US military business as usual at Shannon Airport under new government
PANA (the Peace And Neutrality Alliance) and Shannonwatch have both pointed out that the programme for government of the new Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Party coalition means ‘no change’ in the continued use by the USA’s military of facilities at Shannon Airport.
Shannonwatch says: “The document states that the next government will “- Continue to ensure that all requests for overflights or landing by military or state aircraft are guided by Ireland’s policy of military neutrality - Ensure that aircraft requesting permission to avail of facilities at Shannon and other Irish airports adhere to strict conditions and that all military or state aircraft are unarmed, and carry no arms, ammunition, or explosives. Any exemptions should be dealt with in an open and transparent way. The State retains its right to undertake spot checks on commercial/civil flights, should it be deemed necessary.” There are two major problems with these very weak commitments. The first is that the restrictions only apply to military or state aircraft. This means that 'civilian' aircraft like those operated by Omni Air International that are contracted to the US military and carry armed US troops are excluded for the commitment. The second problem is that the prohibition on military aircraft being unarmed, and carrying no arms, ammunition or explosives is already stated government policy but regularly breached.
Furthermore, the statement that any exemptions "should be dealt with in an open and transparent way" is something we should not need to see in a programme for government. It's how state operations should work. Sadly it has not been the case so far in relation to exemptions to take arms through Shannon. This Programme for Government gives us little confidence that things will change.” www.shannonwatch.org
Shannonwatch continues “On the broader issue of Ireland's neutrality the Programme for Government doesn't fill us with any degree of hope either. It says the outcome of a review by a Commission on the Defence Forces "will remain grounded in a policy of active military neutrality and participative multilateralism through the UN and EU". This is confusing, since active neutrality is very different to military neutrality. The former embodies a commitment to the legal definition of neutrality as described by The Hague Convention V, as well as a clear set of values and foreign policy goals that are distinctly different to the concept of military neutrality that successive Irish governments have sought to embrace. This concept has been redefined to such an extent that we have now joined military alliances like the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) which is the part of the EU's security and defence policy in which 25 of the 27 national armed forces pursue structural integration.”
PANA says “as stated in the Hague Convention of 1907 a neutral state does not allow its territory to be used by belligerents in a war. Yet over three million US troops and an unknown amount of military equipment have landed in Shannon Airport on their way to wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. and the Yemen. The FF/FG/Green parties Programme for Government has refused to restore the policy of neutrality by terminating the use of Shannon Airport by the USA in pursuit of its doctrine of perpetual war, and thus ensuring like every previous Irish Government since 2001 that Ireland continues to actively support these endless wars. It is perfectly possible for Ireland, like Denmark to remain in the European Union without integrating into the process of the militarisation of the EU which is clearly designed to develop into an EU Army as advocated by EU leaders, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron.”
Roger Cole of PANA states “the Programme for Government 2020 is aspirational with confusing and contradictory positions on Irish foreign policy designed to allow a range of interpretations, but as far as PANA is concerned it means increased participation in PESCO, the EU Battle Groups and all those other EU institutions that are the foundation bricks for the creation of a European Superstate with its own Army. In short, the Programme is a continuation of existing policies. There will be no change. All this despite the fact that 82% of the Irish people in the Republic of Ireland support Irish Neutrality in all its aspects (RedC / RTE EU Election exit poll).” www.pana.ie
CAJ & Amnesty International oppose fines for BLM protesters
CAJ (the Committee on the Administration of Justice) and Amnesty International UK have opposed the last-minute introduction of fines against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in Northern Ireland in early June as “unacceptable”. They have raised concerns that enforcement powers used by the PSNI as the legal basis for penalties only came into force at 11pm on Friday night 5th June, just hours ahead of the Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday 6th June which resulted in scores of participants receiving fines and organisers facing prosecution. Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tweeted that ‘People have a right to protest peacefully and while observing social distancing’, yet people in Northern Ireland are being fined and face prosecution for doing just that. The fines should be voided and allegations of racial profiling in the issue of such fines must be examined.” caj.org.uk
The June issue of CAJ’s ‘Just News’ examines different aspects of human rights in the light of the impact of Covid-19 measures. caj.org.uk
Prosecutions, Imprisonment and the Stormont House Agreement
In recent years, there have been eleven distinct proposals on dealing with the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. Most recently, a new approach to legacy was put forward by the UK government in a statement delivered by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in March 2020. “Prosecutions, Imprisonment and the Stormont House Agreement: A Critical Analysis of Proposals on Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland” (52 pages)reviews these proposals, benchmarking each against binding human rights obligations, the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), and the Stormont House Agreement (SHA). The report was prepared by a team of CAJ staff and academics from Queen’s University Belfast. It is intended to offer a contribution to the ongoing deliberations of the UK and Irish governments, NI political parties, and civil society groups as they consider how to deal with the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. caj.org.uk and www.dealingwiththepastni.com
