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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 161: July2008

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Hello, how’s she cuttin’ (the grass in the summer), this is the last Colm before a bit of a summer break, but, as always, breathe and the summer is gone, so watch how you breathe. I don’t think I told you about the funniest typo I have been responsible for in the last year. In producing committee minutes – nothing to do with INNATE - I was intending to write about ‘external funding’ but left out the ‘x’ – if only it were, oh Lord, if only it were, but for projects that depend on grant aid, a couple of years is as good as it gets. Anyway, on with the show.

Touchy feely Corrymeely

On occasions there is the comment or inference that the Corrymeela Community glosses over issues and emphasises a false and superficial commonality, identified by the ‘touchy feely Corrymeely’ comment. I’m not sure where this comes from, possibly from people who have had just a tangential connection with the work of Corrymeela, and with any organisation of a size people can come into contact with just one small part of it and make a judgement about the whole based on that one small interaction. I am certainly aware of critical stories about Corrymeela but which of us is part of an organisation that hasn’t made mistakes? And Corrymeela has been involved in on-the-ground work as well as facilitating interaction at their Centre in Ballycastle and their smaller place in Knocklayd.

I was at their 2008 summer festival (‘Summerfest’ used to be a fairly regular feature but hasn’t been held for around a decade, and this was a one-day rather than longer event) and found it to be in good health, if that was a day to judge it. I attended a drama workshop and a workshop on green issues – in this connection perhaps I could use a previous headline from this publication, ‘Corrymeela begins when you leaf’. Corrymeela is unique among peace and reconciliation groups in Norn Iron in having begun before the Troubles, worked right through – often in very difficult circumstances and supporting people in dire situations – and come out the far side and planning ahead. This is quite remarkable given a variety of factors including the changing nature of funding and the vicissitudes of community life – both the resident community in Ballycastle, the non-resident members community, the staff in general, and the whole lot together.

One difficulty in the Troubles for an organisation with a meeting place like Corrymeela was to be both a neutral meeting place and an organisation which took a stand on issues. While it fitted more the former, it did also make strong stands for reconciliation, for example. At the 2008 ‘Summerfest’ it was still asking some of the hard questions about Northern Ireland and the world. I would personally be more radical on politics and nonviolence (which is not where Corrymeela is at) than most of Corrymeela, but it does have its radicals and fine thinkers of various sorts involved. But I have enormous respect for its perseverance as well as the actual work done. When it comes to some of the main issues that society in the North has had to deal with, far from being ‘touch feely’, Corrymeela has had a sure touch and a good feel for what was at hand. Its half century is now under a decade away, and long may it continue. Their website at gives a good rundown on their work and their occasional magazine also provides a window on their work and wider issues.

The peasants have spoken

All right, I know there’s a headytorial about the Lisbon treaty rejection in the June referendum but I thought I’d do a bit different reflection to the Headitor. The first thing that comes to mind is the EUrocrat response – “how dare they, these ungrateful, wretched peasants, they were reared like pheasants to be docile and get shot, and instead they say ‘no’! It shouldn’t be allowed.” Axel Schäfer, SPD leader in the German Bundestag committee on EU affairs was quoted in the Irish Times (14/6/08): “We think it is a real cheek that the country that has benefitted most from the EU should do this.” So, that’s clear then, the Irish were just given the pretence they had a decision and/or they didn’t realise they had been ‘bought’.

Much has been made of the disparate nature of those vocally supporting the ‘no’ campaign – socialists, conservatives, peace activists, some business, some agriculture, some anti-abortionists, a majority of the working class, and others. What has not been analysed in the same way was the reasons people voted ‘yes’ – polls showed that a substantial number of people were going to vote ‘yes’ because they would be too embarrassed for Ireland to say ‘no’. What an incredibly flawed reason for voting ‘yes’! It didn’t matter what the issues were, these people were going to be embarrassed that, once again, Ireland would say ‘non’ and ‘nein’ to its elders and betters, so it was best to avoid that embarrassment by saying ‘yes’. And they talk about the ‘no’ supporters being naďve!

