Killeen: government doesn't support sanctions

The government is to proceed with a multimillion-euro contract which it awarded to an Israeli defence firm before last May's deadly attack by Israeli soldiers on a Gaza aid flotilla.

Defence minister Tony Killeen confirmed that the contract to supply surveillance and target acquisition equipment to four light tactical armoured vehicles being purchased for the Defence Forces will not be subject to any sanctions. The contract is worth €2.37m and was awarded to Elbit Systems Limited in Israel.

Killeen was asked in the Dáil by his Fianna Fáil colleague Chris Andrews whether he planned to cancel the contract "in view of the atrocity committed by the Israeli government on 31 May... in which more than 10 civilians lost their lives".

But Killeen said "the issue of boycotts or sanctions against Israel or the cancelling of contracts with specific Israeli companies is not something that the Irish government supports at this point in time".

He added: "The events involving the storming of the Free Gaza movement flotilla and the boarding of the MV Rachel Corrie are matters of great concern to the Irish government. These issues were taken up at the highest diplomatic level by my colleague, the minister for foreign affairs. The position is that trade policy and market access are largely EU competencies and any restriction or ban on imports from Israel would have to be concerted at EU level. In that regard, there would be no possibility whatever of obtaining agreement at EU level for such a ban."

The contract to supply surveillance and target acquisition equipment for the four vehicles – which are being supplied as part of a wider order for 27 such vehicles being supplied by BAE systems in South Africa – was put out to tender by the government in 2009.

"Following a detailed evaluation of tenders, the contract for the award of the equipment, with a value of €2.37m inclusive of VAT, was awarded to Elbit Systems Limited in Israel," Killeen said.