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Irish Nobel Winner Denied Entry After Attempt to Reach Gaza

An Irish Nobel laureate who participated in a June flotilla to Gaza is stopped after trying to enter Israel as part of a women's delegation.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 9/29/2010, 8:23 AM / Last Update: 9/29/2010, 8:33 AM

Nobel laureate Mairead Maquire was denied entry into Israel Tuesday after trying to enter as part of a women's leadership group. She was stopped upon her arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport with the Nobel Women's Initiative, an international delegation of women's rights activists.

Maguire, a former member of a flotilla to Gaza, was awarded the Peace Prize in 1976  for her efforts to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

The rest of the delegation continued with its seven-day trip, according to spokeswoman Rachel Vincent, and plans to visit Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, Ramallah, Hevron and Bili'in to meet with and highlight the work of female “peace builders.”

“She had been on two or three flotillas to Gaza,” explained Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “As is the case with flotilla participants, she was deported with all the other participants, and the law is that once you are deported, you are denied an entry visa.”

Maguire had been aboard the Irish cargo ship MV Rachel Corrie that attempted in June to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza. The Irish flotilla came just five days after a bloody clash between Israel Navy commandos and terror activists on a Turkish-sponsored vessel in a six-ship flotilla.

The MV Rachel Corrie, owned by the Free Gaza movement, was named for a former member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in 2003 after placing herself squarely in the way of an IDF bulldozer during Gaza operations, out of the line of vision of the driver.

As with the other ships, the Israeli Navy had redirected the Irish vessel to Ashdod port and deported the participants.

Fatmeh El-Ajou, attorney for Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and who represents Maguire, told CNN that her client had not been told last June her actions would prevent her return to Israel. At the airport, however, the attorney said Maguire was informed “she won't be allowed to enter Israel for 10 years from now.”

Palmor charged Maguire with deliberately attempting to force a confrontation.

“I don't know what she was thinking when she took that plane to Israel,” he said. “I can guarantee she knew very well that she has no entry visa and that she would be denied entry after having repeatedly provoked Israeli authorities. I believe it was a deliberate act of confrontation.”

Maguire hopes to challenge the deportation order, El-Ajou said, adding that her client believed there were no grounds to block her entry, “due to the fact that all her activities are peaceful and non-violent, and are human rights oriented.”