Posts Tagged Derry

Ireland to Host ‘Palestine 1948’ Meeting with Former Prisoners

Posted by on Saturday, 12 January, 2013

A delegation coordinated by our Partners at UFree Network and the Irish Friends of Palestine, will host the ‘Palestine 1948’ Delegation in Derry and Belfast this weekend. The delegation has arrived in Ireland to attend meetings that will take place on Sunday and Monday. The delegation is expected to meet with politicians, media outlets and human rights organisations to discuss the release of Palestinians in ‘Palestine 1948’ from Israeli jails.

The delegation is comprised of two organisations from ‘Palestine 1948’ known as “Israeli Arabs” the Palestinians that live inside ‘Israel’. Delegates include Journalists, lawyers and Human Rights Activists from Meezn Centre for Human Rights and Yousef Al Sedeeq Institute for Prisoners Protection.

On Sunday, the delegation will visit Derry where they will meet the Sinn Fein Mayor of Derry, Mr Kevin Campbell who was a former Irish political prisoner; and then meet a number of organisations including Tar Abhaile (organisation of former prisoners) who will facilitate discussions with a group of former Irish Political Prisoners.

Meetings will continue on Monday in Belfast, with a discussion on the role of Coiste Na nIarchimi (the umbrella organisation for the Republican ex-prisoner network across Ireland) in assisting former prisoners. The delegates will also meet a number of former Irish political prisoners who are now elected political leaders. Later they will hold a discussion with former prisoner Jim Gibney to talk about the Irish Hunger Strike Campaign in 1981.

The delegation will then move on to London, where a number of meetings have been prepared with solidarity and activism organisations.

According to Khaled Waleed, UFree Network operations coordinator, the delegation’s tour will be a chance to look at the Irish experience in British jails. They also hope to learn some lessons in lobbying and mobilising to defend the rights of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

It is worth mentioning that ‘Israel’ is jailing 87 Palestinians from ‘Palestine 1948’. Those prisoners are exposed to torture and discrimination at the hands of ‘Israeli Prisoner Authorities’. Some of them have spent long periods in these jails while others are sentenced to several life sentences.

“Dying to Live” Palestinian Prisoners Conference Great Success

Posted by on Sunday, 20 May, 2012

"Dying to Live" Palestinian Prisoner Conference-Belfast

On 19th May, over 70 people from across Irish society attended the first Palestinian Prisoners Conference held in Ireland. Representatives from the Legal field, activist groups, political groups and members of the general public were in attendance. Irish Friends of Palestine, in conjunction with our partners at UFREE Palestinian Prisoners Organisation, hosted the conference at St Mary’s University College in Belfast. The conference focused on the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and on the recent hungerstrike. This conference follows on the heels of the first International Palestinian Prisoners Conference in Gaza of which Irish Friends of Palestine participated in.

The event, the first of its kind, was organized by “UFree Network.” Ufree is an international organization that works to highlight the suffering of Palestinian political prisoners and to promote their rights internationally. The entire conference was filmed for broadcast in Palestine and the Arab world.

Mohammed Hamdan, the Chair of UFree, which is an independent European-wide human rights network; set up to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, along with UFree representative Khaled Almudallal both traveled to Ireland to attend and address the Irish participants. The Irish Conference follows UFree’s recent International Palestinain Prisoner Conference which was held inside Gaza for the first time. Irish Friends of Palestine was proud to have attended and participated in the Gaza conference in April.

Opening remarks of the conference were given by Sinead MacLochlainn the Founder of Irish Friends of Palestine, who outlined the days program and introduced Bik McFarlane the Key Note speaker.

Sinead MacLochlainn, Founder of Irish Friends of Palestine, outlines the conference program

Brendan “Bik” McFarlane is a former Irish political prisoner and he was the Officer Commanding in the Maze Prison during the 1981 Irish hunger strike in which 10 prisoners died, among them Bobby Sands. By 1993 Bik had become the longest serving prisoner in the H-Block Prison. He is now a member of Coiste na n-Iarchimí (“the Ex-Prisoners’ Committee”) – a welfare organisation for republican ex-prisoners. Bik recounted the 1981 Irish Hungerstrike related to the current hungerstrike inside Israeli jails.

