Peace role seen for Ireland in Middle East

The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has said she expects the Dublin government to give ‘profound consideration’ to any United Nations request to contribute to a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

Over 400,000 Lebanese people have been displaced from their homes by Israeli forces, while thousands have been killed or injured.

Hundreds protested in Dublin city centre this afternoon to protest at Israel’s attacks on Lebanon.

The march was the latest in a series of demonstrations across Ireland organised by members of the Lebanese community living in Ireland, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and by the Friends of Lebanon group.

As the latest Mideast conflict continues to rage, both the US and Israel are looking towards an international force to police a large area of southern Lebanon currently or shortly under Israeli control.

But in an apparent put down for the President, Defense Minister WIliie O’Dea said: “The whole question of sending troops to the Lebanon is not a function of the President. It is a decision made by the Government advised by the Minister of Defence.”

Dublin has appeared confused over its intentions to any peacekeeping force after Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern appeared to firmly rule out Irish involvement and Mr O’Dea indicated the 26 Counties could ‘help out’ if asked to do so.

A decision on sending troops to Lebanon will have to be made by the Government and both chambers of the Dublin parliament will need to be recalled before any troops can be sent.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has said the peace process in the Middle East was “in ruins” and warned of an escalating crisis right across the region.

“The major powers have ignored the UN and pushed a limited agenda based on big security issues and what they describe as the war against terrorism,” he said.

“They have actively undermined the efforts of the UN. All international focus should be on getting a cessation of all military activities and moving on into a comprehensive and inclusive settlement.”

Mr Adams said the situation was destined to worsen for as long as the international community refused to take a principled stand.

“All international focus should be on getting a cessation of all military activities and moving on into a comprehensive and inclusive settlement. Both the USA and British governments, as well as the European Union need to support that position. That is what will eventually have to happen anyway if sense is to made of the mess that is now deepening. So why not now?

“The Irish government can play a constructive role in this by working with other states towards that objective. It has to be based on the rights of the people of Palestine and the people of Israel to live in mutual respect and peaceful co-existence.”

He pointed to the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Anyone who visits there comes back distressed by the poverty and the third world conditions,” he said.

“Recent attacks on essential services like electricity, water and sewage and the lack of food, have made a dreadful situation even worse. Now this policy is being shifted to the Lebanon.

“It may be that elements in the more powerful western states believe that it is in their interests to allow the Israelis to militarily defeat Hizbullah. I don’t know if that is possible. The Irish experience tells us that political problems require political solutions. And so with the Middle East. A settlement there is long overdue. It cannot happen without the active involvement of the international community.”

Mr Adams also revealed his intention to proceed with plans to visit Israel and Palestine in the coming months.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News