Sinn Féin meets delegation of Israeli government party

Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan meets members of Likud in Belfast in June
Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan meets members of Likud in Belfast in June

SINN Féin has defended its decision to hold talks with an Israeli government party in what have been described as “under the radar” meetings.

Representatives have met the people linked to the right wing Likud party on several occasions in recent years it has emerged.

The party is headed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been heavily criticised over their treatment of Palestinians.

Historically republicans in Northern Ireland have been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and Sinn Féin remains close to representatives the Palestinian Authority.

Meetings have been arranged by a mediation group known as Forward Thinking which arranged for a Likud delegation to meet with local politicians while on a trip to Belfast earlier this year.

Among those who met the Israelis were West Belfast assembly member Pat Sheehan and former DUP assembly member David McIlveen.

However Pro-Palestinian campaigner John Hurson hit out at the meetings and claimed they had taken place “under the radar”.

“There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that they want peace with the Palestinians, and allow them a homeland free from occupation,” he said.

“Until they stop with this occupation we shouldn't be playing their game and giving them political cover under the 'Irish Peace Process,," he said.

Mr Hurson said that if it was known that Likud representatives were visiting the north protests would be organised.

Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan last night said his party’s “record of supporting the Palestinian people is clear and consistent”.

“Any meetings between Sinn Féin representatives and Israeli political parties are on the basis of critical engagement,” he said.

“All such engagements put the concerns of the Palestinian people front and centre whether it be the atrocious conditions faced by the people of Gaza, the ill-treatment of political prisoners, illegal Israeli settlements and building international pressure towards ending on-going conflict in the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, a play about a human rights campaigner killed by the Israeli military in March 2003 will take place as part of Féile an Phobail on Friday.

Directed by Maire Mhic Dhomhnaill and performed by Rosie McNally, the play was written from the emails and diaries of college student Rachel Corrie.

An American citizen, the 23-year-old visited Gaza as a member of International Solidarity Movement to carry out humanitarian work.

She was killed as she tried to stop an Israeli bulldozer from destroying the family home in Rafah, which is near the Egyptian border.

Her parents later set up the Rachel Corrie Foundation in her memory.

Proceeds from the play, which takes place at 7pm in St Mary's University College in west Belfast, will go to the foundation.