Minister Halligan's three-day programme included meetings with Sabri Saidam, Minister for Education and Higher Education and Mamoun Abu Shahla, Minister for Labour, as well as visits to schools and vocational training centres and a UNRWA refugee camp. Minister Halligan expressed Ireland's continued strong commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people throughout his visit. Minister of State Halligan's visit represented a further strengthening of Ireland's engagement in the education sector in Palestine.
Minister of State John Halligan began the Palestine leg of his four-day visit to the region on 8 November with meetings with officials from UN OCHA and UNRWA, two of Ireland's key partners in Palestine. The Minister discussed in detail the many challenges faced by these agencies in delivering assistance to the Palestinian people.
On the morning of 9 November, the Minister visited two Palestinian school within Jerusalem's Old City to hear at first-hand the challenges faced in delivering Palestinian education in East Jerusalem. Minister Halligan met with students recently detained while on their way to and from school and encouraged them to persist with their schooling, underlining the importance of education.
Minister Halligan also met with key partners in the educations and vocational training sectors, including officials from the relevant Ministries as well as other international agencies and donors before meeting the Minister for Education and Higher Education, Sabri Saidam and the Minister for Labour, Abu Shahla.
Ireland is one of five members of the "Joint Financing Arrangement" alongside Belgium, Finland, Germany and Norway, working closely alongside the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in order to help it implement its own Education Development Strategic Plan through financial and technical assistance. Ireland has contributed a total of €10.5 million to the Joint Financing Arrangement since joining in 2010, including €1.5 million to date in 2016.
On the evening of 9 November, Minister Halligan attended the opening of the new Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah, at the invitation of Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of Yasser Arafat. The final day of Minister Halligan's visit began with a visit to Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. Minister Halligan was given a brief presentation on the work of UNRWA and the lives of refugees residing in Aida. Minister Halligan also had the chance to have a brief interaction with the Aida School Parliament, during which they discussed life inside the camp. Ireland has provided €5.5 million in funding to UNRWA in 2016.
Minister Halligan concluded his programme with a tour of the Beit Jala Vocational School, where 150 students receive vocational training in woodwork, architecture, beauty therapy, automotive mechanics and electronics.