All posts by Rob Fairmichael

News, July 2024

Stair na Síochána in Éirinn

This 300 page book, in Irish, by Risteárd Mac Annraoi on the history of peace in Ireland is an important addition to thinking about peace and the story of peace in Ireland. It is published by Coiscéim at €20. It is available at some Irish language booksellers (e.g. An Siopa Leabhar in Harcourt Street, Dublin) and by post (search online). It is reviewed by Máire Úna Ní Bheaglaoich in the email and web editions of this issue of Nonviolent News.

New Afri Coordinator

The incoming coordinator of Afri is Katie Martin, taking up appointment at the start of September; Joe Murray, Afri coordinator for the past thirty years is retiring at that point. Katie Martin is a Global Citizenship Education practitioner who has worked with Development Perspectives since 2018 and has been Coordinator of the post-primary projects (the SDG Challenge Schools and Water Wise Explorers). She has a BA in International Relations and an MA in International Peacebuilding, Security and Development Practice, and is a member of Comhlámh Justice for Palestine, a former Board Member of AfrI, and an activist. Meanwhile Joe Murray was surprised with a farewell party he knew nothing about, at the Teachers’ Club in Dublin on 6th June…a hundred people gathered to pay tribute to him and the work Afri engages in without him knowing anything about it beforehand! Afri website www.afri.ie For a photo of Katie and Joe at the farewell party for Joe, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53826121818/in/dateposted/

lAfri Doolough Famine Walk video

A 12 minute video on this year’s Afri Doolough Famine Walk, including extracts from powerful talks by Faten Sourani and Donal O’Kelly on Palestine, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2iCG99vN_E with the text of those talks available on the Afri website at www.afri.ie

Conflict Textiles; Threads of Empowerment

A new Conflict Textiles exhibition, Threads of Empowerment, with nearly thirty arpilleras on violence and conflict, human rights violations, poverty, oppression and environmental issues, is on display in the Ulster Muesum, Belfast, until January 2025. It is arguably the most powerful presentation of arpilleras in Ireland to date. Other contemporary displays of arpilleras/textiles are in The Troubles and Beyond exhibition also at Ulster Museum; at McClay Library, QUB; UU Coleraine campus and Belfast campus; Linenhall Library, Belfast; Tower Museum, Derry; the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny; and Ballymoney Museum. Full details at https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/conflicttextiles/ and click on ‘Events’.

Shannon vigils, July and August

Suggested by Kinvara Palestine group, in the summer months there will be an increased number of anti-war vigils at Shannon with vigils proposed every weekend with the theme “US military out of Shannon – No complicity with war crimes”. kinvarasolidarity@gmail.com and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61554239395818 but for seeing the timetable and slots to volunteer contact Barry Sweeney barrysweeney11@gmail.com

GAAW: Galway Alliance Against War – Hiroshima and more

GAAW’s annual Hiroshima event will be on Saturday 3rd August at 2pm in Eyre Square, Galway; the speaker will be Jeremy Corbyn. GAAW continues to be active in a variety of areas including Shannon antiwar solidarity, work to get trade unions to oppose US military use of Shannon, working to defend the Triple Lock, and demanding the freedom of the city be removed from Hilary Clinton for her opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza. You can get put on their mailing list to be kept up to date: galwayallianceagainstwar@gmail.com and https://www.facebook.com/groups/312442090965

Caverns are not great gas

Campaigners against giant gas caverns in Larne Lough won a victory in the NI Court of Appeal in mid June when there was a ruling that the matter should have gone to the whole Northern Ireland Executive. Campaigners, including No Gas Caverns, Friends of the Earth NI, and the PILS Project, celebrated the overturning of a previous decision by the (ir)responsible minister to allow these giant caverns to be made locking the North into fossil fuels and with great environmental risks. Word search for further info and see https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate/no-gas-caverns-under-larne-lough

