Handala Coming to Cobh – Ireland

Press release issued by Cork Branch of Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Crowds of supporters greet the boat Handala in Cork (Cobh) harbour. Palestinian and other flags flying.
Handala in Cork Harbour.

For immediate release

Friday 7th June 2024

Freedom Flotilla boat Handala to visit Cobh on its way to Gaza 

A boat named Handala (see note below), part of the Freedom Flotilla sailing to Gaza, is due to arrive in Cork Harbour this weekend, where it will berth at Kennedy Pier in Cobh, County Cork. After visiting various ports across Europe, the Freedom Flotilla will sail to Gaza where it will physically challenge Israel’s illegal maritime blockade of Gaza using non-violent tactics. The Freedom Flotilla is a project of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which is composed of civil society organisations and grassroots groups from many countries, and which has been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza since 2011. By visiting ports across Europe, the Freedom Flotilla is aiming to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people and to enlist support from people along the way who can put pressure on their governments to demand a permanent ceasefire and help ensure self-determination and the fulfilment of all human rights for Palestinian people.

A variety of activities and events, to welcome the Handala to Cobh and build local solidarity with the Palestinian people, will take place from 7th to 10th June, organised by a committee of local Cobh activists and supported by the Cork, Cobh and Midleton Palestine solidarity campaigns. These events include musical performances, vigils and family events, with activities for children and a special send-off for the Handala on Monday, when local groups will gather in Cobh to wave the boat off. Performers who will be contributing to the events include singers such as John Spillane and comedian Maeve Higgins. A full schedule of these activities can be read below.

Events across the weekend will feature speakers, including Senator Frances Black, who will speak about the Occupied Territories Bill, and several speakers who are currently sailing onboard or involved in the Flotilla; these include Irish human rights campaigner Caoimhe Butterly, who was shot by an Israeli soldier while trying to shield Palestinian children from gunfire in 2002, Irish-Brazilian filmmaker, photographer and reporter Fellipe Lopes, and John Turnbull, who in 2018 was captaining a peaceful Freedom Flotilla vessel when Israel’s navy hijacked it in international waters and kidnapped its passengers and crew.

Gillian Carney, of the Cobh – Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh organising Committee said:

“I think Cobh is a beautiful location to welcome Handala and has lots of maritime history. One of the other Freedom Flotilla boats, Akdeniz, which was previously named The Connaught, was actually built in Cobh in Verolme Dockyard. Cobh is my home town and I’m incredibly proud of the dedication of my local Cobh Palestine Solidarity Campaign with the support of Midleton and Cork Palestine solidarity campaigns in making this weekend so vibrant and welcoming. It’s been a huge team effort with so many volunteering skills, time and energy to ensure it a beautiful, inclusive and community-based weekend that will hopefully raise awareness around the Freedom Flotilla but also strengthen and energise the movement  here in Ireland for Palestinian justice, self-determination and liberation.”

Ann Wright, Freedom Flotilla Coalition member and retired US army colonel and former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq, said:

“The Gaza Flotilla’s objective is to bring international attention to the illegal Israeli naval blockade of Gaza by sailing ships to try to break the blockade. With the Israeli genocide and blocking all access to Gaza from land, sea and air, the flotilla is an important symbol of outrage of citizens around the world to the inaction of governments to bring an end to Israeli’s impunity in conducting the 8-month genocide.” 

Tom O’Halloran, Cork Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh Organising Committee, said:

“This weekend will bring a growing community of like-minded individuals together from diverse backgrounds to show much-needed solidarity and support for the Palestinian people. Our shared humanity, along with our shared history of colonisation, is what makes events like these so relevant in the face of injustice, destruction and dehumanisation of our friends in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian Freedom Flotilla Coalition Organiser and attorney, said:

“Palestinians have long felt abandoned by the international community, which has allowed Israel to pillage our land and occupy us and kill us for decades without consequence. It’s that impunity that’s brought us to today, where Israel feels that it can carry out a live-stream genocide and get away with it. But while our governments have failed to live up to their obligations under international law, it’s important to assert that people of the world will not stay silent. More than ever, while Palestinians are trying to survive this genocide, it’s vital that the actions of global civil society reach Palestinians so they know that they are not alone. Irish participation in the Freedom Flotilla and the efforts to break the siege of Gaza is incredibly meaningful because, despite Israel’s strategy of isolating the Palestinian people, we have always felt the love and affinity of the Irish. The Flotilla is not about charity but about standing up to Israel’s aggression and refusing to abide by its illegal policies. The Flotilla is about human solidarity and people-power over military might, and that is a force to be reckoned with.”

