Taoiseach says it is not legally possible to implement Occupied Territories Bill

Taoiseach says it is not legally possible to implement Occupied Territories Bill
New Minister for Agriculture appointed

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the Irish Government cannot support the Occupied Territories Bill, as it is not legally possible to implement.

The Bill would ban imports from illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said his opposition to the Bill is not political, but based on clear legal advice from the former attorney general.

The issue of the bill was a sticking point in government formation talks in recent weeks, and was removed from the programme for government at the behest of Fine Gael.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the Irish Government to recognise the state of Palestine and accept the Occupied Territories Bill.

Speaking in the Dail on Tuesday, she said: “You have the power here to recognise the State of Palestine. As you know, that matter was settled and agreed by the Oireachtas six years ago. I’m saying to you as Taoiseach – do it. Do it while there still is a Palestinian State to recognise.”

Ms McDonald said the Bill is a “game changer” and said the Taoiseach should lead the way on the issue.

She said: “On the Occupied Territories Bill, you know fine well there has been a strong push back against this legislation because it would be ground breaking, because it would change in diplomatic and legal terms how the issue of the occupation and the economy of the occupation which the Israeli state has carefully fostered.”

Ms McDonald criticised the decision to exclude the Bill from the Programme for Government. “When I asked one of the Green Party TDs what happened to the bill they answered in two words – Simon Coveney.”

Mr Martin replied: “It is not legally possible to do it. The advice is there and they are quite substantial. In terms of the bill itself  – let’s be very clear. I met with the advocates and principals behind the bill.

“No one ever said to me that it was going to be a game changer. Let’s keep it in perspective and let’s keep some reality to this – no one said it would be a game changer.”

Mr Martin said the Irish Government “needs to take a stand” in relation to any proposals by the Israeli government to anexe more lands.

“I know it has not happened yet but there is significant opposition to that,” he said.

“I think the issue of the recognition of the Palestinian state is an issue that is on the agenda for the Programme for Government.

He said Ms McDonald and her party should raise the issue the next time they are in the United States, adding: “The next time you’re on Capitol Hill and your party is on Capitol Hill, you might raise it with Congressmen and senators there. 

“When you go to the United States I don’t get any sense that you raise this with the same degree of commitment as here in the House. That’s my sense of it.”

Mr Martin said the Irish Government is committed to the two-state solution.

He added: “I think Israeli Government policy is wrong and Israeli government policy is not conducive to the two-state solution or better relationships.

“Ultimately, people have to live together and they have to share that territory ultimately.”

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