Tools for Solidarity: 40

From 3rd to 7th July, Tools for Solidarity is celebrating four decades of work. The big celebration event will be on Friday 5th July at the Dockers’ Club, 57 Pilot Street, Belfast with the Hoakers and others, plus Tim McGarry and Terri Hooley; 7.30pm for 8pm, suggested donation £10/£7 unwaged. There is an open day workshop at their Sunnyside (up!) Street headquarters, Belfast from 11am – 5pm, also on 5th July, and the following day, 6th July, a treasure hunt beginning at Belfast City Hall at 12 noon. Tools For Solidarity is a not-for-profit organisation in Belfast which is fully run by international, local and supported volunteers; the main focus is to support artisans in the poorest parts of the world and mostly in the countries of Africa. Lots more info at https://www.toolsforsolidarity.com/

Mairead Maguire on Gaza

For links to talks by Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire on Gaza, and a written A plea for peace by a mother, see News items at http://www.peacepeople.com/

ICCL campaigns for Special Criminal Court abolition

ICCL, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, continues to campaign for the abolition of the jury-less Special Criminal Court, 52 years after it was introduced as an ‘emergency’ measure. Two different review groups have been established by the government to examine the Offences Against the State Acts and the Special Criminal Court, with reports in 2002 and 2023 but, to date, none of their recommendations have been implemented. ICCL continues to call for the Special Criminal Court to be abolished and the jury system to be reformed to protect jurors with proportionate measures ensuring human rights are not interfered with. https://www.iccl.ie/police-justice-reform/state-of-emergency-52-years-of-the-special-criminal-court/

CGE: Reimagining Development podcasts

The Centre for Global Education (CGE) in Belfast https://www.centreforglobaleducation.com/ has a new series of podcasts which aim to discuss new ways of thinking about and practising global education and international development. Go to https://open.spotify.com/show/0I9MX9YXBsq6Ldon9jyIQp

Amnesty International on ‘shocking’ PSNI surveillance report

Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan has said that ‘The police appear to have forgotten that journalism is not a crime’ following the publication of a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) report on their use of surveillance on journalists and lawyers. This showed 323 applications for journalists’ phone data including 10 attempts to identify confidential sources and 500 applications for lawyers’ phone data raising questions on compromised lawyer-client confidentiality in the reporting period 2011-2024. AI has also expressed concern about a 21% increase in the use of various forms of force by PSNI in the year to April 2024. https://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Northern-Ireland

Political advocacy and communications with Rochtain/ICCL

Rochtain is taking expressions of interest in its training to build advocacy capacity and understanding of the political system with smaller community and grassroots organisations around the Republic. It has already provided three rounds of online training to over 150 organisations plus 1-to-1 sessions. Training is provided free. There is a survey on needs at https://www.surveyhero.com/c/gbmfunuy and you can enquire directly to ronan.kennedy@iccl.ie

Eco-Congregation small grants scheme

Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) has a new small grants scheme for churches and congregations for small scale practical projects which are either already running or will begin before the end of 2024. The church or congregation must have already registered with ECI (a very simple process) and begun their Eco-Congregation journey. The closing date for applications is 31st July. https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/ You can also sign up there to receive the regular ECI newsletter.

FOE Cuppa for Climate

Friends of the Earth Ireland is continuing its Cuppa for Climate campaign as a way of helping bring people together to talk about the climate crisis in an informal yet constructive way that leads to an invitation to explore positive actions together. It can be used as a fundraiser and/or as a way to mobilise people locally. More info at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/cuppa-for-climate/signup and see also their Act Local project https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act-local/

Bremen Peace Prize

Church and Peace has welcomed the award of the the Bremen Peace Prize, from the Schwelle Foundation, to its board member Maria Biedrawa for her work in various African countries including the Central African Republic: Connection e.V. was awarded the group peace prize simultaneously for its work protecting conscientious objectors. https://dieschwelle.de/en/home https://www.church-and-peace.org/en/

World Beyond War resources

While some of the material is US-centric, World Beyond War has a large variety of useful resources on its website including many podcasts, go to https://worldbeyondwar.org/resources/ and you can select what kind of material you are interested in.

