News, October 2023

Peace Heroines exhibition continues touring

The exhibition on women heroines of peace in Northern Ireland which has now been circulating for a considerable time – launched at Stormont on International Day of Peace, September 2022 – is well worth seeing; it consists of 28 panels. It was created by Herstory https://www.herstory.ie/peace-heroine-stories and forthcoming venues can be found at https://www.herstory.ie/new-page A showing at 2 Royal Avenue, Belfast ends on 6th October; subsequent venues through to autumn 2024 include Down County Museum, North Down Museum and Ards Arts Centre, Iontas Centre in Monaghan, Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, Coleraine Museum, New Shankill Women’s Centre in Belfast, and Donegal County Museum.

Conversation on Gospel Nonviolence

Pax Christi Ireland and the Loyola Institute (Trinity College Dublin) are hosting a ‘Conversation’ to deepen Catholic understanding of and commitment to Gospel nonviolence. Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) was initiated at the Vatican in 2016. https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/ The main speakers are Marie Dennis and Pat Gaffney, CNI, followed by a panel on the practice of nonviolence with representatives of EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel), Spirasi (The National Centre for Survivors of Torture in Ireland) and INNATE. It takes place in the Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin on Saturday 14th October from 10.30am – 2pm. Registration from 10am. Booking via Eventbrite https://bit.ly/PaxChristiDublin

Lough Neagh’s a-wake

Lough Neagh should be a jewel in Ireland/Northern Ireland’s crown – instead it is a cesspool along with much of the north’s other waterways. While some of the causes are complex or multi-layered, the lack of action has been shocking – it has been an issue that green groups such as FOE-NI have been campaigning on for years. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/lough-neagh-why-europes-wildlife-jewel-needs-space-breathe Now, however, it has at last reached public consciousness, including through a wake for the lough at Ballyronan on 17th September. See Larry Speight’s EcoAwareness column in the email and web editions

Could rights based-safeguards make Stormont functional?

Friday 13th October from 2 – 5 pm sees a seminar in Belfast exploring whether it is possible to unlock sustainable governance through reforming the present structures of the NI Assembly and Executive in line with the rights-based safeguards intended under the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. It is organised by the Equality Coalition and Transitional Justice Institute, supported by the LSE Gender, Justice and Security Hub. There are well known contributors and two panels, one on Vetoes or safeguards? An exploration of mechanisms, and the second on Women’s rights and social transformation. As well as in-person attendance the event will be livestreamed. Details and booking at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/could-rights-based-safeguards-make-stormont-functional-tickets-711233517597

White Poppies: Remembering and committing

As the ‘remembrance season’ of November approaches there is the opportunity to wear a white poppy as a symbol of remembrance for all those who have died in war (not just soldiers and not just British forces as with the red poppy) and show a commitment for peace and against war. The Peace Pledge Union in Britain have white poppies for sale in small packs or larger display boxes, along wth posters, postcards stickers etc. See www.ppu.org.uk where the biodegradeable poppies are UK£5 for 5, £20 for 25, or £68 for 100, plus postage. Email mail@ppu.org.uk

Police Surveillance North and South

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) have a joint conference looking at the issues of surveillance and oversight in policing in the North and South. It take place from 9am to 5pm on Tuesday 24th October at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dublin. Speakers include: Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney , Baroness Nuala O’Loan, David Kaye, Professor Marie Breen-Smyth, Dr Abeba Birhane, Jonathan Hall KC, Alyson Kilpatrick BL, Dr Daragh Murray, and John Wadham. The keynote plenary will discuss the human impact of covert surveillance and the lack of international legal regulation on the matter; panel discussions will cover facial recognition technology (FRT), covert surveillance, and policing oversight bodies as a means of accountability. Register at https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/police-surveillance-north-and-south-tickets-714670658177 for your free ticket with further details there. https://www.iccl.ie/ and https://caj.org.uk/

FOE impact report, jobs

Friends of the Earth Ireland has issued its annual impact report for the last year which includes its goals and work realised – Learning Hub events, campaigning including on Warm Homes for All, the work of Young Friends of the Earth among much else. Over 950 submissions were made to consultations in the year. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w82a1FT5o88 and https://friendsoftheearth.cmail20.com/t/t-l-vxitly-jrktjjkhkl-j/ Meanwhile the closing date for applications for the posts of Communications Content Officer and Fossil Free Ireland Campaigner is 8th October, see https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/news/job-alerts-were-recruiting-a-communications-content-officer/ By the end of 2023 the staff numbers will have tripled from 2019.

