Outrage as Irish Ship to Gaza sabotaged

The Irish vessel MV Saoirse, which was sabotaged before it could sail to Gaza.

The Irish vessel MV Saoirse, which was sabotaged before it could sail to Gaza.

Speaking with The Irish Emigrant from Turkey, Former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan expressed outrage last week as it emerged that the MV Saoirse, the Irish boat set to attempt to break the siege of Gaza as part of Freedom Flotilla II, had been sabotaged by perpetrators unknown and lay stranded in the Turkish port of Gocek.

The wholly Irish-owned vessel was purchased for 70,000 euro after a massive fundraising drive throughout the country, but with damage which will cost upwards of 30,000 euro to repair, it will now not take part in the flotilla. Unbowed however, Hogan and six other Irish activists including Dr. Fintan Lane, the group’s coordinator, have secured seats on an Italian vessel.

“We’re more resolved and determined now than ever,” said Nenagh, Co. Tipperary man Hogan (31), who was capped three times for Ireland and made over 100 appearances for both Munster and Leinster in a glittering career. “We’re going to sail, represent the Irish people, and complete what we set out to do initially.”

With upset apparent in his voice, Hogan touched on widespread speculation that the ship had been sabotaged by Israel. An official at the Israeli embassy in Dublin denied this, saying Israel was, “not connected to it in any way.”

Hogan, like many others, is not convinced.

“You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who’s behind it,” he said. “Of course Israel would deny it; that’s nothing new. The exact same thing was done to the Swedish boat [the Juliano]. Luckily, the problem was discovered during a test run, because this damage was not designed to stop us leaving port, it was designed to sink us at sea, resulting in loss of life.”

It is understood the sabotage method used was the removal of a chunk of metal from the ship’s propeller shaft. As the engine picked up speed, experts say the chunk would have developed into a larger crack, eventually snapping the shaft and flooding the boat.

“This just shows you what you’re up against,” Hogan said. “It’s hard to protect the boats when you’re facing divers with cutting equipment or whatever, working at all hours of the night.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamonn Gilmore, meanwhile, expressed concern about any possible sabotage.

“That is something I think that is going to have to be investigated initially by the Turkish authorities and I will take a very serious view of it if turns out that there was sabotage of that vessel.” he said.

Freedom Flotilla II, which still hopes to sail nine vessels over the coming days from undisclosed locations, comes a year after Israeli commandos stormed the first Freedom Flotilla, leaving nine peace activists dead on the deck of the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara. The activists were accused by Israeli officials of attacking the commandos, but all involved have vehemently denied this, insisting they were acting in self defense.

After Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 and took full control of Gaza in 2007, Israel, aided by Egypt, massively scaled down imports and exports in and out of the strip, where 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants live in what is often described as an “open-air prison”.

The outcry after the killings brought about a slight ease in the siege, but bars on goods such as building materials, which Israel claims may be used to make weapons, remain in place. Though the Rafah crossing with Egypt has been reopened with restrictions, the situation remains dire, with the number of people living on less than $1 a day tripling since 2006 to almost 300,000.

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