DUBLIN — The Palestinian flag flew Tuesday over City Hall here, a day after the city council capped a month of stormy debate with a decision to raise it. It will remain through the end of the month.
Pleas by Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Ze’ev Boker for impartiality fell on deaf ears ahead of the May 8 vote. Likewise defeated was a proposal by a Fine Gael party councilperson to include a clause calling for both Israeli and Palestinian flags to fly in acknowledgment of “the suffering of civilians on both sides.”
Presented in early April, the original proposal called for the Palestinian flag to be flown for 28 days beginning May 15; the dates were subsequently amended.
In a letter to council members before the vote, Boker said many Israelis who came to Ireland to work and have since made their homes here would be offended by the flag.
— Cllr. John Lyons (@CllrJohnLyons) May 9, 2017
“What sort of message does this vote send to them?” he asked, warning that the unprecedented flying of the Palestinian flag would be “highly politically charged.”
There are now up to 1,500 Israelis living in Ireland, with most having arrived in recent years to work in the IT sector.
Ireland was the first European country to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization and has traditionally been one of Israel’s harshest critics in the EU. In separate 2014 motions, the upper and lower houses of Ireland’s parliament urged their government to recognize the state of Palestine. Also in 2014, the country accorded the Palestinian delegation in Dublin diplomatic status.
In February, Boker reportedly informed Jerusalem of Ireland’s intention to recognize Palestine in the wake of the passing in Israel of a controversial law legalizing settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.
The flag-raising motion was proposed by councilman John Lyons of the left-leaning People Before Profit party, and passed by 42 votes to 11, with seven abstentions. The motion had the support of Sinn Fein and other left-wing parties. The larger centrist Fine Gael and Fianna Fail party councilors opposed the motion.
According to The Irish Times, Lyons said the move would support communities living under a form of “apartheid, worse than South Africa.”
After the passage of the motion, Lyons said the flag raising is a “small gesture of solidarity from the elected representatives of Dublin City with a people struggling for self-determination, freedom and dignity in the face of the most horrendous Israeli occupation and apartheid system.”
The controversial meeting Monday of the city council was briefly adjourned when a member of the public complained that a number of supporters of the motion were either members of, or supporters of, the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. One council member had also acted in the past as a paid consultant to the Ireland Palestinian Alliance Committee.
Council members supporting the motion to fly the Palestinian flag in the capital said they intended it to “mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and highlight international support for the Palestinian people.”
After the vote, ISPC Chair Fatin Al-Tamimi, an Irish citizen of Palestinian descent, said in a statement that Palestinian Dubliners would hold their heads high knowing that the people support their struggle. She said she found the result “deeply emotional on a personal basis.”
The decision to fly the flag was condemned immediately after the vote by grassroots pro-Israel group Irish4Israel’s spokesman Barry Williams. He told The Times of Israel the Palestinian flag raising “would have an extremely negative impact on Dublin’s international image and tourism.”
“I was amazed to hear so many members of the council display such ignorance about the conflict,” Williams said. “No Palestinian flag has ever been flown over City Hall before and it should remain just our county and EU flags’ honor.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.