Síolta Chroí courses

Courses at Síolta Chroí over the summer include An introduction to Ecosystem Renewal for community groups on 10th and 11th August, and a one day taster on Syntropic Agriculture (respecting the principles of life) on 13th July, both in Carrickmacross, Monaghan. More info at https://sioltachroi.ie/

Editorial: Nonviolent alternatives

Viable nonviolent alternatives exist in many situations where popular opinion thinks only of armies and violence. And armies tend to be thought of not only as state power but symbols of the state so it is no wonder about their status in most countries. The powers that be are generally incapable of thinking outside of the lack-of-imagination box which constrains the possibilities they perceive. Why did the Irish government’s so-called* Consultative Forum on International Security Policy in 2023 refuse to even refer to or consider aspects of nonviolent civilian defence? Basically because it falls outside of their knowledge set. To them, it simply does not exist. * For reasoning on the use of the term ‘so-called’ see https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53003786126/in/dateposted/

The recent webinar which INNATE shared with FOR England & Scotland, and Cymdeithas y Cymod in Wales, looked at some of these issues in relation to one particular challenge, the war in Ukraine. The webinar was with Majken Sørensen who shared on her knowledge of nonviolent resistance and on her book “Pacifism Today: A Dialogue about Alternatives to War in Ukraine”. https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2024/04/02/the-possibility-of-nonviolent-resistance-in-the-contemporary-world/ https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2022/04/01/nonviolent-resistance-to-invasion-occupation-and-coups-detat/

Majken Sørensen emphasised the extent to which our knowledge of the possibilities of nonviolent resistance has increased in recent times and Chenoweth and Stefan’s work shows nonviolent struggle is more likely to succeed than violent struggle. https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2022/11/03/the-effectiveness-of-violence-and-nonviolence/ While morality is important, Majken said, it can be backed up with statistics today that nonviolent resistance works. And the fact that nonviolent resistance can be effective in tough situations was illustrated by examples from Nazi-occupied Europe in the Second World War.

However Majken also said that there are risks for activists opposing war – and soldiers consider risks normal. However not everyone can take the same risks (because of their personal situations) and it can be problematic if those taking the biggest risks are considered the heroes of nonviolence (when everyone has a part to play). There was much more to the discussion than be covered here though one point was the possibility of prominent figures, such as senior statespersons or church people, going to war situations, protesting and intervening.

A comment made after the webinar was that “Non-violence is important because it restrains escalation and greater polarisation. Violence and the threat of violence encourages polarisation and escalation and often there is no way back. It presents the issues as black and white and demonizes the other. It does not allow for some element of truth in their analysis of the situation and does not allow any doubts that one’s own analysis might be partial. This was evident in the lead up to Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. In contrast, a non-violence approach often starts with recognising the humanity of the other and the willingness to engage with them and consider their perspectives, while making clear one’s own position, principles and values.

And following the law of least contest, it is difficult to move to a lower level of contestation and easy to move to a higher level. Sometimes non-violent activists are seeking a cessation of violence and compromise between warring parties and they can help to achieve that by showing their own awareness of the humanity of both side. Compare that with a power-broker trying to knock the heads together of both sides, often resulting in a settlement which proves unsustainable. Of course non-violent activists are often making demands and are not seeking compromise, but even here, respect for the other is often at the heart of effective non-violence.” These factors are also critical points about nonviolence.

We have a job to do in making the possibilities of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance known in all levels of society and in relation to all levels of society and international affairs. You might think we should be knocking at open doors given the cost of violence and militarism, human and financial. But in fact doors are firmly shut due to adherence to status quo thinking and a lack of imagination.

Perhaps because he is well known in cultural circles (otherwise they might not have published such transgressive thoughts…), the Irish Times published a letter by Gabriel Rosenstock asking simply “Why not abolish the Army? They did it in Costa Rica and they’re doing fine without it.” (25th June 2024). Indeed, why not……….the writer of this letter (and much more besides) is clearly not lacking in imagination.