Bik McFarlane discusses the hungerstrike

Chairing the discussion panel was Gerry MacLochlainn. Gerry is on the UFree political committee and is a former political prisoner himself, he is also co-founder of Irish Friends of Palestine. The fellow Irish panelists included former Political prisoner and hungerstriker, Mr Pat Sheehan who is now a Sinn Fein MLA. After Bobby Sands died on Hungerstrike Pat replaced him and remained on hungerstrike for 55 days, he was near death when the strike ended. Next we have author Danny Morrison, He is also the secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust and current chairman of Féile an Phobail.Next on the panel is Mary Nelis, a former MLA, mother of former hungerstriker. Mary organised the first community association in the Foyle Hill estate and helped spread community groups in other areas of the city of Derry. In 1976, she became active in the Relatives Action Committee: an organisation campaigning for prisoners’ rights and helped organise and lead the relatives committee during the 1981 hungerstrike. She was also active in the civil rights campaign. Mary was presented with the Paul O Dwyer Award by the IAUC for her work for peace and justice in Ireland, she is also an Irish Friends of Palestine supporter.

Panel: Danny Morrison, Nidal Abu Shikba, Mary Nelis, Mohammed Hamdan, Pat Sheehan MLA, Gerry MacLochlainn

The conference heard first hand about the plight and conditions of prisoners from panellist and former Palestinian prisoner Nidal Abu Shikba who traveled from the West Bank of Palestine to speak as part of the Panel.

Nidal Abu Shikba, former Palestinian Prisoner

We then went to our live link with Gaza where Ruairi McLaughlin introduced the Gaza Participants and handed over to our host in Gaza Mr Ahmed Al Najjar representing the Waed Palestinian Prisoners group in Gaza who spoke highly of the links between our two countries.

IFOP Member Ruairi McLaughlin initiates the live link with Gaza

Ahmed Abu Ayesh our Gazan host takes over link

He then introduced us to the next speaker Former Prisoner Ahmed Abu Taha who spoke live to the Irish audience from Gaza during a video conference. He delivered a rousing speech which saw the audience stomping, cheering and clapping! For those interested, you can read Abu Taha’s speech HERE.

Former Prisoner Ahmed Abu Taha speaking live from Gaza

Also from Gaza we heard a recorded video message from Former Prisoner Obada Bilal which you can view on THIS page.

Former Prisoner Obada Bilal from Gaza

We then heard from Pat Sheehan MLA and former hungerstriker. Pat’s personal and harrowing story of what it was like being on hungerstrike touched the hearts of everyone, it will never be forgotten.

Pat Sheehan MLA recounts his personal story of being on Hungerstrike while panel and audience listen  intently

Pat Sheehan MLA recounts his personal story of being on Hungerstrike while panel and audience listen intently

After each panel member spoke, the Chair then opened up the discussion to the audience participation section. Many members of the audience participated in the 45 minute Q & A session.

Gerry MacLochlainn Chairing the audience discussion

Cathal Og Donnelly participates in the audience discussions

Culminating from the successful conference, the panelists, consisting of former Palestinian and Irish political prisoners, demanded an end to Israel’s so-called “Administrative Detention” and the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Flowing from the conference we have issued a joint Declaration which we encourage support for throughout Ireland.

The following Declaration Statement was adopted between UFree and Irish Friends of Palestine:

Palestinian prisoners’ conference declaration statement


Organisers: UFree Network and Irish Friends of Palestine

Since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, more than 700,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This represents approximately 20% of the total population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and 40% of all males. Despite prohibition by international law, Israel detains Palestinians in prisons throughout Israel; far from their families. The latter almost never obtain the necessary permits to visit their imprisoned relatives.

Since 1967, Israel has detained 10,000 Palestinian women. Women prisoners endure inhumane conditions including shackling during childbirth and an ongoing lack of gynecological care. Today, 37 female Palestinian prisoners continue to be held in Israeli prisons. Most are elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and, thus, are clearly political prisoners.

This Conference on the Plight of Palestinian Prisoners in Israel Prisons was convened by UFree Network and Irish Friends of Palestine on 19th May 2012. We have gathered in Belfast uniting elected representatives, former prisoners and prisoners’ relatives and human rights activists

We heard speeches from former Prisoners and Palestinian human rights activists of the conditions facing Palestinians in Israeli jails.