Special Criminal Court continues but to be reviewed
In late June the Dáil renewed the Offences Against The State Act, after the Justice Minister announced an independent review of the legislation underpinning it; this Act provides the basis for the three-judge, no jury, Special Criminal Court. Coming up to the decision, ICCL, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, had stated that it was untenable in a democracy and called for its abolition, saying among many other things “At its introduction in 1972, the Special Criminal Court was considered a radical and purely temporary departure from the norm. Forty years have passed since then. It’s time for its abolition.” See www.iccl.ie
Chernobyl Children International summer programme cancellation
The summer Rest and Recuperation programme of Chernobyl Children International (CCI) has had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. This long-standing programme has been a staple since the charity was formed over thirty years ago and gives children who come from impoverished backgrounds and state-run institutions, a health-boosting reprieve from the toxic environment and high levels of radiation to which they have been exposed. During the month-long stay, radiation levels in the children drop by nearly 50% and up to two years is added to their life expectancy; 26,500 children from Belarus and Western Russia have come to Ireland on this flagship programme. CCI is hoping restrictions may have eased in time for the Christmas Rest and Recuperation trip which takes place in December every year. See www.chernobyl-international.com
Sperrins goldmining public inquiry
Northern Ireland Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon indicated in late June that there will be a public inquiry into the proposed Dalradian goldmine in the Sperrins mountains. The current proposals were submitted to the Department in autumn 2019 and 40,000 representations (90% against the proposal) have been made on the issue with strong local and environmental opposition. See www.facebook.com/SaveOurSperrins
ICCL on programme for government
In mid-June the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) welcomed some of the commitments made in the draft programme for government of the new coalition in the Republic. It has particularly welcomed the commitments to end Direct Provision and bring in a law to prevent hate crime, although it also had some disappointments. See www.iccl.ie which also includes a link to the 18 calls for human rights reform which ICCL had previously made to the three negotiating parties.
It’s not a dog’s life learning on organic growing with WWOOF
Gardening and horticulture have made a comeback in popular practice during the lockdown but getting the experience to DIY successfully can be problematic. Which is where WWOOF comes in... WWOOF is a globally recognised movement, operating since the 1970’s in over 120 different countries. WWOOF facilitates learning about organic growing and sustainable living through hands on practical experience. Organic farms, small holdings and gardeners, are WWOOF hosts to volunteers - known as ‘WWOOFers’ - who want to learn about growing their own. Through helping the hosts on the land and by getting their hands in the soil, sowing seeds, planting crops, caring for animals, WWOOFers learn a variety of skills that enable them to bring organic growing and sustainable living into their own lives. Many hosts in WWOOF Ireland accept families and their children for this help so there is an opportunity for the whole family. Visit wwoof.ie for more information.
Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) encourages churches of all denominations to take an eco approach to worship, lifestyle, property and finance management, community outreach and contact with the developing world. It produces a very useful newsletter every two months with news from around the country; you can subscribe to receive it on their website at www.ecocongregationireland.com (it is easiest to go to the bottom panel).
Irish civil society raises law on funding
A coalition of NGOs has written to a UN human rights expert expressing concern that overly stringent restrictions on funding mean Irish campaigners are hampered in their work. The NGOs say that in the past three years many organisations have been forced to close, to hand back donations they’ve received, or face prosecution. The difficulties stem from an amendment to the Electoral Act in 2001. Liam Herrick of ICCL said “What all this effectively means is that if a group of people want to come together to advocate for change, they are barred from receiving donations of over €100. For most campaigns, this is completely untenable. If we want to continue having national conversations on things of importance to us, this has to be changed immediately.” See www.iccl.ie
Pax Christi International annual report
This can be found at tinyurl.com/yapu6q5qand see paxchristi.net
The politics of Gene Sharp
Further to recent coverage of Gene Sharp’s politics in these pages, Transcend Media Service has a link to Brian Martin’s 2013 paper, from Gandhi Marg, on ‘The Politics of Gene Sharp’.
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) change for Europe
The Mennonites are one of the ‘historic peace churches’ in the USA and they have long had contact with, and support for, Northern Ireland issues. However due to COVID-19 financial restructuring decisions by MCC North America to be able to continue to focus work towards the most vulnerable, MCC is removing its West Europe Representative role from Europe; the West Europe MCC Program will now be administered by the Area Directors in Amman, Jordan email: emeAD@mcc.org
IFOR introductory programme on UN at Geneva
IFOR, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, has a program to provide an opportunity to come and see the work of IFOR at the United Nations in Geneva and experience first-hand engagement within the UN system. It will last one week, from Monday 21st September to Friday 25th September, during the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Participants will learn more about IFOR work on conscientious objection at the UN and find out how civil society can fully engage at the UN and network. See www.ifor.org/news and the deadline for applying is 24th July.
A network of antimilitarist activists coming mostly from East and North Europe has launched an online event called Antimilimarathon. During 42 days they fill the social media with antimilitarist culture, art, workshops, discussions and webinars. Follow Antimilimarathon on Facebook and Instagram. It continues to 12th July.
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