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Concern over €4m Irish state investments in companies in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine

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An investment firm acting for the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) met with eight companies who operate from the illegal settlements, to “highlight concerns”. It comes ahead of a proposed bill that would force ISIF to divest from such companies. But none of the companies that were met with have stopped operating in the illegally occupied territories.

Today’s News in 90 seconds – 13th February 2024

According to the most recent figures available from the ISIF, it has invested more than €4m in companies which are understood to be based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East ­Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill, which was introduced by Sinn Féin’s John Brady last year, was paused by the Government for nine months while ministers tried to figure out how to handle it. The bill is due to go to the next stage later this month.

While the Government said that it ­accepted the principle of the bill, it wanted time to figure out if there was a way to achieve the aims of it outside of a new law. Last summer, Finance Minister Michael McGrath wrote to the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs and defence to ask what it felt the “most appropriate way to progress the broad intention of this legislation”.

According to a report by the ­Oireachtas committee, the ISIF was questioned by TDs and senators on human rights and how it influences its investments.

The report said: “ISIF replied that human rights are factored into ISIF’s investment decisions. In response to a question on eight companies engaged in the illegal Israeli settlements, ISIF explained that its partner organisation have engaged with the companies in question, including by meeting the management teams to highlight concerns.

“The official acknowledged that none of the companies in question has ceased their operations in the illegal ­settlements as a result of these engagements.”

A spokesman for the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which manages and controls the ISIF, said that the meetings with the eight companies were held by EOS at Federated Hermes – an asset management company representing ISIF, which helps with responsible investments. EOS engages with companies ISIF has invested in to discuss how the companies are managed.

“Any engagement by EOS with the eight companies referred to would have taken place in this context on behalf of EOS’s clients, including ISIF. ISIF has not met these companies directly,” the spokesman said.

TDs and senators on the foreign ­affairs committee were split on how to handle the bill, and have recommended that it go to the committee on finance, public expenditure and reform instead.

In response to a parliamentary ­question on January 25, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said that Ireland’s “overriding position on Israeli settlements is crystal-clear”.

“They are illegal under ­international law and are damaging to the prospects for peace. Ireland’s position on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory informs our engagement with the state of ­Israel across a range of bilateral issues, and will continue to do so,” he said.

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