We learned of

• The detention of Palestinians for more than 5 years without trial.
• The widespread use of solitary confinement for many years at a time
• The denial of family visits for many years on end
• The imprisonment of Palestinian children and on occasions the use of these child prisoners as hostages to pressurise their families.
• Threats and practice of sexual harassment.
• Abduction of elected Palestinian parliamentarians


Conference concludes that the conditions facing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails constitutes cruel and inhumane treatment and that such conditions breach numerous aspects of international law.

We pledge our support to UFree Network’s international campaign to highlight and challenge the abuse of Palestinian Prisoners human rights and the human rights of their families.

The conference decides to have a working group in cooperation between UFree Network and Irish Friends of Palestine which will be a broad based group in Ireland. From today, we shall be contacting potential members to join this group.

The group will work on the following:

1. To spread awareness about the issue of Palestinian prisoners
2. To exert political pressure on both the Israeli occupation and international governments.
3. To offer appropriate legal support and rehabilitation of former prisoners.

The group shall lobby Parliamentarians, human rights groups and civil society throughout Ireland, in particular to the Irish Government and other European Governments and the European Union, appealing for support for the following actions:

1. Israel should embrace and implement their obligations under International law by
2. Immediately implement the agreement reached with prisoners to end the hunger strike, including an end to solitary confinement and imprisonment without trial
3. The European governments and EU Parliament:
4. Launch and participate in an international solidarity campaign supporting the Rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
5. Establish a European fact-finding mission to examine the living conditions of the prisoners in the Israeli jails.

The Irish Government in particular should:

• Organise its own fact finding mission to visit prisoners and their families to inform itself of conditions in Israeli prisons.
• Report back to Dail Eireann on the outcome of this fact finding mission.
• Take diplomatic action and sanctions against the Israeli government if it fails to honour international conventions and comply with the human rights’ standards in dealing with the prisoners.


A working group has been established between UFree Network and Irish Friends of Palestine which will be a broad based group in Ireland. In the near future Irish Friends of Palestine will begin contacting and requesting potential group members within Ireland who can contribute to the Palestinian prisoner’s project.

Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegation Returns to Ireland

Posted by on Friday, 13 April, 2012

Big Greetings from Hassan Salama School Gaza

Tuesday 10th April 2012
For Immediate Use

Irish Freedom & Friendship Delegation to Gaza a resounding success

Local Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine delegates returned from the first Irish “Freedom and Friendship Delegation” to Gaza promising to redouble their efforts to build links with our sister city of Khan Younis and to support the people of Gaza by continuing with more delegations in future.

Delegates from Irish Friends of Palestine were Gerry MacLochlainn delegation leader & Charlie McMenamin activist (both former Irish Political Prisoners), Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan, Alanna Campbell and Cathal Og Donnelly (Students and members of Sinn Fein Republican Youth), activist Liam McConway and Freedom & Friendship Delegation organiser Sinead MacLochlainn.

Speaking on arrival home, Derry/Irish Friends of Palestine Chairperson Sinead MacLochlainn said:

“Our delegation was hosted by the Mayor of Khan Younis Mr. Mohammed Al Farra, and the Municipality of Khan Younis, who so graciously offered us the most incredible hospitality, given the current conditions in Gaza which remains under a brutal blockade by Israel. Mayor Al Farra received us on our arrival and ensured a packed programme of visits and meetings with all aspects of society throughout Khan Younis and Gaza City.”

Delegation pictured with Mayor Mohammed Al Farra of Khan Younis, Palestine

“The main purpose of the delegation was to build educational links with the Ministry of Education and HIgher Education and University students. As such our Delegation was received by the heads of some of the main Universities in the Gaza strip, including the Islamic University of Gaza, Al Aqsa University (both the Gaza and Khan Younis Campus) and Khan Younis College of Science and Technology. Despite the siege and lack of electricity or fuel, we were impressed to learn that some 40% of young people in Gaza have access to further or higher education and some 60% of these students are women.”

