Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Defence, Seán Crowe TD, called on the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, to not sign any new contracts with Israeli military firms when he visits the region this weekend. He said Ireland needs to distance its Defence Forces as far away as possible from Israel’s military infrastructure
In a response to a PQ tabled by Deputy Crowe, Minister Coveney had stated: “I intend to travel to the Middle East (Lebanon and Israel) between 4 and 7 December, with the primary purpose of visiting the Irish troops serving with UN missions in the region – UNIFIL, UNDOF and UNTSO.”
Deputy Crowe said
“I welcome the visit of Minister Coveney to Irish troops who are working on UN peacekeeping missions in the Middle East.
“Sinn Féin, in the Dáil, opposed the sending of Irish troops to the UNDOF mission to the Golan Heights, due to mounting security and safety concerns, and the EU’s decision to lift an embargo on member states sending weapons to militant groups in Syria.
“However as long as Irish troops are stationed there, their safety and wellbeing is our primary concern.
“I am conscious that the Minister will see their actual living conditions and experience first-hand the ground conditions where they are operating .
However Crowe continued:
“During his visit to Israel I am calling on the Minister to not sign any new contracts with Israeli military companies and calling on him to publically confirm his position on possible future military contracts.
“Former Minister Alan Shatter, in May of this year, stated that the value of military equipment acquired or being acquired from Israeli companies since March 2011 is the region of €2.9 million.
“A Sunday Tribune article from January 2010 suggested that between 2004 and 2009 the Department of Defence spent almost €14 million on military equipment made by Israeli manufacturers.
“In my opinion Ireland should not be buying any military hardware off Israel and it should be distancing itself from Israel’s military industrial complex and military aggression, which is responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and continued violations of international law.
“I am also extremely disappointed that Minister Coveney is not planning to visit Palestine or meet any Palestinian leaders, especially considering he is the first Government Minister to visit the region since the horrific bombardment of Gaza.
“Recent months have also seen the ratcheting up and rise of tension around sensitive religious sites in Occupied East Jerusalem and the continued illegal land grabbing of Palestinian land.
“The Minister could have added one day to schedule and visited Palestine to meet with Palestinian leaders. He could have visited Gaza and seen with his own eyes, Irish Aid and EU Aid supported projects and how they have been impacted by Israel’s military latest military adventure.
“This is a bad precedent to set and I will be raising it with the Minister on his return.”