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Irish Cyclists receive no welcome after 6000km cycle to Gaza
6 August 2009
After cycling through 14 countries and two time zones , four Irish cyclists have now completed their journey of 6000km from Ireland to Gaza only to be turned down at the border. The students, attempted to enter Gaza this morning but even their invitation from the UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] didn’t help them. Their 6000km cycle aimed to raise money in support of an emergency appeal to provide for neo-natal care and medical resources for burn victims in Gaza. The initiative came from Eoghan Quinn (21), a type-1 diabetic, after he learned of the restrictions on medical supplies reaching Gaza. . “As a diabetic I am completely dependant on constant access to medicine. I wanted to use my fortunate circumstance to help those cut off from the outside world in Gaza.”
They set off on their journey from Ireland on June 22 and have been cycling over 150km a day, resting only once a week to make it on schedule to their destination,” We have tried our best and we have seen the prison of Gaza in operation. The fact that we didn’t get in speaks volumes“, says Gearóid Ó Cuinn,
“We have overcome hypothermia in France, several falls with some on busy highways and survived being chased by wild hounds in central Turkey, its been tough but epic, and to fall at the last hurdle is disappointing, but its also about creating awareness around this guarded situation”.
The intrepid travelers have received support from around the world, including a formal motion of commendation passed by the Scottish Parliament and a reception in the Irish Parliament hosted by Irish MPs and Senators. Pauline McNeil MSP: – ” This is a tremendous achievement for the cyclists and it will mean so much to Palestinians that they have made such incredible efforts for Palestinians who feel isolated and forgotten about by the world.”
Gaza’s medical infrastructure has been crippled by the two yearlong sieges that has led to widespread malnutrition and many preventable deaths. “When we arrived we were just shell shocked at the state of affairs at Rafah crossing we saw families excluded and isolated from their loved ones on the side of a desert road.” Says Ronan Sheehan (21).
The cyclist were forced to abandon their back up vehicle after the Egyptian authorities refused to allow them to enter with the van. They persevered and reached Gaza after traveling through the Sinai desert throughout the night. Eoghan states that “despite being exhausted and run down the people of Gaza and all of those who have supported us along the way have kept us going and thanks to them we reached the Rafah border crossing.”
“Even though we were unsuccessful gaining access to Gaza we will continue in our efforts to raise money for our charity (MAP) via our website www.pathwaystopalestine.com” said Tom Watts, member of the support team “All monies raised online go directly to their operations on the ground”, he added.
The team consists of Eoghan a town planning student; John Maher (30), medical student; Ronan Sheehan (21), pharmacy student and Gearóid Ó Cuinn (29) law student, all of whom attended the same high school. The support vehicle traveling with the four cyclists will be driven by trainee physiotherapist, John Lyttle (23), from Derry and Tom Watts (21), from Sheffield, who studies psychology. Project coordinator: Grainne Quinn (19) Politics Student.