INNATE is happy to help anyone explore nonviolent possibilities at any level. AVP, the Alternatives to Violence Project, does an excellent job at the personal and interpersonal level in looking at the ‘transforming power’ of what is basically nonviolence. Community groups are often caught up with trying to provide viable paths for young people towards confidence and positive achievement and away from confrontation or crime. Mediation as a methodology has made great strides in civil society but it and its sibling, conciliation (a more general term for work on communication, discussion and understanding in situations of conflict, potential conflict and strife) seem to have been largely forgotten in the international arena. But at every level, interpersonal, societal and international, there is little sign of creative thinking in dealing with issues of security, justice, or the needs of others.

The Natasha O’Brien case in the Republic (a suspended sentence for an off duty soldier badly injuring and beating a woman unconscious who had simply asked him to stop shouting homophobic slurs) shows just how far we have to travel. This was an example of gross interpersonal and sexist violence, and symbolic of a wider malaise. While the state may deal with violent offenders in the armed forces, is there a will to deal with wider issues including machismo and masculine attitudes to violence in general? That is a much larger cultural and societal issue which may be touched on at times in relationship education but is an elephant in the room. (See downloadable Masculinity and Violence poster at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ )

One workshop which INNATE promotes is on exploring nonviolent tactics. This can be facilitated by INNATE but the DIY version is also online at https://innatenonviolence.org/workshops/workshop1.shtml This tries to broaden and deepen an understanding of what it is possible to do with nonviolence before personalising possibilities (what could you do?) and then brainstorming on a particular campaign. It is a straightforward process to arrive at new possibilities for our campaigning on anything.

The world’ seems hell-bent (sic) on pursuing militarist and violent solutions where militarism and violence are part of the problem or even the main part of the problem. And we know well that hell is traditionally portrayed as hot. As mentioned in the webinar with Majken Sørensen, the environment is very much a cost of militarism apart from the fact that hot and armed conflict detracts and distracts from the possibilities of dealing with climate heating which are so urgent – and climate change is itself becoming a major cause of conflict.

There is a steep learning curve or curve about learning to climb. We have the tools to change but it is getting them known and utilised that is a major issue.

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Eco-Awareness: Fish don’t vote

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

In the UK general election, along with the other 92 general, presidential and mayoral elections that will be conducted worldwide this year, the call made by the competing parties and independent candidates is that to vote for them is to vote for change.

This is the mantra across the UK political spectrum inclusive of the SDLP and the UUP, the UK Labour Party and the Reform Party led by Nigel Farage. Even the Conservative Party that has been in power in Westminster for the last 14-years is trying to persuade the electorate that it is the party of change. Perhaps this is why the polls suggest that it will not form the next government as to claim that to vote for them on the basis of wanting change is to repudiate its time in office.

When one reviews the political policies of the candidates the outstanding thing about them is that tinkering rather than radical change is on the agenda. Bar a few exceptions this means that electioneering is smoke and mirrors which accounts for why many who see through the sham don’t vote.

What the UK political parties with a chance of forming the next government have in common is their religious-like faith that unfettered economic growth is the remedy to all of the country’s woes. It is hoped that the revenue raised will finance public services including the NHS, home care, education, nurseries, the police and judicial system, social housing and the armed forces whose appetite for money is insatiable.

The delusion of the political parties, and it might actually be deliberate deception, is that the irreconcilable can be reconciled. This is that economic growth has a miraculous ability to over-ride the physics of how nature works, which is akin to the magical thinking that often occurs in our dreams. As Marco Magrini in Geographical, May 2024, says: “The laws of chemistry and physics that govern our atmosphere are inescapable.

The tragic thing is that presenting faith as fact to the public is to unteach what children throughout their 12-years or so of schooling are taught, which is that life on Earth, and probably the entire unquantifiable expanse of the cosmos, operates within the confines of measurable constraints.

Breaking these constraints means that ecological systems collapse with wide-ranging long-term negative consequences for the greater ecology including ourselves. We see this in stark terms with the pollution of Lough Neagh and Lough Erne as a result of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s ‘Going for Growth Action Plan’ launched at the 2013 Balmoral Show. The poisoning of our aquatic gems is also due to the failure of the N.I. Assembly to ensure that raw sewage does not enter our rivers and lakes which are our biome’s bloodstream.