Call for independent inquiry into case of Sallins Men

Four leading human rights organisations – the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Fair Trials delivered a petition on 19th September to the Irish Government asking the Minister for Justice to establish an inquiry into the abuse suffered by Osgur Breatnach, Michael Barrett, John Fitzpatrick, Nicky Kelly, Brian McNally, and Michael Plunkett (deceased). The lives of these six men, known as ‘the Sallins Men’, were changed irrevocably when they were arrested, detained, charged, convicted and imprisoned following the Sallins Train Robbery in 1976. The statement from the organisation concerned states “Their case remains one of the most significant miscarriages of justice in modern Irish history. The abuse they suffered – and the continuing suffering they endure – is a violation of their human rights. To date, there has been no effective investigation into their case.” The petition asks for a human rights compliant investigation, conducted in accordance with the standards required following a breach and violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 3 is the absolute prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment. https://www.iccl.ie/ https://caj.org.uk/ https://www.patfinucanecentre.org/ https://www.fairtrials.org/

Sunny Jacobs appeal

After her release from a US prison in 1992 where she spent 17 years for a crime she didn’t commit, Sunny Jacobs became a yoga teacher and a campaigner. For over thirty years, she has been a leading international voice for forgiveness, redemption, justice, and reform, calling for an end to the death penalty, and support for people who have been wrongfully convicted. She moved to Ireland after meeting Peter, and the two of them established the Sunny Healing Center in rural Connemara, where they have offered a space for healing and respite to dozens of individuals who have faced miscarriages of justice. They also spent years travelling the world speaking in schools, universities, at conferences and in the media, calling for reform…..” After recently losing her beloved husband, Peter, who provided a vital caring role for her, friends are appealing for financial assistance to help meet her needs. More information and links on the Gofundme page https://www.gofundme.com/f/send-some-love-and-solidarity-to-sunny-jacobs

European peace activists under threat

It can be a difficult and even dangerous task being a peace activist, especially in a time of war. Yurii Sheliazhenko, a well-known conscientious objector, pacifist, human rights defender and the Executive Secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, was placed under house arrest in mid-August, supposedly for justifying Russian aggression – despite having specifically condemned it! Letters of solidarity can be sent using a template at https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/ukraine-release-yurii-sheliazhenko and World Beyond War has also delivered a petition on his behalf https://worldbeyondwar.org/petition-to-be-delivered-to-ukrainian-embassy-in-washington-d-c-on-monday/ At a court sitting in mid-September, the prosecution has not yet proceeded, perhaps due to international attention.

Meanwhile also well known Olga Karatch, a Belarussian activist now in Lithuania, director of ‘Our House’, was denied political asylum in August but given a one-year temporary residency. But this is no safety for a prominent peace and human rights activist who would face immediate imprisonment if returned to Belarus. See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/international-campaign-protection-and-asylum-human-rights-defender-olga-karatch for more info and links to sending solidarity letters.

Both Olga and Yurii are very impressive activists who deserve any support they can be given…

l Meanwhile there is a campaign for the protection and asylum for all from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine who refuse military service and a call for actions from December 4, 2023 to the International “Human Rights Day” on December 10, 2023. See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/take-action-objectwarcampaign-4th-10th-december-2023

ICCL on Garda bodycams

The Irish Council fo Civil Liberties has cautiously welcomed the announcement from An Garda Síochána that they will pilot the introduction of bodyworn cameras before moving to a national roll-out. See https://www.iccl.ie/press-release/bodyworn-cameras-pilot-must-ensure-fundamental-rights-are-protected-iccl/ for details

ForcesWatch on Legacy Act and Troubles podcasts

ForcesWatch is a UK organisation dedicated to investigating militarisation, military ethics and human rights concerns. It has produced coverage of the Legacy Act https://www.forceswatch.net/comment/erasing-accountability-in-the-troubles/ and a mini-series of three podcasts about Northern Ireland; these have interviews with Lee Lavis, Fiona Gallagher, and Ian Cobain https://open.spotify.com/show/6bdLyHplM6s1tfwV8u5LA6