A town council’s decision to rip out a page from a guest book signed by the Israeli ambassador was criticised by the Foreign Minister Micheál Martin today.
Local representatives in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, voted to remove Dr Zion Evrony’s signature from the distinguished visitors’ register in protest at his country’s diplomatic record.
The council’s move came after reports that fake Irish passports had been used by suspected Israeli assassins in the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai.
Micheál Martin, fresh from a trip to war-ravaged Gaza, said all international ambassadors deserved to be treated respectfully.
“I fully understand and share the deep concerns which many people in Ireland feel in regard to Israel’s policies on a number of issues,” he said.
“However, it is a basic principle of relations between states that we treat each other’s diplomatic representatives with civility and respect, regardless of any policy differences.”
Mr Martin said he had raised concerns about the passport controversy and the West Bank issue when he met the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and visited Gaza last week.
“Ambassadors represent not just their governments but their peoples,” he added. “In turn, the way that foreign ambassadors are welcomed and received in Ireland says something about us as a people.
“Foreign ambassadors are free to travel in Ireland and I encourage them to do so.”
News of the Carrickmacross decision has spread to the international media, with the Jewish Chronicle likening the town council’s vote to a scene from TV comedy Father Ted.
Local Sinn Féin councillor Matt Carthy, who tabled the visitors’ book motion, said he hoped the removal of the page would send a serious message to the Israeli government.
“I think if a government is responsible for a wholesale disregard for international law then local authorities as well as our own Government have a responsibility to tell them we expect a higher standard,” he said.
“Carrickmacross is a very welcoming town but it was important that we took a stand.”
Mr Carthy, who took part in a protest during Ambassador Evrony’s visit to the market town in January, said the decision was not a snub to all Israelis.
“Certainly any Israeli individual who wanted to visit Carrickmacross is very welcome to visit but this was an official visit which meant our council was associated with it,” he said.
“This is a visit that was organised without the approval of the council. I think maybe the ambassador should wait until he’s invited somewhere before he invites himself.”