Mayo), Jenny Graham (Mayo) and Shane Dillon (Dublin). For further biographical information on the Irish participants, please go to the end of this press release. The participants include members of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Free Gaza Movement.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON THE IRISH PARTICIPANTS
Denis Halliday was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated at Trinity College Dublin. He is a former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed him to the post of United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq as of 1 September 1997, at the Assistant Secretary-General level, and he served as such until the end of September 1998. He resigned from the post in Iraq and from the United Nations as a whole effective 31 October 1998 after serving the organisation since mid 1964 - some 34 years. He has been a strong opponent of the US/UK-led war in Iraq.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel peace prize laureate, was co-founder of the Community of Peace People for a peaceful resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict. She has been to Palestine several times defending the human rights. In April 2007, she was wounded by the Israeli army while non-violently protesting with Palestinians against the apartheid wall in the village of Bil'in. This will be her third trip to Gaza on board one of the Free Gaza boats.
Derek Graham is from Ballina in County Mayo. He has been a qualified electrician for 20 years. He was a member of the reserve defence forces in Ireland for 21 years and was the first member of the reserves to make the Army sailing team. He has been sailing all of his life and is a crew member on the MV Rachel Corrie. He has participated in many previous Free Gaza boat trips to Gaza and has been on four of the five voyages that landed in Gaza. He is married to Jenny, who is also on the MV Rachel Corrie.
Jenny Graham is from County Mayo and is a member of the Free Gaza Movement. She has participated in previous boat trips to Gaza and is a member of the crew of the MV Rachel Corrie. She is married to Derek Graham.
Shane Dillon is a Dublin-based Irish seafarer who has served as Chief Officer on Irish and British merchant ships. He has sailed on numerous leisure craft on transatlantic trips and in European waters. He is part of the crew of the MV Rachel Corrie.
Caoimhe Butterly (born 1978) is a Dublin-born Irish human rights activist, who has worked with AIDS victims in Zimbabwe, the homeless in New York, and with Zapatistas in Mexico as well as more recently in the Middle East and Haiti. In 2002, during an Israeli attack in Jenin, she was shot by an Israeli soldier. She spent 16 days inside the compound where Yasser Arafat was besieged in Ramallah. She was described by Time magazine as one of their Europeans of the Year in 2003. Butterly is a pacifist who is a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), an organisation that seeks non-violent alternatives to armed intifada by mobilising international civil society. She is a coordinator with the Free Gaza Movement.
Fintan Lane is a writer and historian. He is a member of the National Committee of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Originally from Cork, he now lives in Chapelizod in Dublin. He graduated with a PhD in history from University College, Cork and is the author/editor of seven books on modern Irish history; he has also contributed many articles and reviews to academic history journals. He was the Editor of Saothar, the scholarly journal of Irish labour history, for several years.
Senator Mark Daly is a Fianna Fáil member of Senead Eireann from County Kerry. He was elected as one of the youngest members of the 23rd Senate in the 2007 election and has been active in community affairs and local politics since college. He was born in Kerry in 1973 and holds a Diploma in Property Valuation from Dublin Institute of Technology and a B.Sc. in Management from Greenwich University, London.
Chris Andrews TD (born 25 May 1964) is an Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He is currently a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South East constituency. He was first elected to the Dáil at the 2007 general election.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD is a native Irish speaker who was born in Dublin in 1964. Aengus is married to Aisling and has three children. He was first elected in 2002 to the Dáil (Irish parliament) and re-elected in 2007. He is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on social and family affairs, housing, justice and international affairs. He travelled by boat in November 2008 to Gaza which was (and still is) under siege by Israel.
Fiachra Ó Luain is from County Donegal. He is an Irish peace activist and was an independent candidate in the North-West constituency in the 2009 European elections. He was compelled to become a candidate upon watching the massacres of Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’. He is a member of the Free Gaza Movement.