‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)
Introduced by Rob Fairmichael
There is nothing new under the sun. The development of an Irish Peace Trail follows peace trails on both sides of the Atlantic. As stated below, the genesis of the Irish one came from reflection on a war memorial park in Castlebar, Co Mayo, which goes under the label of a ‘Peace Park’. It may be fine to remember all who have died in war but that does not mean the focus is necessarily on peace. This is particularly true in Ireland where many people think that remembering everyone killed in every uniform is a progressive and peaceful act by overcoming the old republican/unionist divisions. The latter can be true and the focus may still not be on ‘peace’, and, given how the British state uncritically co-opts the memory of war dead in support of current military operations it can be the exact opposite.
The work on a Peace Trail in Ireland will be over a number of years and a project which may always be developing and evolving. The point is certainly not to deny the role of violence in Ireland or the role Irish people have played in wars abroad. It is rather to put the focus on positive work and struggles for peace and justice by people in Ireland regarding both here and abroad. We have a proud record of non-violent resistance to injustice and of struggling for peace. The oldest item in the Peace Trail is a number of thousand years ago, and there will always be new items added as new struggles deserve celebration. How widely the net will be spread in what is covered has yet to be defined. For example, should the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin be included because of the understanding it engenders about world religious traditions, and the beautiful art associated with these? Some ‘peace trails’ that exist include civic and scientific features; whether the Irish one will do so may depend on the context, though including ‘everything’ may dilute the peace focus too far.
This is a project about reclaiming and proclaiming the peace and nonviolent heritage of the island of Ireland. It is thus both a reflection of Irish culture, in the Republic and the North, and part of seeking to shape culture for the future. For example, the most important action of the nationalist and republican movement of 1919 was arguably not a violent action at all, rather it was the transfer of allegiance by the majority of MPs from the Parliament at Westminster to the Dáil in Dublin. Of course this has to be seen in its historical context but even in some of the darkest days of trouble in Ireland, historic or recent, there were people who chose a nonviolent path or action.
Some of the stories will be about great successes, some mixed in their outworking, and some may be considered ‘failures’ or projects, proposals and life’s work which did not achieve success by conventional standards. Of course ‘success’ is important but ‘failures’ can also be inspiring because they show people who stood up for peace and justice and were not afraid to do what they thought was right, whatever about the consequences for themselves. Francis Sheehy Skeffington or Hanna Sheehy Skeffington could both be considered ‘failures’ in different ways and yet they continue to inspire us today. That means labelling them as ‘failures’ is actually flawed. Daniel O’Connell may have succeeded in getting ‘Catholic emancipation’ but failed on Repeal of the Act of Union; most historians accept, however, that he bestowed a democratic ideal to Irish politics, and that, in the long term, is of great significance. Conventional wisdom about success and failure may be conventional but not actually wisdom.
We invite you to come on board and develop a peace trail in your county or locality. A thousand and one stories exist on a local level which deserve sharing more widely. As peace trails are developed locally then work will be done to coordinate the work and link them up, and to see where and what is missing and needs attention. Do please get in touch if you are at all interested – or have ideas for inclusion - and there is scope for many people to work together in the development of this project.
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This paper is about the concept behind such a trail, the approach which has been adopted and where work is at currently. This paper comes from INNATE who first proposed the idea in 2009. Producing ‘the trail’ itself requires considerable work, and it is realised that this is likely to take some years.
It is envisaged doing this work on a cooperative basis between different organisations in the field although it is anticipated that only a few organisations might be involved in the central work on developing the project (others would be involved locally as projects listed in the trail, or provide input for site visits as part of the Trail in their area).
Afri is involved in this project as part of their work on a ‘Culture of Peace’. INNATE is involved as originators of the idea and assisting the development of the project. Other organisations are interested and may be involved in various ways and localities.
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This proposal is to develop an ‘Irish Peace Trail’ which would cover the island of Ireland. Obviously participation in the trail could vary from a few people who determinedly did it all through to people who – more likely - picked up on one or two parts of the trail when they happened to be in the appropriate part of the country. It would be aimed at both locals and visitors. Culturally and politically it would ‘up’ the profile of peace and nonviolence, in relation to Ireland – both the Republic and Northern Ireland - but, equally, it would give a touristic focus to people who are of that frame of mind or willing to look at such a trail, and draw people to spend more time engaging with Irish culture, politics and history. ‘Peace’ for this purpose would also include a focus on justice but would need defined carefully.
It is in no way the intention of the Peace Trail to deny the role that violence has played in Irish history and politics. That would be entirely futile. However it is the purpose of the Trail to say that there is, and always has been, another side to Irish history and politics; people who lived peacefully and people who resisted injustice nonviolently and/or worked for peace and progress without resorting to violence.