As far as I am aware none of the N.I. election contenders, other than the Green Party and the Alliance Party, has mentioned restoring our intricate system of water ways to a state that allows the rich array of biodiversity they are capable of supporting to thrive. Doing so would mean eliminating the flow of nitrogen-based fertilizers and synthetic pesticides from agricultural land into our waterways which is something only a moderate number of farmers would vote for. Tackling water pollution would also mean raising money to pay for an effective water treatment and distribution system. As in Northern Ireland so on the whole island.

Further, little mention has been made by the N.I. candidates of the need to establish a fully independent and adequately funded environmental protection agency. That this is the case is not surprising given that “Fish Don’t Vote”. This is how Ian Knox in a recent cartoon in The Irish News succinctly explains why those contesting the election rarely, if ever, concern themselves with the harm we inflict upon the biome and by extension ourselves.

The naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham expressed the deep dismay of many voters at the lack of attention the main political parties and mainstream media are giving to the critical issue of how we conduct our relationship with nonhuman nature when he said.

I’m devastated by the lack of foresight, intelligence, commitment, understanding and determination to do anything about the single biggest issue in our species’ history. At a time when we need bold and brave leadership, we’re not seeing any sign from any of the manifestos that this might materialize.

In Northern Ireland elections are not about how we can transition to live a rewarding life in an ecologically sustainable way but about people reaffirming their sense of Irish or British identity. Thankfully this obsession has started to erode with the addition to the electoral register of people who did not grow up with a sense of either identity as well as the increasing number who were born here for whom national identity is not an issue.

Northern Ireland is not the only place where sense of national identity plays a major part in the political discourse. In the Republic we saw this in the local and EU elections and in the sometimes-violent street protests against the arrival of people seeking asylum. In Britain the Reform Party wants to immediately deport undocumented people seeking asylum. Fear of losing votes has pushed the Conservative Party to promise more restrictive but probably unenforceable measures to prevent asylum seekers staying in the UK.

Amidst the noise and heat of the debate about undocumented immigrants the reason why many seek a new home on these islands is because of the severe weather events across the globe caused by the very thing the large political parties are obsessed about, namely continual economic growth. The obsession is in denial of the equation that 1 + 1 = 2, which is to say, there can be no economy without ecology.

Even if infinite economic growth were possible in a finite world there is no reason to think that this would mean economic wellbeing for all. The evidence for this is in plain sight in the form of widespread poverty, the high level of mental ill-health, sense of alienation and purposelessness that is prevalent in the most economically prosperous countries.

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Readings in Nonviolence: Stair na Síochána in Éirinn le Risteárd Mac Annraoi, Is abolishing war possible?

Stair na Síochána in Éirinn

le Risteárd Mac Annraoi

Coiscéim, 300 leathanaigh, €20.

Léirmheas: Máire Úna Ní Bheaglaoich

Seo stair ghluaiseacht na síochána in Éirinn ón luath-stair anuas, ó ré Chúchulainn, Cáin Adamhnáin, Foras Feasa, go dtí inniu, i 6 chaibidil. Tá sé ana-chuimsitheach, go háirithe ó 1800 amach. ‘Sé an laige is mó atá ann ná an tréimhse is déanaí,s a 20ú céad agus na dosaein grúpaí ba mhaith linn a bheith sa chúntas, mar Afri, PANA, Gluaiseacht an Phobail (people.ie), agus go háirithe sa Tuaisceart, Bishopscourt Peace Camp ’83, Peace People ’76, Veterans for Peace 2012, Women Together 1970, a bhí ag coimeád dreamanna trodacha ó chéile. Nach mór an gá a bheadh leo inniu! D’oirfeadh cuntas ar leithrigh dóibh sin, taréis an méid a d’fhulaing an pobal dúchasach. Tá liosta foilsithe ag INNATE.

