Infrastrata only find water in Woodburn water catchment area...
Campaigners against the contentious oil and gas exploration drilling by Infrastrata plc in the water catchment area of Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus, greeted the recent announcement, on 16th June, by Infrastrata that they intend to abandon their 2 kilometre-deep drill having found no 'hydrocarbon accumulation' with cautious satisfaction. In their press release the company stated that they will now 'fully evaluate the data collected in the well and decide where to focus its future exploration activity' in the area. Their previous grand claim of there being 25 million barrels of oil or gas equivalent in the Woodburn area would appear to be wildly inaccurate and tends to support the claim that the company had embarked on a wildcat drill with little chance of success.
On 12th June, during the regular Sunday commons ramble at Woodburn, organised by local residents, seven campaigners were arrested on the access lane into the forest. Infrastrata have fenced off, installed generators, floodlights, CCTV cameras and private security with guard dogs on this lane which is a public right of way. Incredibly, Tactical Support Group riot police arrived (with at least one brandishing an assault rifle) and proceeded to remove the walkers from the lane. Local officers had already threatened the seven with CS spray and even the private security guards got in on the act by threatening to remove them from the lane. Five were held at a PSNI barracks in Belfast until about 4 am and charged with breach of the peace and other charges. Two were de-arrested or released subject to reporting to the prosecution service.
This was the first time that riot police had been seen by campaigners at Woodburn since the drill rig arrived and represented a serious escalation in policing tactics. In a recent report on policing at Woodburn the campaign stated that: "the articulation of the lawfulness of the public to be on the right of way is dismissed by the PSNI. Information on the illegal occupation by InfraStrata to the right of way is constantly ignored despite even the superintendent identifying this as a right of way. The company may have a right of occupation to the site (and its unlawfulness is being challenged in the courts) but they have no right of occupation of the right of way. Evidence shown to the PSNI is always summarily rejected."
Following the announcement that Infrastrata had failed to find any of the '25m barrels of oil' at Woodburn, campaigners from across Ireland met to share knowledge and experiences. They celebrated with a fun-filled family event the following Saturday and partied long into the wee hours at the camp.
The Stop the Drill campaign continues to call for the statutory agencies such as NI Water, NI Environment Agency and the Department for Infrastructure to take the necessary steps to reinstate the drill site to forest; also to remove the security fencing etc from the forest access lane as all equipment has now been removed from the site. At a recent Belfast City Council committee meeting campaigners presented evidence on the lack of regulation of water quality near the drill site and also the risk of pollution when the site is being restored and from the chemicals which were used during the drilling. The NI Water response was somewhat unconvincing for the councillors and they agreed to carry out an internal review to 'establish what, if anything, it might have done differently if a similar situation arose again, and what lessons had been learned as a result.'
The committee also agreed to formally invite Infrastrata and its PR agents RPS to a future meeting as the drilling company had failed to even respond to the committee's invitation to appear. Also that 'clarification be sought from the NI Environment Agency on the reported oil spillages; that Stop the Drill provides the evidence outlined previously (on oil spills); and that officers continue to engage with the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in relation to this issue."
Campaigners also continue to monitor Infrastrata's development of a part EU-funded gas storage scheme at nearby Islandmagee and also any further applications for oil or gas exploration in the area.
