*Saoirse Byrne. 

A NEW YEAR’S eve vigil for Palestine will be held at the Club Bridge in Ennis from 2pm.

Organised by the Clare branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), the vigil is expected to draw a large turnout.

Weekly demonstrations have been held in the county town by the local branch with Ennis teacher, Saoirse Byrne among the ever-present attendees. “I’m interested in justice, human rights and fairness, I try share that sense of justice with the kids,” she explained.

Chances are if you walked past the O’Connell Monument in Ennis on a Saturday morning since October, Saoirse would have asked and encouraged you to sign a petition. “Often people when asked to sign our petition wonder ‘What good will it do’, I think it is important to urge people to do what they can, to let our representatives know that we care and that we demand action. Governments around the world keep repeating that Israel’s right to defend itself must also be in line with international law. It clearly isn’t with collective punishment and the indiscriminate killing of children in Gaza. We need to urge action so that the Israeli government does not continue to get away with crimes against humanity as it has done for decades. We need to stand up for what we feel is right. We need to demand justice and fairness. We need to make sure our government seeks a resolution to this conflict. There must be consequences for illegal actions such as sanctions. We must continue to write to our representatives and to get together to show solidarity. We must not look away and allow more tragedy to unfold”.

Her interest in relations between Israel and Palestine was piqued about eight years ago when her daughter did a Leaving Certificate history project on the Middle-East. “I was reading the same books that she was reading and watching documentaries, everything I saw and heard made me mad because it is so unfair. I’m not involved in politics at all or I’m not at expert but I just think when something is so blatantly unfair that it is hard to just ignore it and do nothing.

“A lot of people think this all started on the 7th of October and don’t realise it has been going on for decades, Israel have such a strong propaganda machine that they have nearly made people afraid to say that they support Palestine, you can see it now because everyone is watching but people are afraid that if they say anything pro-Palestinian or anything against Israeli policy that it makes them antisemitic and it is something Israel have done on purpose to make people afraid to speak out, to me that should be so obvious that you can support people’s rights, you can see something is wrong speak out against it and it doesn’t make you antisemitic,” she said.

There is little complexity to the events in the Middle-East, Saoirse maintained. “People say the problems in the Middle-East are so complicated but I don’t think it is, I think it is blatantly wrong and Israel have got away with it for years because they are backed by America and there is a lack of information and with the propaganda that allows Israel to spin their story so well and eloquently. It has been going on for a long time, there are different rules for Palestinians and Israelis living in same place, the settler violence has escalated recently but over 200 people in the West Bank have been killed in areas that they are entitled to live in and that the settlers are not entitled to live in because they are illegal settlements, they are literally getting shot on a daily basis and nothing is being said about it, those are the things that make you say I have to do something”.

As a mother and a teacher, she finds the harrowing scenes of countless children dying very distressing. “It is heart-breaking, I can hardly watch the scenes anymore. Everyone is watching which is the bit I can’t believe because for years I wished more people were interested, now it is on our television every single evening and still Israel are getting away with saying no we’re not going to let in food, water and medicines. We’re watching babies dying and children getting killed and bombed, they have done absolutely nothing and it would break your heart, it is really upsetting”.

When comparing the level of interest between the present day and her involvement with the European Citizens initiative in 2022 to get a million signatures to get the Israel/Palestine conflict discussed at an EU level, she felt there was a huge swell in support for Palestine in 2023. “In this campaign we’ve been here every Saturday since the 7th of October, the public have much more interest, they are much more aware and they are very quick to sign the petition, they were for the first couple of weeks but I feel since the beginning of December there is a bit of dip in interest, that could be fatigue. At the start there was great interest but everybody supports what is right but after a certain number of weeks people want to drift away and move to something else so that is why we are here every week to make sure it is not forgotten about”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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