Five Irish activists who were detained in Israel when soldiers took control of the MV Rachel Corrie aid ship have spoken in Dublin of their relief to be home.

The five waived their right to appeal an order of deportation by Israeli authorities.

One of them, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, said that when Israeli soldiers boarded the Rachel Corrie, she did not fear for her life, as the ship's captain Derek Graham had been in touch with the Israeli navy to assure them that there would be no violent resistance.

Derek Graham described how he felt anxious when he was asked to remain on the bridge alone while the rest of the crew and passengers were taken down to the deck.

Denis Halliday, former UN assistant secretary general, said that he would do it again, adding that he learned something about himself, and that being jailed made him value his freedom.

He said that taking Irish people prisoner in international waters is an 'outrage of huge dimension' adding that 'the Israelis must be brought to heel'.

Yesterday Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin paid tribute to the crew and passengers on board the MV Rachel Corrie, who he said had demonstrated their peaceful intentions.

The vessel was intercepted and seized by Israeli troops off the coast of Gaza on Saturday.

Seven other activists who were also detained, including six Malaysians and a Cuban, left Israel yesterday morning through the West Bank into Jordan.

The group had been trying to deliver aid to get through the Israeli blockade of Gaza to deliver aid to Palestinians.

The ship remains under Israeli control in the port of Ashdod.

The vessel had been following a flotilla of aid ships which was raided by Israeli troops just over a week ago. Nine people were killed in the incident.

Meanwhile, Israel has said it will investigate a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla and also examine alternative ways to carry out its blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal territory.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak made the announcement in parliament in response to a no-confidence motion introduced by opposition parties against the raid, and a day after rejecting a proposal by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon for an international panel to investigate the takeover.

The Israeli government easily defeated the no-confidence motions.

Unionists stop NI Gaza motion

Unionist politicians have prevented the Northern Assembly from passing a motion that demanded an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The vote was held this afternoon after two independent members forced an emergency debate on the issue.

But despite support for the motion from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party, the main unionist groupings successfully voted as a bloc to stop the motion.

Unionists used Assembly rules to ensure that separate majorities were required among both the unionist and nationalist benches before the motion could be passed.

A special sitting of the power-sharing Assembly was held last Friday to debate the issue, with the cross-community vote held today.

The debate had heard republican calls for an end to all Israeli/Palestinian hostilities and a renewed international effort to develop a peace process in the Middle East.

But the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party claimed the motion was effectively anti-Israeli and described it as a publicity stunt.

EU wants greater role in Gaza

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has said that the EU could play a greater role in ensuring aid gets in to Gaza.

He was speaking after both France and Britain urged Israel to accept an International Commission investigation into last Monday’s raid by Israeli troops on the flotilla.

Yesterday, the proposal was rejected by Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague met his French counterpart in Paris and insisted an international inquiry into the incident was necessary.