The trail would be ‘political’ with a small ‘p’ because it would be impossible not to be. It should be noted that tourism in Northern Ireland is already ‘political’ to a considerable extent (e.g. Belfast murals and the ‘peace walls’) but this is considered quite acceptable to locals, visitors and authorities. The peace trail would cover a broad spectrum and would not take party political stands but it would provide a unique insight which is not adequately covered at present in relation to either Northern Ireland or the Republic. A considerable amount of Northern Ireland tourism is ‘Troubles’ tourism rather than ‘Peace’ tourism and this project would partly change this balance.
One source for the trail would be the Nonviolence in Ireland quiz (which is on the INNATE website at www.innatenonviolence.org) and the “Nonviolence in Irish History” pamphlet produced by Dawn in 1978 (see here ) but it would need substantially developed beyond the very basic information in these. Where possible the trail information would contain sufficient information, including visuals, about each site/event/entry (including getting there by foot, bicycle, bus, train and car) to give people a clear understanding of what is involved, and whether they might be interested in visiting.
We would extend the list further by:
a) Looking for local examples ourselves, e.g. the Dunnes Stores in Dublin where striking workers refused to handle apartheid-era South African goods, or, in Derry, the informal agreement between Bogside residents and the Apprentice Boys about parading (although whether the last could be appropriately studied given its sensitive nature would have to be examined locally).
b) Asking our contacts around the country for suitable examples, and working on those.
c) Engaging in political and historical research as to what to include and how to include it, including what already exists ‘on the ground’ at the moment and what would need to be developed. For example, a feature on Cain Adamnan / Adamnan’s Law (‘The Law of the Innocents’), from the year 697 CE would need development in the town of Birr for it to be promoted, or 18th century Belfast opposition to the slave trade in the same way. This would require the involvement of historians and local historians, and the creation of visual material as the focus for the item in the Trail since there may be little or nothing that is a present day physical presence for a particular Trail feature.
The development of the trail would depend on the extent of backing it receives, from whom, and the resultant time frame for research and development. We are talking about a number of years to completion and even then it should be considered as an ongoing project with always having the possibility of new items being added, and new information or features about existing items.
There are different levels at which the trail could operate, in varying levels of visibility, cost, and control by the involved, the cooperating groups. It has been deliberately decided to proceed in a local and incremental manner which may mean that, as the project develops, some issues will need to be ironed out as the trail for the whole of the island starts to take shape. The extent to which the project is done in cooperation with tourism authorities remain to be decided but it is clear that the Peace Trail is primarily the product of the organisations involved. However cooperation may be possible in a number of ways which can be explored later, and local tourism may wish to promote the trails.
In terms of ‘added value’ to the whole experience, the available information could link to various organisations which are willing to run programmes for groups, as well as giving information about a wider variety of groups in the peace sphere. Thus, for example, if people were in Derry and looking at the agreement over marching in the city, they might be interested in taking part in programme organised by the like of the Peace and Reconciliation Group in Derry which would relate to this kind of issue, and wider concerns about peace, and Corrymeela and Glencree could be part of the trail itself. This would be done, and understood to be done, on a modest profit basis by local organisations as a contribution towards their work, i.e. there would be a monetary charge. Such organisations would be considered ‘local partners’ in the project. They could set their own limitations and parameters for cooperation.
Ongoing development and modification would be needed when the Trail is up and running so responsibility for this would need to be allocated.
Origins of the idea
It is fitting that the first part of the trail to be put together, by Afri, should be Co Mayo, since Co Mayo also led to the genesis of the idea. The Mayo Peace Park in Castlebar is actually an extended war memorial park (different war memorials in a garden setting) and INNATE felt that there had to be a better way to use the term ‘peace’ since that memorial is actually much more about ‘war’ rather than ‘peace’, and that anything using the term ‘peace’ should actually be examining alternatives to war and violence.
Features of the trail
The trail would be set out geographically but it could also be grouped thematically (e.g. Northern Ireland/Troubles, international peace issues, peace and justice in Ireland, ‘older’ history etc). Each individual item could eventually include:
- The name of the feature and its nature
- Photos or illustrations as appropriate
- The history and relevance of the item
- Geographical location or features
- Opening or accessibility times as appropriate
- How long a visit might require
- Instructions for getting there by different means of transport
- What further information is available and where, e.g. web and printed material
- Possibilities of additional engagement in the issues involved through take up of programmes offered by local organisations.
- Links to other tourist features in the area (while this is not necessarily to do with ‘peace’ it may encourage visitors to come to an item on the Peace Trail).
