After a very busy few months, the Oireachtas went into summer recess last week. This gives us an opportunity to look forward and prepare for the coming Parliamentary term and lots of work ahead, and I wanted to give an update on one of my biggest legislative priorities - the Occupied Territories Bill 2018. There's a huge amount of interest and attention on the Bill, both in Ireland & internationally, so I wanted to set out where we are now and the next steps.
Last year I tabled the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which would prohibit trade in goods produced in illegal settlements on occupied territory, including the Palestinian West Bank. Before becoming law, any Bill has to go through a series of votes in both the Seanad & the Dáil, and I was delighted to see the Bill pass all five stages in Seanad Éireann just before Christmas. It was agreed in full by my fellow Senators, and then moved on to TDs in the Dáil to repeat the process.
In January, the Dáil also voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill, supporting it by a margin of 78 votes in favour to 45 votes against. This was a huge moment and a crucial vote, showing that the Bill had strong majority support in both Houses of the Oireachtas, and a clear agreement in principle that Ireland should introduce a ban on settlement goods. It was introduced to the Dáil on my behalf by Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs Rep Niall Collins TD, with the support of the Greens, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, Labour, Solidarity-PBP, and a number of Independents. Every single opposition party has now united behind it, emphasising the broad level of strong cross-party support.
Next steps & support
The next step is that the Bill is sent for further 'detailed scrutiny' in the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee, which is standard in the legislative process. The Committee has been doing this scrutiny over the past three-four months, hearing from witnesses, inviting expert testimony and getting technical/legal advice. This can be slow-moving and frustrating at times, but it's really important for ensuring we have a thorough, robust Bill in the end. The good news is that this process is almost finished, and the Committee should produce a concluding report shortly after the summer recess. After that, we'll have a couple more rounds of Dáil votes and, if agreed, the Bill will finally be signed into law.
I'm so thankful and grateful for the huge amount of support the Bill has received so far, particularly from civil society and community groups rights across Ireland, who have fundraised, organised public meetings and contacted their TDs. It's meant the world to me and been absolutely crucial in getting us this far. We're almost at the point again when we'll be back in the Dáil for more votes, so I'm asking you to please stay with us - very soon we'll need your support for a final push. If you'd like to receive more updates as we go on, you can click the 'contact' form above and send a short message with 'OT Bill' in the subject line.
Over these past months, I've been working with the Committee to answer their questions and progress the Bill, as well as working with colleagues in Leinster House to ensure that the Government won't be able to use a technical rule known as a 'money message' to stall the Bill on cost grounds. I've also seen the huge amount of support around the world. I've been invited to speak about the Bill with fellow Parliamentarians in other countries, and was proud to present it at the United Nations in New York in May (video here and below). I've travelled to the region, worked with human rights organisations in Israel & Palestine, and know how big an impact this could have. Most importantly, I've seen the dedication right across Ireland to taking this stand - to saying that we as a country won't be afraid to be bold in support of human rights and international justice.
This coming term, I'll be doing everything I can to do just that - and with your support, we'll get this Bill passed.
Senator Black presenting the Occupied Territories Bill at the United Nations
Background information on the bill
The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 seeks to prohibit the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources originating in illegal settlements in occupied territories. Such settlements are illegal under both international humanitarian law and domestic Irish law, and result in human rights violations on the ground. Despite this, Ireland and other EU Member States provide continued economic support through trade in settlement goods.
The legislation has been prepared with the support of Sadaka, Trócaire, Christian-Aid, Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), and applies to settlements in occupied territories where there is clear international legal consensus that they violate international law. The clearest current example is the Israeli occupation and expansion of settlements in the Palestinian ‘West Bank’, which have been repeatedly condemned as illegal by the UN, EU, the International Court of Justice and the Irish Government.
A copy of the bill is available here: Occupied Territories Bill 2018
A short explanatory note on the bill’s main provisions is available here: Briefing Note - Occupied Territories Bill 2018
For any questions contact Senator Black's office at email@example.com
(Image credit: Trócaire)