Irish ship to reach Gaza by Friday

IRISH TIMES 02/11/2011

MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

An Irish ship, the MV Saoirse , today entered international waters en route to Gaza as part of a joint Irish-Canadian effort to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the territory.

Those participating in the two-vessel flotilla hope to reach Gaza on Friday, Dr Fintan Lane, coordinator of the Irish Ship to Gaza organisation, told The Irish Times .

“Theses ships are sailing as an act of human solidarity with the ordinary people of Gaza and we are determined to breach the illegal Israeli naval blockade,” Dr Lane said.

The flotilla left the Turkish port of Fethiye around midday today and entered international waters around two hours later.

The Irish boat is the same vessel activists alleged was sabotaged during a failed bid to breach the blockade in June.

The 15 passengers on board the MV Saoirse  include Dr Lane, former Leinster and Ireland rugby player Trevor Hogan, Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, Siptu official Mags O’Brien, artist Felim Egan, People Before Profit councillor in Dun Laoghaire Hugh Lewis, Sinn Féin councillors Pat Fitzgerald and John Hearne, both from Waterford City Council, and Zoe Lawlor, who teaches at the University of Limerick and is a member of the national committee of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The Canadian boat, named Tahrir,  the Arabic word for liberation, is carrying 12 people.

Israel has described previous flotillas as a “dangerous provocation”, and has warned that it will intercept any ships which attempt to break its blockade of Gaza.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara,  and in the ensuing confrontations nine Turkish activists were killed.