Early!!!!, Permission granted for one boat, spirit of humanity to leave. No cement, half our passengers. Spirit is decked out with flags of all nations. Luggage taken off Free Gaza Boat and she is taken back to her mooring. 21 passengers, activists, journalists and crew clamber on board, all determined, some upset at leaving others behind, all of us wondering what our next fight would be, pretty sure there would be one.
Early mondaymorning, the spirit of humanity leaves larnaca port for gazaport….still hoping
As we waved goodbye to passengers, we all knew this was going to be our hardest mission yet. We head towards Gaza. No problems at first except the usual dreaded sea sickness afflicting some passengers.
Approx. 1 a.m., we have radio contact from Israeli navy. We are 60 miles due west of Haifa. First comes the usual questions, name of boat, number of passengers. number of crew, last port of call, next port of call. Once we announced that our next port is Gaza port, we are asked to wait for a response. They tell us, “;this is a military zone and you are not allowed to enter, if you continue on this course we will take all necessary steps t stop you with all responsibility on your captainand crew” Next , all our navigation equipment was jammed so we reverted to compass and chart and continued on our way to Gaza. Radio contact continued till 2.00 a.m. with continuous threats including we had 10 minutes to turn around or they would open fire. We have at this stage one patrol boat shining a high beam spotlight in to the wheel house anda second larger vessel with jamming equipment shadowing us. 2.00 a.m. all goes quiet and dark, but they are still shadowing us.
6.06, radio communication starts again with threats to open fire or use any method to stop us. 7.00 a.m. navigation equipment back working and we proudly realised that after 6 hours of charts and compass we are only miles of course and still in international waters.
7.00 a.m. number of military vessels increase, 8 large naval vessels, 2 small high speed gun boats, 4 high speed zodiacs and 1 f16( all for one little boat doing 8 knot’s!!) This continued until 3.30 approx, we were now 20 miles from . zodiacs now approached our boat, one of them threw 2 grappling hooks on to our boat and attached and climbed on board. They were quick but nottoo sure footed on our swaying litte boat.
Everybody is put into the main cabin apart from CaptainDenis who is still in the wheel house. 4 of us are handcuffed. CaptainDenis not amused when one commando got sick on the floor of the wheel house. Taken to ashdod.
On reaching ashdod , we are paraded as terrorists in front of military cameras and then taken to a warehouse to be searched. Were then moved to Ben Gurion detention centre, searched again and bedded down for the night.
Israelis tried to get Nobel peace prize winner, mairead to leave the country but she bravely refused, so she was handcuffed and put in to paddy wagon. She told them she would refuse to get on the plane. Change of plan, Everybody now taken in stages , to Ramle, Givon detention centre, and searched again!
By now, we knew land crew were in overdrive and i personally had no worries that jenny was moving heaven and earth to secure our release. Jenny had contacted Alan who in turn contacted IPSC, and these amazing people also went into over drive and bombarded Israeli and Irishembassy as well as foreign office with phone-calls and emails. Because of this, the irish consulate wwasthe first consulate to visit the prison, and Connor did an amazing job.
next few days
The next fewdays were spent in Givon Detention centre meeting lawyers, judges and consulates. Also we got to meet some wonderful people but hear their horrific stories of how long they have been kept in detention and why.
Sunday evening we are moved back to ben gurion , first to airport and searched and then to detention centre and searched again. ( for those of you who read the article in the star, you will understand the amusement they had every time they searched my bags!!)
Before we had all left Cyprus, we had agreed no one would be left behind in Israel, our fear being that if the westerners left the Arabs may have been detained much longerwith no exit. One problem being, the al jazeera camera man was from Yemen, and because there is no diplomatic relations between Israel and Yemen, he coud not be deported home. Once we knew the had safe passage from israel to jordan we all agreed to deportation.
Mairead and i sat in ben gurion detention centre and watched through the window every body being sent to their respective countries, the last two to leave israelwere of course’ the irish!!!!!!!!!!!
Arrived back in dublin airport to wonderful reception arranged by IPSC., followed by press confrence and television interviews. I would really like to thank all who came to the airport to meet us , especially those who travelled long distances and of course a huge thank you to my in-laws for driving all the way from tyrone, ( xx eva and damien) . One funny side note, we were deported on an el-al flight so all other passengers were israeli, travelling to ireland for summer holidays, only to be greeted by 100 people waving irish and palestinian flags andchanting free. free palestinmne. 4000 miles and they still cant get away from it. All media finished, couple of pint` s and a bag of tayto( thanks freda!!)
Meeting in dail with td`s and senators, gave report on Gaza situation as well as our own story, left dail and went to foreign affairs office to thank them for all their work, more pints, more tayto!!!
Hopped on plane back to larnaca and finally back to jenny……….took next day off and we all went back to work on saturday to arrange next mission, and get a boat!!!!!!!!!!!