Derry & Strabane Council stand in solidarity with Catalonia
Derry & Strabane Councillors are to write to the EU, the UK and Irish Governments and the United Nations urging them to speak out against repression and what they said was the denial of democratic rights in Catalonia.
Former President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemon addressed the Council’s Governance & Strategic Planning Committee recently, updating them on the Catalan conflict.
Mr Puigdemont, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017, was invited to speak remotely following a motion in 2019 by People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann.
Colr. Paul Gallagher said he was ‘very privileged’ to have been in Catalonia in 2017 as an observer. He added that he was ‘overwhelmed by the willingness of the people in the democratic process.’
He offered Mr Puigdemon and the people of Catalonia his congratulations adding: “We as Irish people have got great solidarity. I hope that your position can be resolved very shortly and we as a corporate body can put pressure on the European and UK government to address many issues in Catalonia.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy said it was ‘an absolute honour’ to have the former Catalonian President address the committee.
She said: “We do 100% understand the struggle the Catalonian people are going through, it is our struggle as well and we have international solidarity with you. We also support the release of all political prisoners and we have called and will continue to call on the Spanish Government to end the repression and criminalisation of all those who support independence.
“We have also called on the Spanish Government to enter inclusive dialogue with the democratically elected representatives of the Catalonian people and we reiterate that call today. I want to reiterate the words of Bobby Sands because it just struck me the similarities of struggle. Bobby Sands’ words were, ‘It is ‘the undauntable thought, my friend, That thought that says ‘I’m right!’ Long live international solidarity.”
At the start of March, the European Parliament voted to waive the immunity of Carles Puigdemont and two other Catalan separatist MEPs. The politicians left Spain in 2017 following a failed independence referendum, which Madrid said was illegal. The vote left the country facing its deepest political crisis in decades. The EP’s decision could help Spain’s bid to extradite the separatists, who have been charged with sedition. All three reject the charges against them, which Mr Puigdemont claimed was “a clear case of political persecution”.
PBP Councillor Shaun Harkin said: “I think we as a Council should call on the European Parliament to reverse its decision to remove your immunity... It is about criminalising the Catalan people and I think we have to send a loud message, that we here in Derry and Strabane, across our district, across Ireland will not stand and watch this silently.”
Members unanimously supported a proposal made by Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher that the Council write to the EU, UN and both governments.
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter