Derry City and Strabane District Council is seeking counsel from a top lawyer over legal pitfalls that might arise from the implementation of its boycott of Israeli goods.
Chief Executive John Kelpie indicated the council is engaging Senior Counsel over the implementation of a motion passed by the local authority last September, that committed support for an ongoing international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Mr. Kelpie said guidance on how to legally implement the motion should be available within weeks and that a paper will subsequently be brought before the council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee.
The revelation was made after members of the Derry branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) addressed the committee on Tuesday and outlined why they believe the BDS campaign should be implemented as soon as possible.
Derry IPSC Chair Cathy Hutton said: “I was glad to hear Mr. Kelpie, the Chief Executive, confirm that there will be a document forthcoming within the next few weeks, once they’ve received the advice, which is great. That’s what we were really pushing for.”
Ms. Hutton said she understood the council’s responsibilties under public contract law had to be determined before it could look at an “ethical procurement policy” targeting specific companies.
“We understand contracts can’t just be dumped. What we’re hoping for is that they adopt an ethical procurement policy towards boycotting Israel and that any future contracts with the likes of HP or G4S, that they will choose ethically, and that they will choose to boycott companies that are complicit in the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime.”
During the meeting Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming said: “Sinn Féin, along with the vast majority of the people of this city have a long history of supporting the Palestinian people, particularly in their struggle for self-determination.”
SDLP Councillor John Boyle said: “For the SDLP the principles of justice and equality are sacrosanct and should be sacrosanct for all.”
He said her remembered the boycott of South Africa during apartheid bearing fruit once a “critical mass” of supporters has been grown globally, stating: “Your movement has that potential.”
Security firm G4S last year confirmed it was selling its Israeli subsidiary, although it said its decision had nothing to do with BDS targetting over its contracts with the Israeli Government. After the BDS motion was passed last year HP told this paper: “It is not our policy to take sides in political disputes between countries or regions.”