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Council extends official invitation to head of Palestinian village

Thursday, 3 November 2016

DERRY City and Strabane District Council has voted to extend an official invitation to the head of a Palestinian village to the district.

The proposal by independent councillor Gary Donnelly came in the wake of a recent motion adopted by the authority in support of a Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign calling for the boycott of Israeli goods in support of the Palestinian people.

As in that motion, Cllr Donnelly's proposal at Thursday's monthly meeting was voted through despite objections by the unionist bloc. A counter proposal to invite the Mayor of Jerusalem was also rejected.

Cllr Donnelly told the meeting that "news of the (boycott) motion has got to Palestine and has been greatly received."

He then proposed that council formally invite Basel Mansour, head of the Bil'in Village Council in the West Bank, who is visiting Ireland in mid-January, to tell councillors "first-hand the struggle for Palestinian freedom and justice."

The proposal was seconded by Strabane independent councillor Paul Gallagher. It was put to a recorded vote and passed with in 27 favour, 10 against and one abstention.

"The necessary arrangements will now be made," Mayor Alderman Hilary McClintock said.

Ulster Unionist Alderman Derek Hussey then said the Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, should also be invited "to give a balanced perspective to the issue". His proposal was seconded by independent unionist, Maurice Devenney.

Referring to the motion calling for a boycott of Israeli products, he added: "Does that mean to say that we hand in these because apparently there are Israeli products within our iPads. Do we hand these in now?"

Taking exception to the amendment, Cllr Donnelly said it was contrary to the council's corporate position in relation to the BDS campaign. "We'd be breaking our own corporate position," he said.

Sinn Fein's Karina Carlin agreed stating that such a visit would have "grave difficulties" not only for council's corporate position but also "grave human rights implications".

Cllr Warren Robinson (independent) commented that the original proposal in terms of the Palestinian Mayor would be "of no cost to council" but extending the invite to Mr Barkat could incur a cost.

In retort, Mr Hussey said: "The invitation is there. If he wishes to take it up, he pays for it himself!"

Alderman Hussey's proposal was also put to a vote and was supported by the unionist and SDLP councillors. It was rejected by Sinn Féin and the independent councillors with the exception of Strabane's Patsy Kelly who abstained. The proposal to invite the Mayor of Jerusalem fell by 19 votes to 18 and the one abstention.

Council will now formally extend the invite the Basel Mansour.

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