For background see
Peace People 40th anniversary
An open house is being held to commemorate the Peace People's 40 year anniversary, anyone interested is very welcome to come and reflect on how peace and reconciliation has blossomed out of pain and loss. You can see the Peace People archive of photos and films, chat or simply quietly reflect, and enjoy some free tea & coffee. The Peace House is open on Saturday 13th August from 10am - 4pm and Sunday14th August from 10am - 4pm. For more information: email@example.com ph 028 9066 3465. 224 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6GE. www.peacepeople.com
Hiroshima Day with Irish CND
This year will mark the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Preparations are underway for the annual ceremony of commemoration organised by Irish CND in Merrion Square, Dublin, at lunchtime on 6th August. If you live in another part of the country and are interested in organising a commemoration in your area, the Irish CND committee will be happy to offer any advice or support that it can; get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
UN Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament
The second session of the OEWG took place in Geneva from 2nd to 13th May. Through statements and working papers, over 130 states expressed support for a new legal treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons. This represents a clear majority of UN member states. Although there were no representatives of Irish civil society organisations available to take part, the Irish government was one of the sponsors of ICAN's participation in the working group. The final session of the OEWG in August will agree recommendations to be presented to the General Assembly. Following the failure of last year's Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to agree a report, the OEWG represents the best diplomatic opportunity for many years to move forward in a meaningful way towards nuclear disarmament. ICAN (of which Irish CND is a partner organisation) has published a detailed report on the outcomes of the May OEWG, available at http://tinyurl.com/hvawl5v [Source: Irish CND]
Bloomsday not Bombsday
Afri has made a video about an action with Panama hats on Bloomsday (16th June) at 30 Botanic Avenue, Glasnevin, Dublin to highlight the fact, revealed in the Panama Papers, that a company at this address facilitates commission payments on behalf of major Italian Arms Company Finmeccanica. See www.youtube.com
A video on (almost) 30 years of Afri's Famine Walk (Louisburgh/Doolough, Co Mayo) can be seen at www.youtube.com See also www.afri.ie
Ireland supporting NATO exercises in Eastern Europe?
Shannonwatch has raised the question of whether Ireland has supported NATO exercises in Eastern Europe. Shannonwatch recorded an unusual number of US military aircraft at and overflying Shannon Airport in the period following 4th June. This time coincided with the preparations for NATO Anaconda-2016 military exercises in Poland which were being conducted from 7th to 17th June. The 10-day military exercise involved 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries. While some of the US military flights through Shannon may be connected with military operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is likely that many of them are associated with the Anaconda exercise.
In particular the presence of US military mid air refuelling aircraft at Shannon would suggest that aircraft taking part in the Anaconda exercise may be being refuelled in or just outside Irish airspace. This would not only be in breach of Irish neutrality but would also be in breach of assurances given to the Irish Government by the US Government that none of the US military aircraft using Shannon Airport or Irish air space are on military operations or military exercises.
For a list of US Military aircraft recorded at Shannon Airport or overflying in Irish airspace close to Shannon between June 4th and 11th see http://www.shannonwatch.org while there is a huge amount of other information to be found at www.shannonwatch.org
Green Values and Progressive Politics
"Green Values and Progressive Politics: Religion, humanism and the ethical basis for political activism" is the title of a seminar at Queen's University Belfast on Saturday 9th July 2016 from 11:00am – 4:00pm in the Lanyon Building, Room 1/052. It is organised by Green European Foundation, with the support of Green Foundation Ireland, and in partnership with the Centre for Sustainability and Environmental Governance. Speakers include: Nuala Ahern (Co-Editor of "Green Values: Religion and Secularism" and former Chair of Green Foundation Ireland), John Barry (Professor of Green Political Economy at Queen's University Belfast) and Erica Meijers (Co-Editor of "Green Values: Religion and Secularism"). In the morning, Erica Meijers will speak about "Marx, Religion and Politics", while during the afternoon there will be a discussion with Nuala Ahern, John Barry and Erica Meijers about the book "Green Values, Religion and Secularism". There will be responses from Green activists, faith communities and humanists. Registration required - book via www.greenfoundationireland.ie
Facilitating Difficult Conversations
A one day workshop with Michael Doherty as tutor takes place on Tuesday 13th September from 9.30am – 4.30pm at Clarendon Street Chambers, 67 Clarendon Street, Derry/Londonderry BT48 7ER ph 028 71365636 / 077 14494258, fee £30.00 (includes a sandwich lunch and The Peace Builders Workbook). This one day workshop is designed to help facilitators working in the field of peace building to look at some of the skills and knowledge needed to facilitate difficult conversations when working with sensitive issues. E-mail email@example.com and www.mediateni.com
AVP: Workshops and volunteering
The Alternatives to Violence Project is a training programme enabling participants to deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways; workshops are delivered by trained facilitators and are experiential (not based on lectures). Upcoming workshops include 12th-14th July basic workshop in Shelton Abbey, 22th-24th July second level workshop in Wheatfield Prison, 29th-31st July basic workshop in Limerick Prison, 26th-28th August Training for Facilitators in Wheatfield Prison. If you want to take part in the next workshops, contact the coordinator or come to a meeting, but you need to apply for prison clearance before attending a workshop in a prison (this process can take up to three months). A basic workshop for people wishing to explore volunteering with AVP but who do not have prison clearance yet will be run on 9th-11th September, in CDI in Tallaght.
