News, NN 309, May 2023

Irish Government ‘Consultative Forum’ to further degrade neutrality

A Consultative Forum on International Security Policy, announced at the start of April by Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin, takes place in June – on 22nd June in University College Cork, on 23rd June at the University of Galway, and on 26th and 27th June in Dublin Castle. While open to the public, details about attendance and the making of submissions have yet to be announced. The initial announcement stated that it “will build a deeper understanding of the threats faced by the State, and the links to, and between, our foreign, security and defence policy. “ However it is generally agreed that this Forum is simply a further stage in the dismantling of Irish neutrality and in particular a precursor to a likely move in the autumn to end the ‘triple lock’ on the deployment of Irish army personnel abroad.

Peace and neutrality groups have noted a) it is a ‘Consultative Forum’, not a citizen’s assembly (with neutrality popular among citizens, this would not have given the answers the government wants) b) it is chaired by Dame Louise Richardson who is an ‘anti-terrorism’ expert and well in with governments in Britain and the USA c) it is organised at relatively short notice to fit the government’s agenda and timing on abandoning the ‘triple lock’ d) there is no indication in terms of the orientation and set up of the Forum that those advocating the positive development of neutrality will be given a fair say in proceedings. Those for peace and neutrality are likely to do a mixture of participation and protest. Keep an eye out for further announcements about the Forum and participation there – and protest. See also editorial in email and web editions.

Volunteer with VSI: Practical solidarity across Europe

VSI/Voluntary Service International has launched its 2023 programme of International Volunteer Projects, which include working at a centre for refugees in Belgium, organic farming in Italy, working at an intercultural building and upcycling project in Switzerland, and gardening at a peace centre in Northern Ireland (dates for the last are 29th May – 8th June) The projects generally last for 2 weeks and participants will be working alongside volunteers from different countries. There is a relatively small project fee but food and accommodation are provided. Other volunteer projects are available, lasting up to 12 months and also various global citizenship education activities. To learn more, follow VSI on social media or visit the website at VSI is the Irish branch of Service Civil International which works to promote peace, social justice, sustainable development, and intercultural understanding; this is done through volunteering in Ireland and internationally, and through global citizenship education. E-mail

Afri Doolough Famine Walk: ‘Famine’ is a lie and war is a crime

The 35th Afri Famine Walk in Co Mayo has the above title and takes place on Saturday 20th May. Walk leaders are Senator Frances Black, Michael Doorly, and Joseph Kabwe Kamfwa with music by Karan Casey. Assemble for registration in Louisburgh from 11am. Shuttle buses will bring walkers to the starting point from approx. 12.40pm. A brief ceremony (5 minutes) will take place at the Famine Memorial in Delphi Lodge before walkers return to Louisburgh. Please note there is no parking available at Delphi Lodge. The walk is approximately 11 miles and a shuttle car will be available along the route if needed. There is a registration fee of €25 which includes the shuttle bus (additional sponsorship welcome). Fuller information available on the Afri website at To properly remember those who died in Doolough, we must stand in solidarity with all who experience hunger and injustice today. And we must intensify our efforts to tackle the lie of ‘famine’ and the crime of war including the extremely profitable and corrupt weapons industry whose products kill if used and kill if not – because of the wastage of resources which could go to meeting real human needs and real security.

Adi Roche warns of ‘humanitarian Armageddon’ in Ukraine war

In a statement to mark United Nations Chernobyl Remembrance Day, Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children International has warned that “Every day that peace is denied, we are rolling a dice. If we allow this to continue, one day our luck will run out. We are sleepwalking humanity into a wider war and potential humanitarian Armageddon with our eyes, but wide open. With this weaponising of Nuclear Power, we cannot stress enough the risk that Chernobyl and now

Zaporizhzhia poses. If we remain silent…we are playing with a loaded gun.” And on CCI’s work the statement said “CCI had the infrastructure to immediately respond in the Chernobyl regions affected by the war, nimbly and quickly. The charity was not only able to continue programmes, but also expanded them, while targeting areas of unique need in Ukraine. This included moving their life-saving Cardiac programme cross country from East to West and supporting mental health of child victims of war crimes in the Chernobyl zone, as they had experience in mitigating child trauma already. CCI’s International Cardiac Mission landed in Lviv, Ukraine in advance of the day of remembrance, saving the lives of babies as young as 4 hours old.”

