A notice of motion calling for a boycott of Israeli goods originating from occupied territories occupied by illegal settlers was defeated at last Monday’s meeting of Wicklow County Council.
he notice of motion was proposed by Cllr Anne Ferris, seconded by Cllr Paul O’Brien, and dated back to July of last year.
It stated: “It is the policy of Wicklow County Council not to purchase goods for services proposed or provided, in whole or part (as practicable), from illegally occupied territories by illegal settles, and that any such contracts should cease as soon as possible.”
Legal advice from Wicklow County Council’s Law Agent was read out, stating that the notice of motion wasn’t actionable and would be in breach of international trade agreements, and therefore it wouldn’t be possible to adopt the proposal.
Cllr Ferris explained: “Similar motions have been passed by Dublin City Council in 2018, South Dublin County Council in 2021 and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council in 2021. It only refers to goods in settlements which are illegal under international law. It’s not talking about all Israeli goods.”
Cllr Ferris added: “These settlements are illegal under international law and are an obstacle to peace. It’s an injustice for innocent families to be emptied from their land and homes by illegal settlers.”
Cllr Ferris had also spoken to the Palestinian Ambassador who was “pleased” the notice of motion was coming before the elected members.
Cllr Shay Cullen, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, commented: “I think this is a breach of our obligations from a legal basis, and so I can’t support the motion, though I know where you are coming from.”
Cllr John Snell was supportive of the motion, and also called for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador.
“At a previous meeting we were discussing expelling the Russian Ambassador and I said there is very little difference between what is happening in Ukraine and what is happening on the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“80 per cent of people are living below the poverty line and believe it or believe it not, people actually have more freedom in Kyiv than they do in that region.”
He went on to add: “You see youngsters with sling-shots and stones being bombarded with bullets and bombs. In my opinion the Israeli Ambassador should be expelled from Ireland as well.”
Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’Brien stated: “I think it’s important that we realise we are talking about an apartheid state. There are over six million Palestinian refugees on planet earth being refused the opportunity to return.”
Cllr Derek Mitchell said he wouldn’t be supporting the motion, given the legal advice provided.
“We have been given legal advice and we aren’t a foreign policy body. There are loads of disputes around the world where people have been displaced. I do have some sympathy with the view that Israel hasn’t done enough to address the Palestinian issue, which they created.”
Cllr John Mullen said there were more appropriate bodies to tackle the issues raised than Wicklow County Council.
“I would like to support the motion but not in face of the legal advice,” he said.
Cllr Joe Behan said he would be voting against the motion.
“I don’t agree we have the proper authority or the public support to start interfering in goings-on in the Middle East.
“We had the farcical situation here in the Council Chamber a few weeks back where we couldn’t discuss the Blessington Greenway, but now we are going to solve the problems in the Middle East.”
Cllr Gerry O’Neill said: “I Fully support the motion and support everything Cllr Ferris said.”
Cllr Erika Doyle stated: “I do support the motion but am uncomfortable voting against legal advice.”
Six Councillors voted in favour, nine against, nine abstained and eight weren’t present, so the notice of motion wasn’t passed.