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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 136: February 2006

Also in this editorial:

Militants and moderates
You could say that the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, over against the established Fatah, has put the cat amongst the pigeons in a situation which regularly seems to get more intractable. There was a time when ‘South Africa, Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland’ were a trio of conflict zones most in the international spotlight; two of these have now moved on, leaving only Palestine and Israel to get ‘sorted’ (yes, we know Northern Ireland is not completely out of the woods but it has certainly found a much more pleasant clearing adjacent to the edge of the woods). The fallout from the Palestinian election will take some time to settle, internally in Palestine, with Israel, and internationally.

Various assumptions have been made about the victory of Hamas adding to the intractability of the conflict. In the short term these may well be true because Israel is unwilling to deal with Hamas and Israeli supporters like the USA will take a hard line. But no such assumptions should be made in the longer term. The coming to power (such power as the Palestinian Authority does hold or exercise) of a more militant party may not make a solution easier but it may make any possible solution more likely to stick.

In Ireland we have over the last few years the example of the Democratic Unionist Party coming to be largest party in Northern Ireland, and Sinn Féin becoming the largest party on the Catholic and nationalist side. This has not made the prospect of a return to a Stormont assembly any easier but, if and when a deal is swung, it will be much more likely to stick. Because if there is no one ‘more extreme’ outside, shouting abuse (the previous DUP position) than a deal is much more likely to take. Northern Ireland is not atypical in being a conflict zone where there was no risk, or hope, that peace and love flowing from a moderate centre would encompass society. And democracy, for all its flaws, was not complete in the South until many of the intransigent republicans who resisted the Treaty of 1921 and came into Fianna Fail arrived in power in 1932.

Hamas is closely linked with violence currently. But there is the question of how ‘moderation’ happens. Clearly it does not happen through exclusion, it can only happen through inclusion. Whether and when Hamas will change from its own local version of the ‘ballot box and the armalite’ is uncertain, but the demands of power may assist in a process of moderation and a move away from violence.

‘Not talking to terrorists’ sounds fine but is a useless sentiment. Those who use violence as their means of communication are unlikely to change until they see the opportunity of getting their message across, and achieving at least some of their objectives, another way. ‘Not talking to terrorists’ is usually a way for another party, or country, to project themselves as ‘pure’ and avoid the dilemmas and accommodation which might be required if talking and negotiating bore fruit. ‘Not talking to terrorists’ is, literally, an excuse for a policy.

INNATE and religion

INNATE was very pleased to run a workshop during January with Brendan McKeague of Pace e Bene on aspects of Christian nonviolence. This editorial looks at INNATE’s interaction with religion and secularism. Read more...

INNATE Annual Report for 2005
Like most organisations, INNATE has its ups and downs, and I am very happy to say that at the start of 2006 we are certainly entering an ‘up’ period of considerable activity. For a networking-and-action organisation with no offices, no paid staff and almost no money, the amount done has to be considered remarkable. But it can be even more remarkable – and that is our aim.

The regular monthly cycle of producing a newsletter in paper, e-mail and web editions takes a very considerable amount of work. The paper edition of Nonviolent News remains its usual two sides of A4 whereas the e-mail and web editions can run up to a dozen or more pages of A4 equivalent. It has continued a number of regular features apart from the news section which appears in all three editions; editorials, a green column from Larry Speight, a nonviolence training workshop, and Billy King’s comment column. We have a very useful product in our website and will be working to promote it more; it is heavily used internationally but we feel the Irish usage, North and South, east and west, could be higher. We are also committed to getting information out elsewhere – e.g. providing a feature to Peace News

Much work goes on behind the scenes – including responding to queries, usually by e-mail (some from as diverse places as Uganda, Nepal – and Cork! – in all these cases we could offer local contacts), some on aspects of nonviolence training. We are working on providing training for other organisations. Another aspect usually unseen is meeting and interpreting the Northern Irish situation to visitors, sometimes setting up or assisting with setting up programme for them. Networking never ceases, can never cease. Members would have also had a variety of engagements with other bodies ‘in the field’ though the credit for these is not due to INNATE itself.

