Councillor Hugh Lewis participates in latest attempt to break the siege of Gaza
Following a call for international solidarity from 46 civil society organisations in Gaza, which include Teachers Associations, the Public Service Workers Union, the Health Service Workers Union, youth groups and rehabilitation centres, the Irish ship MV Saoirse and a Canadian ship MV Tahrir have set sail as part of an initiative called Freedom Waves to once more break the siege of Gaza.
The situation in Gaza is worsening. The humanitarian crisis is escalating daily with the continuing siege by the Israelis. As of 1 January 2012, approximately 600,000 refugees will not receive their three month food ration from the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) because as a result of the siege most people are dependent on aid relief from the UN agency.
The Freedom Flotilla which had attempted to sail in June was prevented from sailing from Greece by Israeli pressure. The Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, was sabotaged while docked in Turkey at the time but has since been repaired.
The boats, two civilian vessels, carrying 27 passengers from seven countries, are currently in international waters en route to Gaza.
People Before Profit Councillor Hugh Lewis (Ballybrack) is participating in this humanitarian and solidarity mission with Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, Sinn Fein representatives and others from civil society.
At 11.30am today the ships were 225 nautical miles from Gaza, 99 nautical miles w/sw of Cyprus and they expect to reach the port of Gaza sometime tomorrow if they are allowed to continue without interception by the Israelis.
In late June the Irish Ship to Gaza will set sail along with a dozen or so other ships from across the globe as part of Freedom Flotilla 2. The Flotilla is an international effort to undermine the stranglehold that the Israeli state continues to force upon the 1.5 million Palestinian people that reside in Gaza.
People Before Profit Councillor Hugh Lewis will be one of 25 passengers sailing on the Irish ship the ‘Saoirse’. The ship will carry passengers from many different political and cultural backgrounds and represents the deep solidarity that Irish people have for the people of Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinians. Israel’s blockade of the Strip has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.
The People Before Profit Alliance learnt yesterday of plans to close St. Brigid’s Ward in Loughlinstown Hospital. This move by the HSE is a direct result of cuts in the department of health stemming from last October’s Budget.
St Brigid’s Ward is a general ward in the hospital and its closure will mean the loss of at least 18 beds.
Hugh Lewis, People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA) Representative in the Ballybrack ward, says: “This closure is completely unacceptable. It is an utter disgrace that our health service, which is already in a shambles, is being forced to make further cuts. In an economic crisis a decent public health service is needed more than ever. The money that is being used to bail out the banks should instead be used to fund vital services, in particular, the health service. Once again it is the most vulnerable in society that have to shoulder the burden of our economic crisis. PBPA will immediately be organising meetings to discuss how we can stop this closure.”
Hugh Lewis, PBPA, Ballybrack
The recent budget included an increase in the health levy that all PAYE workers already pay. This increase is grossly unfair because it once again forces ordinary people to make up the shortfall in public finances. It also now seems that an extra health levy is going to make no difference to cuts in the health service.