Friday, 19 February 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the Cathaoirleach. I highlight the demolition of Irish and EU-funded aid structures, including homes and schools, in the occupied Palestinian West Bank in recent months. In the past few weeks, Israeli authorities have once again demolished or confiscated homes in the Palestinian village of Humsa al Bqai’a in the northern Jordan Valley. When this village was demolished in November 2020, it was, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which is a fantastic organisation, the biggest single demolition since 2016. It left 11 Palestinian families homeless, including 41 children, in extremely cold weather and a pandemic. This is an unconscionable violation of international law and it is extremely hard to imagine children being left in this situation.
Since November, the Palestinian families involved have tried to rebuild their lives and homes with important and welcome EU and Irish support, mainly through the West Bank Protection Consortium and humanitarian organisations. In that time, however, Israeli authorities have simply come back and again destroyed or confiscated the structures. It has happened four times in as many months and it is greatly traumatising for the families impacted. I cannot even imagine the anguish they are going through.
In that context, I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, to come into the House to answer some questions about what the Department of Foreign Affairs and the EU are doing to recover the aid money which was provided for these destroyed structures. In October, in response to a parliamentary question in the Dáil, the Minister mentioned that EU states had sought up to €625,000 in compensation. How much of that money has been recovered? Is that figure just for 2020 or to what period does it apply?
More important, what is the longer term strategy for these aid projects? It is surely not sustainable to give money to build houses and schools, see them demolished, issue statements of concern, rebuild those houses and schools and then wait for the next round of demolitions. In this case, that has happened four times in four months. It is like the definition of insanity. What is happening is devastating and traumatising and is leaving families in horrendous situations, not to mention the wasteful and recurring destruction of structures funded by Irish public moneys. In that context, I ask the Minister to come into the House and to answer some questions. Is the plan to just continue with this current strategy and, if not, what will change?