‘Derry is the capital of solidarity’ - Donegal campaigner calls for Trade Union solidarity with Palestine

One of the speakers at the Rally for Palestine at Free Derry Corner on Saturday last was Freedom Flotilla survivor Fiachra Ó Luain from Inishowen.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 9:07 am

Fiachra thanked the crowd for the support and solidarity expressed by the people of Derry and Donegal when he and 700 others were kidnapped and taken hostage by the Shayetet 13 (Israeli Navy Seals) while in International Waters on May 31st 2010.

Ten activists were shot dead aboard the Mavi Marmara. The hostages from that and five other boats were taken to the port of Ashdod before being transferred to a high security prison in the Negev desert where they were kept for a number of days, sparked global concern.

“These protests are very important; they really make the difference. International Solidarity is what oxygenates the lifeblood of Palestine in the face of overwhelming adversity and as far as Palestinians are concerned, there is no Solidarity quite like Irish Solidarity, and within Ireland, Derry is the Capital of Solidarity!” Fiachra said.

Fiachra Ó Luain, who was on board the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" attacked by the Israeli military on 31 May 2010, speaking at the Palestinian Solidarity rally at Free Derry Wall on Saturday afternoon last, Photo: George Sweeney. DER2121GS – 081

Fiachra related his experience of meetings with current Taoiseach, then Foreign Minister Micheál Martin and members of the Fine Gael party in the aftermath of the 2010 flotilla and how easy it seemed to get political focus on solutions for Palestine during those brief moments when there was considerable media attention on the situation in Palestine.

Micheál Martin called the flotilla a “game-changer” and referred to a meeting with Catherine Ashton, then High Representative of the European Union and VP of the EU Commission as well as other EU Foreign Ministers and Tony Blair of the “Quartet” on June 14th 2010.

A partial lifting of the siege of Gaza, allowing certain goods to enter had been negotiated in exchange for the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilan Shilat.

This occurred after the US and UK had told Israel that their blockade of Gaza was “unsustainable” in the aftermath of the 2010 flotilla.

Attendees at the Palestinian Lives Matter rally marched from Free Derry Cormer to Guildhall Square.

“That partial lifting was not satisfactory, because what is needed are complete and total ends to the Siege of Gaza and the Occupation of Palestine, we need to keep pushing<” Fiachra said.

“We’ve seen what the end of a military occupation looks like here at the turn of the century, well the exact same thing needs to happen over there. It shows we are going in the right direction when Israel’s allies tell them that the game is up. It just goes to show what people power can do; we are the game changers. The speed at which change happened after the 2010 flotilla shows that it is only a question of knowing how to get enough public focus on such situations for change to occur.

“Last week France used the word ‘Apartheid’ to describe Israel for the first time. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.

“What do we do with this energy? How can we apply it affect meaningful change? Solidarity through the trade union movement, community groups and political parties.

“I agree with what Eamon McCann said at the rally, the support for Palestine that we are now seeing emerge from the United States is unprecedented and game-changing. Another politician we spoke with in the aftermath of the 2010 flotilla is current Labour Secretary of the Biden Administration, Marty Walsh, when he was in the Massachusetts State House.

“Marty, who cut his political teeth in South Boston politics and within the trade unions acknowledged that the lessons we have learned from Ireland must also be applied when we look at Palestine and Israel.

Common-sense Americans like Marty know that you can’t achieve peace without engaging with all parties meaningfully.

“We learned that here and we must apply that to Palestine and Israel now. And if you are in a political party, reach out to work with other parties on motions in support of Palestine. That kind of solidarity is really important.”

In recent letters to Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Ó Luain stresses how Ireland and other UN Security Council members such as Mexico must push for a genuine ceasefire, including an end of all attempts to change the demographic character of Jerusalem and West Bank before bringing about all-party talks, talks which include Hamas.

Speaking to the Derry Journal he added: “Just as we had all-party talks here at the beginning of our Peace Process following on from the Hume/Adams talks. We know in Derry how it works.”

In the past, the main obstacle to initiatives like these being taken has been the US veto , he said.

Mr O’Luain said that what he termed “blind support” must come to an end.

How do we do this? What can we do after the protests?

“We can join our unions, engage with our community groups and political parties, attend meetings, propose and support motions for justice and peace in Palestine.

“We can then push for motions of support internationally in places like Boston and Brussels, where we have many friends who care about peace just as much as we do. Join a union today and push for Peace and Justice in Palestine.”

As an example, Fiachra shared a recent motion passed by the Unite English Language Teachers’ branch in Ireland which asks the Government to challenge the narrative and calls for solidarity in the international Trade Union Movement to bring about an end to the Occupation of Palestine.

The Unite ELT branch motion expresses solidarity with the people of Palestine in line with the ICTU and Unite statements.

In addition, the Unite ELT Branch calls on the Irish Government to use the full might of its diplomatic resources to ‘challenge the narrative’ “.

It urges the Irish Governmentto use its position on the Security Council and all of its political influence in the United States of America to stop what will become a large-scale regional warunless action is taken to oprevent further attacks.

NICRA co-founder and Civil Rights’ veteran Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh this week expressed support for such motions and echoes calls for community groups, trade unions and political parties to work together, and across the Atlantic, to call for an immediate end to the Siege of Gaza and the Occupation of Palestine.

Also speaking in favour of such motions, Civil Rights veteran Eamonn McCann said: “I’ve been campaigning for Palestinian rights for over 50 years now and it’s never been more important that we show solidarity to the beleaguered people who have suffered so much.”