Events organised in the last year include an arms trade conference (organised jointly with the Peace People) last May, a joint autumn series of lectures on aspects of conflict with the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast, and a workshop on the spirituality of Christian nonviolence with Brendan McKeague of Pace e Bene (well, the last was in January 2006 rather than 2005 but still).

The Belfast networking group of INNATE meets monthly, on a Monday evening. We would welcome additional involvement from those accessible to Belfast…..but anyone around the island can assist by promoting INNATE and by assisting with the provision of news. There is only so much can be crammed in the paper edition of Nonviolent News but the e-mail and web editions have no such restriction.

As usual I would like to thank the INNATE crew, old and new (you know who you are) with a special thank you on his retirement (well, he can still be called on) from INNATE to Gordon Kelly; thank you Gordon, you’re a great guy and we really appreciate your gentle and committed involvement.

There is one other aspect of INNATE which requires attention in 2006. Financial outgoings, though extremely modest, have been exceeding incomings and there is no pot of gold to fall back on. Life would be easier in INNATE if all those who should pay a subscription actually did so (subscriptions are due at the start of the year). Otherwise work, which could otherwise be done on more substantial topics, will have to go on fundraising. That ball is in your court…

2006 has many challenges for those who believe in nonviolence in all its many aspects. In INNATE we commit ourselves to be in the thick of these challenges – networking, informing, campaigning, training, supporting. During 2006 our work will include dealing with aspects of ‘war machinery’, both the arms trade and army recruitment which is becoming more blatant in Northern Ireland with ‘normalisation’. We look forward to a busy year.

Rob Fairmichael,
Coordinator, INNATE

lSubscription details appear at the end of this e-mail edition of Nonviolent News

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Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:

Belfast’s Westlink Madness

The Northern Ireland Road Services are to begin major work on the M1 and the Westlink in Belfast at the end of January. The work is expected to take approximately 3 years, will cost millions of pounds and cause serious disruption to the flow of traffic into Belfast. The road works will also mean an increase in the level of air and noise pollution, as well as traffic accidents, for the people in west Belfast as drivers use these roads and streets to travel into and out off the city in an attempt to avoid the inevitably long and frustrating delays. The aim of the roadwork is to reduce congestion on the M1/Westlink so making journeys shorter. In the view of the Andersonstown News, 7 January, the purpose of the project is to increase the profits of big business. The editorial on the subject states that:

“For every minute that those huge lorries are left idling in traffic, big business blows money out of its tailpipe, and in the great scheme of things, three years of worst congestion is a small price to pay for the wider, bigger roads of the future.”

The Westlink, which was finished in 1983, was poorly designed in the first place and based on the idea of the ‘great car society’. The planned ‘improvements’ do not take account of ‘the great scheme of things’, for if they did there would be a completely different conception of the transport needs of Northern Ireland 20 years from now. In the coming years China and India are expected to massively increase their consumption of oil, while the production of oil declines. This will mean, perhaps some time in the coming 5 to 10 years, that the price of petrol will be such that the majority of people, many of whom are dependent on the car for even short journeys, will seek alternative means of transport. It will also mean that the cost of the production of goods worldwide will increase, which will lead to a reduction in the number of lorries on the roads as fewer goods are imported into and delivered around the country, and there is a return to a locally based economy. The blinkered, short-term view of the Northern Ireland Road Services is shared by the Irish and U.K. governments, both of whom are committed to building more roads and expanding airports in spite of the need to move away from a carbon based economy because of global warming, while also ignoring the looming unaffordable high oil prices. (The price of US light crude stood at $63. 35 a barrel on the 6th Jan) Part of the solution to the present congestion on the M1/Westlink is offered by the response of the Royal Hospitals to the road works, which is to encourage their 7,000 staff to walk, cycle, take the bus, and car-share. The hospital is developing new facilities for cyclists. If this initiative were followed province wide, together with a radical improvement to bus and train services, there would be no need for the so-called improvements to be done on M1/Westlink.

As a point of interest the new orthodoxy in transport planning, which the transport authorities in Ireland should adhere to is as follows: disabled and visually impaired people first, pedestrians next, then cyclists, public transport, delivery vehicles, cars used for business with more than one occupant and lastly, single-occupancy motorists.

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