Irish town criticised for snubbing Israeli ambassador

BBC

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin has criticised an Irish town council's decision to remove a page signed by the Israeli ambassador from its guestbook.

Carrickmacross representatives voted to remove Zion Evrony's signature in protest at Israel's diplomatic record.

Mr Martin said diplomatic representatives should always be treated with respect.

But a local councillor defended the town's decision, saying he hoped it would send a serious message to Israel.

"I think if a government is responsible for a wholesale disregard for international law then local authorities, as well as our own government, have a responsibility to tell them we expect a higher standard," Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy said.

He added that although Carrickmacross is a welcoming town, "it was important that we took a stand".

The Israeli embassy said that since his arrival in 2006 Ambassador Evrony has visited more than 30 towns and cities in Ireland and "has always been received with typically warm Irish hospitality and friendship".

"The incident in Carrickmacross town hall is a rare exception, initiated by a publicity seeking Sinn Fein town councillor," it said in a statement.

"Sinn Fein is recognized as the political wing of the IRA. It is an extreme political party, known for its prejudiced views against Israel."

Civility

The council's move follows reports that Irish passports were used by those allegedly behind the Dubai killing of Palestinian militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January.

Dubai's police chief says he is convinced of the involvement of Israeli agents in al-Mabhouh's death, but Israel says there is no proof.

Mr Martin said that while he understands and shares the "deep concerns" of many in Ireland about Israel's policies on a number of issues, the action violated a basic tenet of relations between states.

"It is a basic principle of relations between states that we treat each other's diplomatic representatives with civility and respect, regardless of any policy differences," he said.

Mr Martin said he has raised concerns about the passport controversy during a meeting with Israel's foreign minister last week.

He added: "Ambassadors represent not just their governments, but their peoples".

"The way that foreign ambassadors are welcomed and received in Ireland says something about us as a people."