Where admission or participation fees apply, a discount scheme could be negotiated and offered as appropriate for people taking part in the trail.
Other more general backing information on Irish history and culture would also be provided, or links to same. This could include a bibliography and web references.
Some of this information would require periodic updating especially where items 5, 7, 8 and 9 above are concerned.
We can also learn from peace trails elsewhere, both in the kind of features included and in presentation, e.g. peace trails in London and Manchester.
The trail would attempt to represent as fully as possible the contribution of women, where possible by input from Hanna’s House.
The outline of the trail
As already stated, this would need considerable research and development but here are some initial suggestions for the trail. As well as the bigger, national examples, we would add various ‘local’ examples which we would gather through both community and local history contacts. Some Quaker peace actions or activities could be included, and it might be possible to include the Corrymeela Centre, Co Antrim, and Glencree Centre, Co Wicklow as part of the trail, or smaller centres like Kilcranny House in Coleraine. Around forty individual items are listed below; we could probably aim to at least double or possibly triple this number of featured items in the initial phase of development. We could actively seek out suitable examples for parts of the country not currently included and highlight more of women’s contribution which is not adequately represented in this list, as well as spelling this out within individual examples. This list would be continually modified and developed as the project progresses.
Corrymeela Centre, Ballycastle – only peace and reconciliation group to pre-date the Troubles
Belfast (Co Antrim and Co Down)
1) Opposition to slavery in 18th century, focus on appropriate remaining 18th century buildings
2) Liberalism and non- or anti-sectarianism in the 18th century, e.g. St Mary’s Church which Presbyterians contributed towards building, or the Assembly Rooms in North Street.
3) (Various locations) Peace movement during the Troubles including the Peace People
4) Stormont and elsewhere; The Good Friday Agreement and aftermath
5) Interface areas: Organisations working together across Catholic/Protestant divides
6) Alliance Party Headquarter, University Street – Constituency office of Anna Lo, first parliamentarian of Chinese origin in Ireland and one of the first in Europe.
7) Site associated with Women’s Coalition and their contribution to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
8) Groups working on refugee and asylum issues and welcoming people.
Various link organisations both ‘peace’ and ex-Troubles/combatants groups
Kanturk - Birthplace of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (statue)
Caherdanial - Derrynane House, home of Daniel O’Connell (focus as above)
1) Agreement on parading, e.g. the walls etc, and other peace process features
2) Examples of cross-community work
Various link organisations
1) Downpatrick (and other places); St Patrick defending slaves against ill treatment
2) Long Kesh Prison, The Maze; Starting point of the Northern Ireland Peace Process (note the take on this – this would need explained in detail) - possibly linking in with proposed Conflict Resolution centre there.
1) ‘Chancing your arm’ (1492, St Patrick’s Cathedral)
2) Economic boycott of Wood’s halfpence (1720s)
3) Daniel O’Connell (O’Connell statue) as highly significant figure in the development of democratic politics in Ireland
4) Francis Sheehy Skeffington and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington including Irish opposition to World War 1
5) Transfer of allegiance to the Dáil by MPs in 1919 – did not require a single shot or bomb
6) Dunnes Stores strike over apartheid, also possible focus on Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement
7) Irish involvement with the United Nations (and League of Nations)
8) Irish involvement in Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Frank Aiken, 1958+.
9) Hiroshima cherry tree, Merrion Square (nuclear disarmament)
10) Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix bench in St Stephen’s Green
11) Irish-Jewish Museum, Walworth Road, celebrating a minority who have contributed many public figures to Irish life.
12) Groups working on refugee and asylum issues and welcoming people from outside Ireland.
Various link organisations
Ballitore – Quaker village
Portlaoise – First black mayor in Ireland elected, Rotimi Adebari, in 2007.
1) Céide Fields – peaceful existence with no enemies millennia ago
2) Boycott – giving a new word to the English language (and others) for a nonviolent tactic
3) Michael Davitt Museum at Straide, Foxford; Davitt as significant reformer in relation to various topics, including land ownership
4) Famine Walk Louisburgh-Doolough-Louisburgh, 1849, and Afri’s annual walk commemorating it.
5) Rossport 5 Protest and Solidarity Camp
6) Famine Graveyard at Swinford and link with Michael Davitt
Defending heritage – the campaign to save Tara from the motorway
Birr; Cain Adamnan/Adamnan’s Law, AD/CE 697 – church synod defending non-combatants in war
Caledon – First direct action of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, 1968.
Glencree Centre for Reconciliation in a former British military barracks.
To get in touch regarding the Irish Peace Trail, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Afri at email@example.com and phone 01 – 8827563, or INNATE at firstname.lastname@example.org and 028 (048 from Republic) – 90647106.