“The Delegation was invited to a lunch at the Ministry of Education where we were greeted by Mr. Ahmed Ayesh Alnajjar the Director of International and Public Relations of Ministry of Education and Higher Education on behalf of Dr. Osama Elmozini the Minister of Education and Higher Education. The Student leaders on our Delegation were presented with a beautiful Plaque from the Ministry of Education to be presented to the Minister of Education here in the North of Ireland. Additionally a Plaque was also give the the Delegation itself in appreciation of the Educational links being created between Ireland and Gaza.

Plaque Presented to Student Leaders, Alanna Campbell, Ruairi McLaughlin, Mickey McCrossan and Cathal Og Donnelly

“Members of the Irish Delegation also met with representatives of the main political parties in Palestine, including Dr. Hisham Abdelrazic the Fateh leader in Gaza, and Dr. Yousef Al-Mansi, One of Hamas leaders and also the Minister of Telecommunication in the Gaza Government and finally Dr. Ahmed Bahar, Deputy Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council.”

“In Khan Younis we visited the site of a large play park and International Garden area which is still under construction, here the student delegates joined local families in a soccer game with an idyllic view of the Mediterranean sea in the background. The Students played ball with local children at the park. Even here the realities of Israeli occupation were evident with armed Israeli drones and F-16 fighter planes flying over head. During our stay the F-16’s were our alarm clocks and the early morning call as they criss-crossed Gaza skies terrorising the population. They also dropped leaflets warning that anyone who went to within 300m of the border would be shot. Welcome to life in Palestine.”

“Visiting the packed refugee camps bears witness to the reality of life for many poor or homeless people in Gaza. Many of them had once been in full-time employment before the blockade, still others had their homes destroyed by Israel. Up to 4 generations all living in a 6 by 6 metre shed with broken walls, collapsed roofs and dirt floors with sewage problems. And still they smile at us for visiting them, this is the unbreakable spirit of Palestine!”

Delegation meeting with familly in Refugee Camp

“On our last morning as we had our breakfast we were again reminded of the realities of life for the innocent civilians of Gaza. Fishermen in small wooden crafts who attempt to gather the ever shrinking available fish which swim in the three kilometres of their own waters, the only place that Israel allows them to fish, were to come under fire from Israeli naval ships. We could hear the heavy naval canons interspersed with the pulse of heavy machine guns. We were left wondering if we’d be hearing of yet another fishermen killed for trying to support his family.”

“We also learned that three young children had been burned to death during the night while attempting to read and study by candlelight. The candle fell over and they were trapped in their bedroom, God help them, all that was left of the three children were the scorched books on the floor which they had been studying from. Yet more tiny victims of the collective punishment siege as Israel only allows 6 hours of electricity each day, these few hours can come at any time even in the middle of the night when the population is asleep, so many students rely on dangerous burning candles to study! Myself and Ogra Alanna Campbell of Coalisland attended the children’s wake with other local women. Their Mother came over and handed me her last remaining child to hold in my arms as we cried together. The tiny 3 month old baby sister who was the only survivor, found under a pile of blankets which somehow managed to save her little life by protecting her from the smoke and flames which consumed her 3 siblings.”

“Leaving we were all very silent heading to Rafah to cross back into Egypt and then home to Ireland, just trying to absorb the gravity of what we had all witnessed for the last 8 days. But we pledged we would do all we can to support our friends in Gaza and to tell their stories to the world. Therefore Irish Friends of Palestine and Derry Frinds of Palestine will continue with more Freedom & Friendship Irish Delegations to Gaza until the murderous siege is lifted!”

some of those inculded are:
Ministry of Education and HIgher Education
Islamic University of Gaza
Al Aqsa University
Khan Younis College of Science and Technology
Jabalia Martyrs Primary School
Refugee camps, meeting the poor and homeless
Global March to Jerusalem/Land Day Events
Khan Younis meetings
Political Meetings with Fateh, Hamas, and the PLC
Ministry of Youth and Sport
Effects of the Siege First Hand
Gaza Harbour
Local Weekly Prisoner Protests
Prisoners and their Families
UFREE Prisoners Conference Gaza City
Ethar Initiative
Emaar & Albasmah Centre
Khan Younis Park and Garden Development
plus much more…..