Please contact the coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org to register. See also avpireland.ie and avp.international
ICCL: director moves on, older people's rights
Long-serving ICCL Executive Director Mr. Mark Kelly has decided to leave his position with the Council. He is an international human rights lawyer who has led the ICCL since May 2006 and will remain in post until his successor has been appointed. The announcement came shortly after the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, hosted an official reception to celebrate the ICCL's 40 years of independent human rights work.
'Know Your Rights – A guide for Older People' , the seventh in the ICCL's Know Your Rights public information series, provides detailed information on many of the rights and entitlements of older people in relation to autonomy and participation, economic security, health and wellbeing. www.iccl.ie
Mediation Awareness Week 2016
This runs from Monday 10th to Saturday 15th October and if you if you are willing to organise and promote a public event please get in touch with the coordinators. This can be a discussion group, a presentation, a demonstration, free consultations, a public gathering – whatever suits you best and is likely to be of general interest. It might also be an article in your local newspaper or a speaking slot on your local radio station, or something on social media. If you send in notification (by 11th September) it can be included in the calendar. Please get in touch by email to Mary Ellen at email@example.com
Stop the cycle of violence in Turkey
War Resisters' International (WRI), in collaboration with Connection e.V. in Germany and nonviolent activists and WRI members from Turkey sent a delegation to the Southeast of Turkey between 26-29 April. A report from the delegation's visit, which included activists from Austria, Germany, Spain and Sweden, is now available online. During their visit, the delegation met officials, peace and human rights activists in Diyarbakir, Cizre and surrounding towns affected by the curfews and armed conflict that have been ongoing since August 2015. See www.wri-irg.org
Bee responsible for wildlife and water
Campaigners in animal costumes handed in a 14,000 strong petition to Minister Denis Naughten in Dublin on 14th June calling for the Minister for the Environment to be given responsibility for wildlife and water protection. The petition was started in response to the Taoiseach's proposed abolition of the Department of the Environment and the disbandment of its functions across three departments. Denis Naughten has now been given the title Minister for Environment but he still does not have responsibility for key environmental functions such as nature and wildlife protection and water quality. A variety of organisations backed the action. www.foe.ie
Church and Peace supports security through non-military means
The European Church and Peace network has affirmed that it sees the path to a stronger Europe in security through civil conflict management rather than military deterrence. The European Union's new foreign and security policy, unveiled on 28th June in Brussels by Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, calls for a "stronger Europe" in the face of current crises. "As Europeans we must take greater responsibility for our security. We must be ready and able to deter, respond to, and protect ourselves against external threats," the document states. The Church and Peace network - comprising churches, organisations and communities in 14 European countries - takes a different view: "For us, a stronger Europe must take the form of security through social justice, respect for human rights, sustainable development, welcome and protection for threatened persons, fair relationships with all of the regions of the world - and comprehensive and deliberate efforts to strengthen civilian conflict resolution," underlines Church and Peace chair Antje Heider-Rottwilm. See here.
Arun Gandhi speaks at UU Peace Chair launch in Derry
Dr Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, gave a speech on peace and nonviolence hosted by Ulster University at its Magee campus in Derry~Londonderry on 23rd June. The visit was the first headline event to be hosted by the new John Hume and Thomas P. O'Neill Chair in Peace, Professor Brandon Hamber, which is funded by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI). The role of the Chair is to build upon the work of the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) headquartered at Ulster University's Magee campus in applying lessons from Northern Ireland's peace process to conflict zones and training the next generation of peacebuilders in Northern Ireland and across the world. See press release and Flickr
Peace News summer camp, Shrewsbury, England
For those who fancy something different, fun and challenging, it is not too late to book for the Peace News summer camp ("empowering, community-building, training, play") held near Shrewsbury in England from 30th July to 3rd August. It is low cost, family friendly, and with plenty of variety in programme to involve those inside or outside the UK. See peacenewscamp.info for details.
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