Bhí páirt mhór ag mná sa streachailt ar son na síochána, Louie Bennett, Lucy Kingston, Eileen Robinson, Helen Chevenix, Rosamund Jacob. Fite fuaite leis an ngluaiseacht náisiúnta tá an iarracht frith-sclábhaíochta, an ghluaiseacht frith-choinscríofa, saoirse na ndaoine gorma, fuascailt agus cearta na mban, ag rith comhthreormhar leis. Bhí dhá chogadh ag bagairt. Chuaigh an dá chogadh ar aghaidh in ainneoin gach aon rud, sampla atá againn sa lá inniu, agus tionscal na n-arm ag ” fás” agus ag carnadh airgid.

Ní raibh Hanna Sheehy Skeffington sásta nach raibh an tacaíocht cheart dhá fháil ag mná sna gluaiseachtaí. Bhí Louie Bennett ag lorg athmhuintearais seachas cogadh cathardha ach d’ eitíodar í. “Tarraing cogadh agus bris síocháin”. Dá réiteofaí ceist cearta na mban sa domhan, ní dócha go mbeadh na cogaí chomh mí- dhaonna, mar is mná agus leanaí agus seandaoine is mó go ndeintear ár orthu.

Tír, talamh agus teaghlach is cúis le cogaí.

De réir teagasc Gandhi, tá an neamh-fhoréigean préamhaithe sa bhfírinne.

Tá léargas suimiúil anso ar na coimhlintí go léir a bhí ar siúl ag an am céanna agus an pháirt mhór a bhí ag Cuallacht na gCarad iontu. Dhiúltaíodar go hiomlán don bhforéigean. Muinín as Íosa an teagasc a bhí acu agus bhíodar seasamhach sa phrionsabal san i gcónaí. Bhí alán taistil dhá dhéanamh acu ar fuaid na hEorpa, Job Scott, Abraham Shackleton, Henry Richard, William Jones, Ennis Darby agus mórán eile. Bhí comhdháil síochána sa Bheilg, i bPáras, Frankfurt, i Londain i 1848, agus na céadta ag freastal orthu. B’shin aimsir na gorta in Éirinn. Eadrán a bhí uathu seachas troid.

Bhí Wolfe Tone diongmhálta ar son neodrachta na hÉireann i 1792, dar leis, dála Swift agus Molyneux, gurb é Sasana préamh gach oilc in Éirinn. Theastaigh uaidh an ceangal le Sasana a bhriseadh, scríobh sé billeog The Spanish War, ag cur in iúil dá seasfadh muintir na hÉireann go léir le chéile faoin ainm “Éireannach” seachas Caitliceach, Protastúnach nó Easaontóir, ba cheart don dtír a bheith neodrach, nár chóir fuil a dhortadh. B’shin í an aisling a bhí aige. I 1824 a bunaíodh an chéad chumann síochána in Éirinn. Bhí deireadh le sclábhaíocht i gcóilíní Shasana i 1834. Cuireadh Crosáid Frith-Chogaíochta ar bun in Éirinn i 1936 agus bhí teagmháil acu le War Resisters’ International agus an Peace Pledge Union. Bhí Peace News ar díol ar shráideanna Bhaile Átha Cliath.Tá an nuachtán san beo fós. Tá na “conarthaí” Eorpacha nár iarramar, ar a ndícheall ad’ iarraidh neod racht na hÉireann a chloí. Tá an fíor-scéal ar leathanach a 279. Dí-armáil domhanda atá le moladh.

Ní gá an leabhar a léamh d’aon-iarracht. Is féidir é d’oscailt ar aon leathanach agus cúntas beo bríomhar a léamh ar stair na síochána in Éirinn agus a bhuíochas san dos na laochra go léir. Bhaineas ana-shásamh agus tairbhe as an leabhar so agus as an eolas atá ann.

[Review translated into English]

Coiscéim, 300 pages, €20.

Review: Máire Úna Ní Bheaglaoich

This is a comprehensive history of the peace movement in Ireland from early history and legends like Cúchulainn, Cáin Adamhnáin, Keating’s Foras Feasa, in 6 chapters, however beginning mainly in the 1800s. The weak point is the scant coverage of contemporary peace movements of the 20th century, groups like Afri, PANA ,People’s Movement (people.ie), and especially those in Northern Ireland, Bishopscourt Peace Camp ’83, Peace People ’76, Veterans for Peace 2012, Women Together ’71 who endeavoured to keep rival gangs apart. I wonder how they would fare today? INNATE has catalogued many of these groups and they would warrant a separate booklet perhaps.

