Ireland presses Israel to let Gaza aid boat through

02 June 2010 - 15:13 By Andrew Bushe

The MV Rachel Corrie—thought to be carrying 15 people including a Nobel Prize winner and a former senior United Nations official—is in the Mediterranean en route to Gaza, where it could arrive next Monday.

But the Irish government and activists want urgent assurances from Israel that it will be allowed to dock safely, as 682 people from 42 nations detained Monday in a bloody raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla were deported.

“I again repeat my urgent call to the Israeli government to allow safe passage of the Irish owned vessel, the MV Rachel Corrie, which is still sailing towards Gaza to deliver its consignment of humanitarian aid,” said Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin.

“It is imperative that there should be no further confrontation or bloodshed arising from what has been all along a purely humanitarian mission by those involved in the Gaza flotilla.

“The government will be maintaining close contact with the Israeli government on this issue in the coming days.” Martin also welcomed the decision to release six Irish citizens held after the operation against the aid flotilla, saying he looked forward to their “prompt and safe return”.

On Tuesday, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the Rachel Corrie must be allowed to reach Gaza and warned of “the most serious consequences” if Irish citizens were injured.

Campaign group Free Gaza Ireland, which has members on board the ship, also urged Israel to offer assurances on its safety.

“She’s in the Mediterranean. she is going to go to Gaza. We’re looking for assurances that we’ll get in safely,” Niamh Moloughney of Free Gaza Ireland told AFP.

“She’s in between Crete and the north African coast,” she added, adding that the vessel could dock in another port to pick up more passengers.

The ship, named after an American peace activist crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in March 2003, has delayed plans to dock within a day or two in Gaza and could now arrive next Monday.

Five of those on board are Irish, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, 66, and former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, according to the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is organising a wave of protests across Ireland in the coming days.

Gerry Adams, president of Irish republican party Sinn Fein, joined calls for the Rachel Corrie to be allowed through to Gaza despite an Israeli blockade.

“A ship flying the Irish flag has to be respected,” he told BBC television.

Adams, whose party is now in a power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland after years of bloody sectarian unrest, also urged Israel and Hamas to hold peace talks or risk further “generations and decades of violence”.

“There should be a genuine peace process. Dialogue is what is required—it’s within the wit of politicians and the judgement should be made on them as to whether they rise to this challenge,” Adams added.