Senators introduce emergency legislation to ban arms transfers to Israel through Ireland

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The Civil Engagement Group Senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Frances Black and Eileen Flynn have introduced emergency legislation – the Air Navigation and Transport (Arms Embargo) Bill 2024 – in the Seanad which would ban the transit of weapons through Ireland to Israel.

Under current regulations the transfer of weapons is not allowed except where the Minister for Transport grants an exemption. In 2023 alone, over 1,000 exemptions for flights carrying dangerous goods were granted by the Minister.

Current regulations also give the Minister of Transport the power to inspect aircraft where a flight is destined for Israel or where it is coming from or going to countries which export weapons to Israel.  However, since 2020 no inspections of flights transiting through Ireland have taken place meaning Ireland has little information on dangerous goods and weapons transiting through Ireland or their destination.

The Air Navigation and Transport (Arms Embargo) Bill 2024 would remove the power of the Minister to grant exemptions for flights carrying weapons destined for Israel or flying to or from countries which export weapons to Israel. The Bill also would make the inspection of flights seeking exemptions mandatory.

Since Israel began its relentless bombardment of Gaza arms exports to Israel have dramatically increased. In November, the United States authorized a $14.5 billion military aid package to Israel and subsequently approved a further $14.1 billion military aid package to Israel this month. In 2023, arms exports from Germany to Israel increased tenfold from the previous year, with €32 million worth of arms exported in 2022 and €303 million exported in 2023.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said: “Ireland has a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that we are not facilitating the arming of Israel at a time when they are acting in such flagrant breach of international law. An eyes wide shut approach when it comes to weapons transiting through the State cannot continue and our legislation would impose a necessary ban on weapons transfers to Israel and provide for long-needed mandatory inspections.”

Senator Lynn Ruane said: “Israel’s actions in recent months show clear disregard for international law and human rights – Ireland, as a country which respects international law and human rights, must take meaningful action to slow the flow of weapons to Israel and ensure that we are not complicit in the bombardment of Gaza.”

Senator Frances Black said: “I urge the Government to support this legislation. Our motion, which unanimously passed the Seanad last week, called for an arms embargo. This is emergency legislation for a reason – each day weapons flow to Israel means more death and destruction in Gaza.”

Senator Eileen Flynn said: “The people of Gaza need more than words – they need real and practical solidarity. This Bill is a key element of that and will ensure that Ireland not only does not facilitate arms transfers but sends a clear message that business as usual cannot and will not continue.”

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