Five years after failing to enact anti-Israel BDS into law, the Irish Parliament is again considering enacting BDS legislation.

Reflecting years of NGO lobbying, on March 8, 2023, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence TD John Brady introduced the “Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill 2023” in the Irish Parliament.

The bill proposes amending regulations of the National Treasury Management Agency to prohibit government agencies from investing in companies listed on the discriminatory UN Human Rights Council “blacklist” of Israeli and international firms operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  If enacted, it would compel the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) – Ireland’s sovereign wealth fund – to divest holdings in companies on the UN Blacklist.

The UN’s BDS blacklist operates under the false premise that international law prohibits business activity in occupied territory. In reality, such behavior is common, and occurs in conflict zones around the world.

(For more information on the blacklist, see NGO Monitor’s Key Issue: UN BDS Blacklist)

NGO lobbying

The new bill is supported by a prominent Irish NGO, Trócaire, a leader in BDS advocacy.

Trócaire’s funders include: Ireland (€24 million from Irish Aid in 2022),  the EU (€5.6million), the UN (€3.4 million), Sweden (Sida; €1 million), and church-based Caritas agencies (over €4.6million). In  2021-2022, Trócaire spent €1.2 million on the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Trócaire is a member of the Don’t Buy into Occupation Coalition, which in September 2021, published a report purporting to “investigate and expose the financial relationships between businesses involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and European Financial Institutions (FIs).” The report called for European governments to “prohibit the import of illegal settlement products and services from entering European markets, and ban trade with and economic support for illegal Israeli settlements.”

    • Other pro-BDS NGOs involved in the Coalition include Al-Haq, Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), European Legal Support Center (ELSC), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and The Rights Forum.

Trócaire also participated in the 2012 publication of the “Trading Away Peace,” a document that presents a step-by-step BDS playbook, beginning with “product labelling,” followed by a “ban on settlement products,” and eventually progressing to a wider boycott targeting Israel as a whole.

Trócaire has previously lobbied for sanctions against Israel and for suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Previous Irish BDS legislation

In January 2018, Irish Senator Frances Black, introduced the “Control of Economic Activity (Occupied territories)” bill, also in cooperation with Trócaire. This proposal threatened jail time and fines for the import or sale of “settlement goods” or “settlement services.”

The bill was opposed by the Irish government and stalled in parliaments.  In January 2018, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney noted that the proposal appeared to contravene EU laws prohibiting “unilateral restrictions on trade.” In November 2021, Coveney confirmed that the bill was stalled: “on the advice of two consecutive Attorneys General because it is effectively about trade policy, which is not a national competence.”