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Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip

Belfast councillors have voted against sending a representative on a business and investment mission to Israel, reported the Belfast Telegraph.

According to the report, councillors rejected a plan to send the council's Director of Economic Development on the trip with local businesses during a meeting on Wednesday.

The purported aim of the visit was to "facilitate access to investment and new market opportunities for five Belfast based businesses".

However, a motion from Sinn Fein, seconded by SDLP, received sufficient backing from councillors to block the official's participation in the delegation.

Councillors from Sinn Fein, the SDLP, People Before Profit and the Green Party voted against, while the Alliance and DUP voted in favour.

READ: Ireland passes BDS bill banning Israel settlement goods 

Sinn Fein councillor Deidre Hargey, who chairs the committee, said the trip was deemed "inappropriate".

"There have been numerous UN violations of sanctions perpetrated against the Palestinian people," she told BBC's Talkback. "What we're trying to do in terms of ethical trading as a council is to look at all of those issues."

DUP Councillor Guy Spence attacked what he saw as pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which he attacked as "anti-Semitic".

People Before Profit's representative on the committee Fiona Ferguson said that Spence's attempt to "conflate BDS with anti-Semitism" was "disgraceful".

"It is clear from DUP frustration that the presence of socialists, who support the BDS campaign, in council can be very effective," Councillor Ferguson said.

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