Betty Williams, by Mairead Maguire
Editorial: Solidarity in a time of isolation
Eco-Awareness by Larry Speight: Covid-19 and cognitive dissonance
Readings in Nonviolence: Gandhi the Organiser review by Iain Atack
Indigenous knowledge by Helen Henderson
Billy King: Rites Again
ICCL active on coronavirus restrictions
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has taken a very proactive approach to issues arising from trying to control the Covid-19 pandemic. While supporting the Irish government’s firm action, they stressed “the need to protect those most vulnerable to the coronavirus and for that to remain a priority in the Government’s response. This includes not only those who are most at-risk from the virus but also those vulnerable to the virus’s impact because of their social or economic circumstances. Consideration should be given to residents or detainees in congregated settings such as hostels, direct provision and emergency accommodation centres, and prisons.” this has now been stated as 9th November for the Republic. ICCL agreed that new restrictions on non-essential services and outside gatherings announced by the government on 24th March clearly impact on rights but human rights law allows for such restrictions when proportionate to the need to protect life and health. You can find ICCL’s full analysis of the emergency powers plus a summary at this link: www.iccl.ie
Rights and ‘New Decade, New Approach’
Power sharing government came back to Northern Ireland in January with the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement – and the involvement of all the major parties in the North in the Executive. However there have been many false promises and starts over the years, and questions about whether the rights commitments of the peace settlement would be implemented. CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice), UNISON and the broader membership of the Equality Coalition http://www.equalitycoalition.net/ began analysis of the ‘New Deacde, New Approach’ document and its accompanying draft legislation. Two detailed briefing papers are available.
The March 2020 issue of CAJ’s ‘Just News’ caj.org.uk has a two page piece by Robbie McVeigh on his report “Sectarianism: The key facts” (see NN277) and another two pages by CAJ director Brian Gormally on “Human rights as a guide to action in conflict resolution”.
Death of Betty Williams
We regret to record the death of Betty Williams, aged 76, a co-founder of the Peace People in 1976 and joint winner, with Mairead Corrigan Maguire, of the Nobel Prize for Peace the following year (although it was for 1976). Spontaneous protests were a feature of the immediate aftermath of the killing of the Maguire children in an incident in west Belfast on 10th August 1976 which involved both the IRA and the British Army, see www.flickr.com. However it was Betty Williams with her cross-community parentage, her passion and impetuous nature knocking on doors with a petition to oppose violence which was the direct origin of what shortly became the Peace People, the largest peace group during the Troubles in the North.
Betty Williams died in Belfast on 18th March. After some few years involvement with the Peace People she had moved to the USA although she subsequently returned to Ireland. She was involved with a wide variety of different organisations internationally and headed up her own institute, the World Centers of Compassion for Children. We reproduce Mairead Maguire’s tribute to Betty Williams, her joint Nobel Prize Laureate, in this issue, which can also be seen on the Peace People site at www.peacepeople.com and see also https://tinyurl.com/qm9ujd7
Donnellan, Roddy trial postponed
After a few false starts, the trial of Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan (see NN277) which began on 2nd March, for an action at Shannon Airport in 2016, was postponed to October. However given the disruption caused by coonavirus, this date is unlikely.
Social Change Initiative
The Social Change Initiative, based in Belfast, has a new website, and newsletter, at www.socialchangeinitiative.com Its work themes are migration, peacebuilding, and human rights and equality, and various reports and material are on the website.
Corrymeela has closed its centre at Ballycastle (which hosts over 11,000 each year) and suspended all its programmes during the coronvirus crisis and say “We’re going to use this time to get better at what we do, so we can help even more people live together well in the future. “ However they still have bills to pay and have issued an emergency appeal, made by Corrymeela leader Alex Wimberly, on their website at www.corrymeela.org which has details of Corrymeela’s work in learning to live and work together well.
Imagine! virtual festival
Imagine festival of ideas and politics in Belfast had to do some fast and imaginative reconfiguring in the light of the introduction of meeting restrictions, and get programme online. This virtual festival ran from 25th - 27th March but it means that you can catch up with material, with plenty of thought-provoking pieces, at imaginebelfast.com
Embracing Human Rights: Conflict Textiles’ Journey
With the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre closed in the current situation, an online exhibition of Embracing Human Rights: Conflict Textiles’ Journey is available at www.roevalleyarts.com and suggested activities for children will be added weekly at www.roevalleyarts.com See also cain.ulster.ac.uk
Pax Christi International at 75
Pax Christ International, the Catholic peace and nonviolence organisation is celebrating 75 years of work and details can be seen on their website at paxchristi.net It has 120 member organisations worldwide that promote peace, respect of human rights, justice & reconciliation. It also has a Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Through the 75th Anniversary Campaign they are trying to raise an additional €75,000 to assist the work. You can subscribe on the website to receive their ‘Peace Stories’ by e-mail.
IPB calls on G20 to invest in healthcare, not militarisation
The International Peace Bureau (IPB) has called on G20 world leaders who have been meeting recently via virtual means t to send a message of peace and solidarity to the world as they address the global health emergency.
The IPB statement continues: “This is a time to open a new page in global relations to put geopolitical tensions to one side, to end proxy wars, for a ceasefire in those many conflicts around the world all of which stand to hamper a global solidarity effort. We have to lift the shadow of war and military brinkmanship which has blighted global cooperation in recent years and work to ensure that a spirit of peace and solidarity prevails. We are all paying a heavy price for failed leadership and misplaced market-driven practices that have weakened our means to address this emergency, which has hit the weakest hardest.”
They support the trade union call for a Global Social Contract. “Military spending is 50 per cent higher today than at the end of the Cold War. It stands at a staggering 1.8 trillion US dollars a year, while NATO is demanding further increases from its members. The G20 are responsible for 82 per cent of global military spending, account for almost all arms exports, and hold 98 per cent of the world’s nuclear bombs on their collective territory.” IPB has for a long time worked on the issue of military expenditure and their full statement is at www.ipb.org
PPU in Britain calls on military budgets to be diverted
The PPU (Peace Pledge Union) in Britain has repeatedly accused UK governments of endangering the public by wasting money on preparations for war while doing little to prepare for real threats such as climate change or possible pandemics. The UK government maintains the seventh highest military budget in the world. The British government's own National Security Capability Review in 2018 listed major outbreaks of disease as one of the most likely threats facing the UK. The threat of pandemics was also identified by the government's StrategicDefence and Security Reviews in 2010 and 2015. The Peace Pledge Union said that money diverted from military budgets could contribute towards NHS and social care costs as well as other necessary initiatives. See www.ppu.org.uk
Church and Peace calls for solidarity for refugees
In the current situation, Church and Peace has called for intercession for each other and solidarity - in our own community first of all, and then further afield. It has emphasised that it is especially important to keep a watchful eye on the borders of the European Union and beyond, with people at the Croatian stretch of the EU’s external border, who despite miserable conditions and threats to life and limb do not give up hope of finding security in the EU, are exposed to winter temperatures and the danger of falling ill. They urgently need protection and the prospect of a better future. The statement goes on to say the same applies to the many refugees not only in Greece, but also in Turkey, Syria, and Libya. “In solidarity with Greece, the overcrowded refugee camps must be evacuated. The people there must no longer be left to their fate. If the epidemic breaks out in one of these camps, it will be almost impossible to break chains of infection and provide medical care.” www.church-and-peace.org
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