SpoArts Wash tackles fossil fooling

SpoArts Wash is a new organisation tackling greenwashing by fossil fuel companies and in particular sponsorship of sporting and arts events by them. See which has resources and suggested actions, including for schools. At the launch event on 24th April the incredible statistic was shared that fossil fuel companies spend 1% of their money on renewable energy yet 90% of their advertising is on that theme. SpoArts Wash will specifically be targeting the Texaco Art Competition and the Texaco Sports Grants scheme in Ireland. At the launch Steven Donziger from the USA shared the extent to which a vindictive fossil fuel company,Texaco/Chevron, can go to victimise and ruin the life of a human rights activist

CAJ: Tribute to Brian Gormally, FIDH on legacy bill

The April 2023 issue of CAJ’s ‘Just News’ is a tribute to retired director Brian Gormally and it has a useful introduction by him at the start as a ‘Hymn to human rights’ which concludes that this “is not praise for a utopian ideal, but a celebration of a set of certainly lofty aspirations that are practically attainable in the real world.” As well as marking Brian Gormally’s contribution the articles are a useful summary of work done in his period of tenure from 2011. The CAJ website at has details on its policy areas of democratic governance; policing and justice; the legacy of the past; confronting prejudice; immigration; and increased equality.

Meanwhile FIDH (the International Federation of Human Rights) has issued a declaration about the UK’s current legacy bill to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Belfast / Good Friday Agreement which has the ominous titleNorthern Ireland: The British Government is attempting to cover up its crimes with Pinochet-like impunity legislation”

Irish Centre for Human Rights, Galway

Details about the work of the ICHR and recent programme can be found on its website at Their annual summer school on the International Criminal Court takes place this year from 19th – 23rd June and the fee is €450.

Amnesty International opposes Troubles amnesty bill

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International Northern Ireland Deputy Director, said prior to President Biden’s visit that “The Prime Minister must scrap the widely-opposed Troubles Bill that violates the Good Friday Agreement, and end threats to the European Convention on Human Rights which has been a cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s peace settlement” and that ““It rings entirely hollow that the Prime Minister is celebrating the [Good Friday] Agreement whilst simultaneously pursuing a legislative agenda that erodes the rights commitments central to it.”

ICCL on oversight of An Garda Síochána

ICCL, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, has urged the Minister for Justice to strengthen the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill 2023 to establish proper Garda oversight and deliver on the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing, made almost five years ago. The Bill introduces important organisational and structural reforms recommended by the Commission; it would establish a Police Ombudsman to replace the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), an expanded Policing and Community Safety Authority, and a new Independent Examiner of Security Legislation. However, ICCL states that Garda oversight bodies must be given sufficient powers and independence if they are to ensure Gardaí operate within the law and with respect for human rights. As it stands, ICCL believes this legislation will be a missed opportunity unless some key amendments are made. More details at

Death of Helen Haughton

We very much regret to record the death of Helen Haughton, founder of AVP/Alternatives to Violence Project in Ireland. A lifelong and very active Quaker, originally from England, she was involved in founding AVP in Ireland in the early 1990s. AVP Ireland is thriving and working in most prisons in the Republic; its model of nonviolence at a personal level has been transformational for hundreds of people in Ireland. In the North, however, despite several attempts to get AVP going, it has not taken off yet. Helen was much admired and respected not just in the Quaker and AVP domains but more widely among those who knew her. The ongoing work of AVP in Ireland is an enormous tribute to her life and work. A photo of Helen along with her daughter Jenny (taken during the AVP international gathering at Maynooth in 2014) can be seen at

Countering strongman politics

Church and Peace, the European ecumenical peace church network, has a joint event with the FOR/Fellowship of Reconciliation in England on 20th May when from 1.30 – 3pm, online (fee £5) or in person (in Leeds), Anthea Sully speaks on ‘Countering Strongman Politics – Learning from Women Peacebuilders’. Details at

President Biden visit to Ireland

While Joe Biden got a generally warm and uncritical welcome on his visit to Ireland, particularly south of the border, various demonstrations took place focusing on US militarism, lack of human rights for Julian Assange, and the serious deficiencies in US international policies – these included demonstrations at Belfast City Hall and the GPO in Dublin among others. In a statement World Beyond War Ireland said “Consecutive Irish Governments have reneged on their constitutional, humanitarian, and international law responsibilities by actively supporting U.S. led wars of aggression in the Middle East by allowing U.S. military to transit through Shannon airport. While the Irish Government has justifiably criticised the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has wrongfully failed to criticise U.S. and its NATO allies’ invasions and wars of aggression in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. “ Email contact

Meanwhile Shannonwatch pointed out that “as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, it is shameful that we are actively working against peace in other parts of the world. The US military used Shannon Airport to support the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Today they continue to bring troops and their weapons through Shannon, despite the Irish government’s claims that we to follow a policy of military neutrality.”

See also photos at and beside