Anyway, the sky hasn’t fallen on our heads, nor that of anyone else (even in a little French village). At the moment the jury is out as to whether the grand project is unravelling faster than its architects can put it back together again. Please can we have a meaningful debate about the future of the EU which doesn’t equate EUrocrat visions of a militarised, centralised EU as ‘Europe’. It’s the same geographical folly as labelling the USA as ‘America’. Strangely enough, for all of recorded history, Ireland has always been European but what’s up for grabs is what being an EU citizen really should mean. Let us hope that the Irish ‘no’ will contribute to this debate in a meaningful way.

No punch line

There is no punch line in this piece because it’s about not getting as far as the punch line, denouement, conclusion, climax, of various things I listen to on the radio. Blame the modern era. I’m not a news junkie, or maybe just a reformed one and prefer to get my news as newsprint….the world gets on perfectly well, or badly, without me and I do keep up to date through the papers or a bit on the web. I don’t need to know about the latest crisis or catastrophe as soon as it happens and, given the information overload most of us suffer from, I’m glad to be that way. If I have time late on I may watch a TV news but not most evenings.

However I do listen to music (too loudly, my family tend to say), comedy or drama when I am in the kitchen cooking, which is nearly every evening. But as family meal times are at least a bit flexible, it means I miss the concluding part of a programme, or the final part of a serial, because of that variability – either I’m not in the kitchen, or we’re eating. Sometimes it annoys me but I am learning to take it as it comes. And then he [the main protagonist], cooking in the kitchen, said…

Work/Life imbalance

Those of us who are peace or political activists are used to having a very frenetic time of it so that our life partners and families may suffer the consequences. Some of us work very hard to get the correct work/life imbalance. I suppose it depends on how many +’s we put into the equation; work + home + extensive political activity + ? (fill in yourself) = not much breathing space. Pacing ourselves and avoiding burnout, and the consequences of that for relationships of all kinds is difficult. What tends to happen is the undertakings we commit to are elastic, and that elasticity tends to be of the stretching out (rather than contracting) sort. So a small commitment becomes a bigger commitment, and a bigger commitment becomes massive. And a massive commitment can cause a massive problem in our relationships; no time for partners, family or friends, or simply insufficient time and energy to sustain things.

Adopting a new routine where we build in relaxation time is fine until that routine is disrupted and we are back to square one. And while I really enjoy stepping off the treadmill for summer and winter breaks, I do find starting up again is quite painful – the transition from ‘more relaxed mode’ to top gear. There are no easy answers to this. Working less at the money-making job is one possible answer but not everyone can afford to do that financially. Setting a ‘stop’ time in the evening, or a firm dinner break, definite evenings off, weekends where ‘nothing’ is done, are other options. What people do to cope varies considerably. We can be martyrs for the cause and that doesn’t help ourselves and may not even help others.

But, and this is the martyr speaking, if we believe in what we’re doing then we are going to believe in doing something about it. And coming to terms with what we can reasonably do, and accepting that, is the big issue. We alone are not going to change the world. We can be part of people changing the world, and what other people do is up to them. Some people say that in Norn Iron today we can take things a bit easier because of where we have got to but I can’t say I would go with that, and as someone who always tries to be doing what other people are not doing (because there’s someone else to do that) then it’s even more difficult, also as someone who’s not paid to do what I do in this field. It’s always an ongoing issue and there is no one answer – except to know our limits and those of the people we are in relationship with.

Meanwhile, it’s summer… whahee…

Well, there we go. At this time of year, and this is no exception, I usually quote Christy Moore [not again! – Ed] in the immortal words of his song Lisdoonvarna when he sums up the nature of holidays in just two lines:

When summer comes around each year

They come here, and we go there.

But, as with Christmas, it usually comes before I’m ready. Stop, time…..Raspberries, don’t ripen so fast, I’m not ready to pick you yet (the courgettes are coming on fine but the neighbours’ kitten dug up the tomatoes – and it’s not even a ‘tom’ cat, ho ho ho, or boo hoo hoo, no likelihood of green tomato chutney this year)…Only one more report to do…..Each year it’s different things to some extent but each year it’s the same mad dash to get things done before ‘summer’.

Anyway, I’ll get there and I hope you do too, wherever there is. Enjoy the summer and see you in September, may the rain be gentle and the sun pleasing, your corresdespondent,


Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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