Youssef Samour, a Palestinian living in New Zealand-Aotearoa who is a member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, said:

“I’m a Palestinian that has never been to Palestine, like many third-generation refugees living in the diaspora. I was born in the UAE and currently reside in New Zealand, where I’ve now lived over half my life. I took part in the 2018 Freedom Flotilla Coalition mission, and was a crew member on board the Swedish sailing yacht Freedom from Amsterdam through to Sicily. I was living in Dubai at the time, when I had felt that the general perspective on the Palestinian cause was becoming a sense of numbing acceptance of the status quo, as with many issues that may feel out of one’s control, about which I try to constantly remind myself and those around me that we cannot hope to bring about change without action, using our skills and tools to collectively contribute, influence and impact. The sea is my lifelong love and is where I spend most, if not all, of my free time. So it was fairly organic for me to use my maritime experience and affinity with the sea for this just cause that is so deeply rooted in me. The reason I took part in 2018 is the same reason I am joining Handala on the 2024 mission shortly. I’ve been following the Freedom Flotilla Coalition for a number of years now and hold a great deal of respect for the people involved and what has been achieved over the years. The Freedom Flotilla and BDS movements have together spread waves of global awareness, solidarity and much-needed support to Palestine – all of which are crucial to the ultimate goal of the liberation of the Palestinian people from oppression and occupation.”


For media requests please contact: Fellipe Lopes FFC Press and Media Officer: + 353 89 981 6064  – [email protected]

For more information, press enquiries and updates on the exact arrival time of the Handala into Cobh, please contact: 

Gillian Carney: Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh Organising Committee member and member of Cobh and Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaigns: Mobile: 0879775323

Tom O’Halloran: Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh Organising Committee member and member of Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Mobile: 086 864 3546


The boat is named Handala after Handala, a Palestinian refugee child cartoon character, widely recognised throughout Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora, who represents Palestinian people, especially children. Handala remains a potent symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and self-determination. Since more than two thirds of the people in Gaza are Palestinian refugees, and approximately half of Gaza’s inhabitants are children. Handala is an appropriate name for the Flotilla’s mission: For the Children of Gaza. See more here

See a full schedule for activities taking place in Cobh from 7th to 10th June:



The Handala is due to arrive in Cork Harbour either on the evening of Friday 7th or morning of Saturday the 8th (ETA tbc) and will berth at Kennedy Pier in Cobh, Co.Cork.

  • All funds raised for the weekend will go to the Freedom Flotilla Coalition and we welcome anyone who can’t attend but would like to donate to do so.
  • There is a full weekend of events planned. Some are free and some are ticketed events. All ticketed events are SOLD OUT.
  • This will be a weekend of building solidarity among local groups for Palestine and for raising awareness about the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.
  • This weekend is being organised by a committee of local activists and is supported by Cork, Cobh and Midleton Palestine solidarity campaigns.
  • Please follow @gazafreedomflotillacobh on Instagram for updates on the weekend.
  • Cobh in Cork Harbour is the only Irish port that Handala will visit.


Handala expected to arrive on the evening of Friday 7th or the morning of Saturday 8th. We hope to confirm the exact time on Friday morning.

Local groups will gather in Cobh Promenade and at Kennedy Pier with Palestinian flags to welcome the boat and crew.


Speakers from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will attend the Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaign march and rally in Cork city. John Turnbull of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will speak at the rally.

Return to Cobh for afternoon events.

3.30-5.30pm: Cobh Promenade Event

FREE Family event – NOT TICKETED

This will be the opening event of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla weekend in Cobh. Everyone is welcome.

Comedian and writer Maeve Higgins will MC and open the event.

A member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will speak.

We will then have a number of music acts, as follows:


Ceara Hurley

Stephen & Abby

James Keegan

Áine O’Gorman

Jimmy Crowley & Eve Telford

Seán Damery (Rua Rí)

Martin Leahy

Martin & Choir

Marion & Choir

6.30pm-9pm Handala’s night out, for the children of Gaza

Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh – Ticketed – SOLD OUT

We hope this event will bring awareness to important community actions and movements to support Gaza, such as the Freedom Flotilla Coalition. We are delighted to have a strong voice in Irish politics, Senator Frances Black, joining us on the night.

Funds raised from the evening will go to the Freedom Flotilla Coalition to help it to keep its mission moving forwards towards Gaza.

The evening will begin with food from local chefs and producers including Lilly Higgins, Jacquie O’Dea of Seasalt, Ellen’s Kitchen and Hederman’s Smokehouse.

Maeve Higgins will also speak and introduce the guests speakers:

Senator Frances Black will speak on the Occupied Territories Bill.

Flotilla speakers who are on board or part of the Flotilla movement will include:

Fellipe Lopes

John Turnbull

Caoimhe Butterly

Followed by music by Vickie Keating

9pm Finish


12am-2pm Cobh Community Centre Family Event – Free but ticketed – SOLD OUT

Kite-making for kids

Crafts for kids


Kabin Crew to perform

Chance for parents to chat, meet other members of local groups, and to involve their children in events that raise awareness and celebrate the culture of Gaza and Palestine.

Tea, coffee, cakes and treats will be served.

Kids will then be invited to bring their kites down to the town to fly them from the Promenade.

7pm Cobh Palestine Solidarity Campaign Vigil and Closing of Flotilla Weekend

Tan from Freedom Flotilla Coalition to speak

Music and poems from Eve Telford, John Spillane and local activists.

Izz to speak

Walk over to boat – blessing/song

Music including a song “Handala” written by Marion Horgan specifically for this weekend.


Handala departs Cobh – time tbc – will be shared on social media

Local groups will gather in Cobh to wave the boat off.