AN IRISH ship, the MV Saoirse , will not take part in the planned freedom flotilla which is preparing to sail to Gaza because it has been sabotaged, according to one of the ship’s intended passengers.
Speaking last night from the Turkish port of Göcek, Fintan Lane, the national co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza organisation, said that the ship would not be able to sail as it had been “dangerously sabotaged”, according to the organising campaign.
He said that the damage to the ship was discovered on Monday night when the captain noticed that there was something wrong. Divers found that a piece was missing from one of the propeller shafts.
“This was the type of sabotage that endangered human life,” Mr Lane said last night. “They put divers under the boat who cut a piece out of the propeller shaft. That means that the damage would have happened gradually and what would have happened eventually is that the propeller would have come up through the bottom of the boat, caused a flood in the engine room and would have caused the boat to sink.”
He said the attack was “unnerving” for the crew, classifying it as a “violent attack” on the lives of those aboard. He said pictures detailing the damage to the ship would be published by the campaign today during a press conference in Dublin.
Mr Lane said that, due to the extent of the damage, the MV Saoirse would not be in a position to sail, adding that just six of the 20-plus crew who had been due to set sail would be able to take part in the flotilla by joining an Italian-based vessel today.
Those passengers who intend to board the Italian vessel include Mr Lane, former Munster and Ireland rugby player Trevor Hogan, Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, Libyan-born Irish citizen Hussein Hamed, Derry-based Sinn Féin councillor Gerry MacLochlainn, and Zoe Lawlor, who teaches at the University of Limerick and is a member of the national committee of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Mr Lane said the damage to the ship was similar to that caused to the Swedish ship the Juliano , which organisers claim was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus by “hostile divers”.
Israel has labelled the flotilla as a “dangerous provocation”, and has warned that it will intercept any ships which attempt to break the naval blockade of the Palestinian occupied Gaza Strip.
In May 2010, Israel exhibited similar resolve when troops abseiled onto a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, and in the ensuing confrontations nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed.