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Billy King


Nonviolence News



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

Issue 154: November 2007

Also in this editorial:

Drugs and violence
The murder rate in the Republic is at a record high at a time when politically-motivated killing in the North is at its lowest in over a generation. Murder rates this year are running at well over one a week in the 26 counties and include domestic and other murders as well as drug wars. Drug related deaths are, by their nature, difficult to crack for the Gardaí when secrecy prevails and well organised killers are able to plan a death with precision.  If any other group of people were targeted there would have been major action taken by now but drug dealers seem to be considered expendable, to some extent. But they are still human beings who are someone’s son, brother or father (the drug gang related deaths are overwhelmingly male).

The issue of how to regulate recreational drugs is a thorny one. Most recreational drugs, with the exception of alcohol and tobacco, are illegal in Ireland, North and South, and this greatly increases the risk, price and profits for drug dealers. If there were proper facilities for addicts who are trying to go clean then, whether drugs are legal or illegal, society would be much better able to cope with addiction. The Republic is a rich country with a poor service for addicts wishing to come off and stay off drugs. As always, in such a situation, money not spent on such services means costs crop up elsewhere – in crime, in misery, and, at times, in loss of life.

Modern research shows that there is no recreational drug which is risk free.  Even cannabis, once thought to be safe as houses, has risks regarding psychiatric illness for a significant number of users. The problem is that users of any drug do not usually know whether they are at risk, and what they might be at risk from, either in the short of the long term.  Meanwhile alcohol consumption in Ireland has been going through the roof so that we are near the top of the European table of consumption, and at the top for binge and teenage consumption. And, as many are only too well aware, alcohol fuels a very significant number of violent incidents, injuries and deaths, particularly late at night. All this is storing up problems for the future.

Tobacco consumption has been tackled in a way which might provide a model for dealing with alcohol. Obviously we cannot expect people to have to drink their pint outside – the threat of passive smoking to health has ensured tobacco smoking has to be done in the (relatively) open air. We can, however, expect that there should be urgent action to discourage excessive alcohol consumption through price increases (where possible across borders) and other controls instead of a simple liberalisation of alcohol licensing laws. There is nothing wrong, and much right, with spending the evening in the pub, and socially it can be just what is needed, but seeing the culture of hard drinking as acceptable has to be challenged. Encouraging socialising while discouraging excessive alcohol consumption is a conundrum which Irish people have not yet been able to ‘craic’.

This is where we, the people, come in, whether it is concerning legal or illegal drugs. We need to take the courage of our convictions in expressing our opinions and working to change the prevailing culture. Drunkenness should not be tolerated by us, and the likes of T-shirts which support such a culture should be considered unacceptable.  There is a danger here of being seen as party poopers but we need to promote a culture of socialising which does not require getting rat arsed (we use a common phrase for being drunk) to enjoy ourselves.

The use of drugs, legal and illegal, in Ireland says some significant things about us.  We are still individually and collectively insecure that we may feel we require such props to socialise or enjoy ourselves. Of course young people – and even older people - will experiment, as they always have, with what they can but the support and encouragement which people need to live is not necessarily there, and the support for those trying to come off drugs – legal or illegal - certainly is not.

Meanwhile, as a song by Eoin Glackin ably states, those buying illegal drugs are fuelling the gangland killings. There is a direct connection and gangland killings cannot be written off as the activities of murderous fools; it is big business and the money comes from the consumers of the drugs in question, and that is what fuels the killings. We might wish it to be otherwise but that is the reality of the illegal drug trade in Ireland today.

Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column

Selfishness and Climate Change

Humankind, like the other four species of ape we share the planet with, uses technology to obtain a livelihood. Our technology, unlike that of our fellow apes, has moved beyond the use of dry grass, leaves, sticks and stones to highly sophisticated machines whose domain is the whole planet, and which can be used in almost any terrain and climatic condition. An example of the former is the satellite and the latter the combustion engine as used in various forms of transport. Our technology is in the main powered by fossil fuels, which as we all now know, emit gasses that warm the planet which in turn change the climate to the detriment of ourselves and other life forms.

As a species we have come to the point when in order to survive we must rethink not only how to continue to meet our basic needs, but what it means to be human. Unfortunately we devote a considerable amount of resources to the former, and all but ignore the latter. The likely reason for this is that we are loath to change the assumptions we have about ourselves, our sense of who we are, and what we consider the purpose of life to be. One of the most dangerous of these assumptions is that technology can perform miracles and will ultimately save us from ourselves.

Thus in spite of the widespread acknowledgement that it is our behaviour that causes climate change, which if not addressed will lead to the collapse of civilization and the loss of millions of species, the majority of people who can afford it fly and buy an endless range of goods in the hope that their purchases will enable them to realize full selfhood and live a happy life. In polite company the environmentally informed will be heard to say that they are in a dilemma, they know that all unnecessary consumption destroys the planet, yet they really need the tonic of a week in New York or a few days in an exotic beach resort and opt for the highly polluting flight. This is selfish, as in lacking consideration for others, as they our putting themselves before the powerless, future generations and the community of living things.

Identifying behaviour as selfish is not moral condemnation. Selfishness is part of human nature, and has been relentlessly promoted in modern societies through such books as the best selling and widely celebrated Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957). Selfishness, which sustains the idea of ever-increasing economic growth and injustices of all kinds, is summed up by one of the characters in the book, who says:

“I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another human being, or ask another human being to live for mine.”

We need to address our easy willingness to give rein to our selfish tendencies if we are to successfully meet the challenge of our rapidly disintegrating life-support systems. The evidence that we are ignoring the role selfishness plays in how we go about our daily lives can be seen not only in our lack of willingness to live a life of material simplicity but also in having an almost religious faith in finding a technological way of healing our terminally ill planet. The technical proposals put forward probably do the Earth more harm than good. One such is that of James Lovelock, author of Gaia, which involves covering much of the worlds’ oceans with thousands, if not millions, of huge pipes, which through the action of the waves pump nutrient-rich waters from the depths to mix with surface water that could help the sea absorb vastly more carbon dioxide.

The real challenge in addressing climate change is not technological but psychological and emotional. It is whether we, who have been socialized in a consumer-based society, can achieve self-realization and reasonable contentment outside the consumer paradigm. The answer, based on the premise that adaptability and continual learning is one of our basic traits, is yes. However, we do know from the collapse of previous civilizations that we sometimes ignore the warning signs of the need for change. If we don’t quickly find ways of at first managing and then reducing our level of selfishness through new social and economic arrangements then we will likely become extinct sooner that we ought.

Faslane 365 one year on…
By Mark Chapman

The Faslane 365 year-long campaign drew to an end on 1st October with a Big Blockade and this leads to a new phase in the opposition to Britain’s nuclear weapons of mass destruction – the four Trident nuclear submarines, equipped with US missiles and up to 200 warheads. The warheads could each deliver around 8 times the destructive power of the bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This was also the year when there was to be a decision on the renewal of the Trident system and in March the Commons voted to spend up to £100bn on the estimated cost of retaining and then decommissioning the current system, followed by procurement, replacement and maintenance of a newer system, contrary to its commitments under the Non Proliferation Treaty.

The Faslane 365 civil resistance initiative was a decentralised continuous peaceful blockade of the Royal Navy base planned by a steering group and a number of working groups. Autonomous blockading groups from the UK and further afield signed up for a 2-day slot on a rota publicized on the Faslane 365 website and were responsible for the planning, training, publicity, media, travel, accommodation, legal support etc for their action at Faslane. The various F365 working groups supported the blockading groups before, during and after their actions and the F365 website contains a wealth of information including the very useful Resource Pack
By Halloween ’06 a blockading group had come together in Belfast, meeting regularly and planning our action at Faslane on the 9th and 10th December – Human Rights Day. The name Make Trident History was drawn from a hat and we set about fundraising and encouraging others to join us from across the island. It was agreed early on that some MTH folk would be blockading one of the main gates into the base and risking arrest. Angie Zelter from the F365 steering group came to Belfast to meet us and spoke at meetings in the university and at the Peace People centre. Anna-Linnea Rundberg from F365 also came and facilitated a one-day nonviolence training for the whole MTH group and others interested in joining us. These meetings and trainings were invaluable in our preparation and by way of providing local information on what to expect and anticipate during our action.

About 20 of us travelled by minibus and train to the Faslane Peace Camp in December and were welcomed by Angie and fed delicious bean stew by Matt. A small camp was set up at the base south gate – one tent, one brazier & 2 campers [who were absolutely freezing – Ed!]!! Others stayed at the Peace Camp and in B+B.

We moved to the base north gate in the morning for an alfresco breakfast and decorated the fence with banners and set up some music and chatted with the police there. Others went for an impromptu ‘tripod blockade’ training – here’s the idea… but it’ll have to wait for another day for us.
Then back to north gate for our ‘lock-on’ blockade as a BBC TV crew had turned up to interview Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire – one of the group. We decided to blockade the approach road to north gate as our driver didn’t want to be part of an arrestable action and it would have been impossible to carry our lock-on tubes towards the gate without being stopped. Balancing the likelihood of being prevented from blockading with the lock-ons near north gate to disrupting some local traffic on the approach road but getting media attention, we opted for the latter. All five of us were subsequently arrested, charged with ‘breach of the peace’ and ‘resisting arrest’ for those who chose not to walk to the waiting police van and held overnight in Glasgow police cells.

The witness continued at north gate for the rest of the day and by the following day energy levels had waned due to harsh wintry weather and we left for home around lunchtime picking up the 5 who’d had a warm if noisy Saturday night in custody. Photos & further reports here…

Like most of the other peace activists arrested during the F365 campaign, all charges against us were subsequently dropped, in fact of the 1150 arrests, there have only been 55 prosecutions.
MTH supported the Interfaith Peace Walk Towards a Nuclear Free Future organised by Footprints for Peace as they made their way through Ireland and on to Faslane in May and also joined the tremendous Big Blockade on 1st October.

We are planning to continue our active opposition to Britain’s WMD and support our Scottish neighbours in their efforts to close down the Faslane nuclear facility. Other blockading groups are supporting Trident Ploughshares as a way of continuing and MTH are considering this.  The MTH email list is at

We can be contacted through
Angie Zelter is currently editing a book on F365 which will give a comprehensive description and evaluation of the year - this will be published in the spring.
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ERRATUM: The Workshop piece in the last e-mail edition of Nonviolent News (No. 153) on ‘Approaches to conflict’ had an error in relation to conciliation and where this was placed. The correct version is here.
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