Women had a large part in the struggle for peace. Louie Bennett, Lucy Kingston, Eileen Robinson, Helen Chevenix, Rosamund Jacobs and others. While the struggle was going on in Ireland, there were other parallel groups like the anti-slavery, anti-conscription, freedom for people of colour, and the emancipation of women. Two world wars were threatening. The two wars happened despite protests,and we have echoes of that today. The weapons industry is feeding the frenzy in its race for profit. Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was not impressed with some groupings for not supporting women. Louie Bennett was looking for reconciliation and peace rather than civil war but she didn’t get much of a hearing, “Make war and smash peace”. If women’s rights were a priority, wars would not be so bloody, because the victims are usually women and children and the elderly.

Earth, land and home are the excuses for war.

According to Gandhi, non-violence is rooted in truth.

This book gives us an insight into all the conflicts that were happening in Europe, and the important part that the Society of Friends (Quakers) played in their total opposition to violence. They were steadfast in that principle. There were a lot of travels to and from European countries by people like Job Scott, Abraham Shackleton, Henry Richard, William Jones, Ennis Darby and many others. Peace conferences took place in Belgium, Paris, Frankfurt, London 1848, attended by hundreds.

Wolfe Tone advocated neutrality in 1792; in common with Swift and Molyneux, he regarded England as the root of all evil in Ireland. Tone wished to break the connection with England. In his pamphlet The Spanish War, he advocated that all Irish people stand together as Irish people, rather that Catholic,Protestant or Dissenter, for Ireland to be neutral and not take part in bloodshed. That was his dream. The first peace conference was held in Ireland in 1824. Slavery was ended in the British colonies in 1834. The Anti-War Crusade was founded in Ireland in 1936 and contact was made with War Resisters’ International and Peace Pledge Union, and the Peace News paper was sold on Dublin streets. That newspaper is still going strong.

The European “treaties” that were foisted on us, are trying to wreck our neutrality and “progressively increase our military capacity “. The account is on page 279. Global disarmament is what is needed. No need to read this in one go, you can dip in and out, and every short chapter reveals a very interesting and lively story. I found it a very pleasant read and the second reading can be more revealing.

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Is abolishing war possible?

Introduction

While we may or may not see the origins of war in the USA in terms as black and white as those below, the following thought-provoking short piece asks important questions about the circularity of the Military Industrial Complex there – and elsewhere. – Ed.

By Robert C Koehler (Transcend Media Service)

If we can end, let us say . . . slavery — the legal “ownership” of other human beings — can’t we also end other great social wrongs? Can’t we also end war?

As I ask this question, I am suddenly bludgeoned by an unexpected irony, since the United States ended slavery through a brutal war, with a death toll of perhaps three quarters of a million people.

But it was worth it, right?

Well, that’s what history tells us. It has essentially “made peace” with the war and now celebrates the moral objectives of the winning side, with all its carnage forever reduced to a statistical abstraction.

The topic of this column is the abolition of war — the urgent necessity of doing so — so, how odd it feels to begin by referencing a “good” war, which ended an enormous wrong . . . or at least forced the wrong to morph into a different, less legally blatant form of racism known as Jim Crow. (And when Jim Crow was defeated by the nonviolent civil rights movement a hundred years later, the nation’s racism morphed into such things as the “war on drugs” and an expanding prison-industrial complex.)

In any case, the Civil War — or at least its reduction to the simplicity of good vs. evil —is the manifestation of war’s staying power and principal talking point: War is always necessary, damnit! Both sides think so, and the winner is the one who gets to write the history. At least that’s the way it used to work.

In my lifetime, things have changed significantly, at least from the point of view of the United States, the world’s primary military power (at least for now). While war is bloodier and more devastating than it’s ever been, it no longer has much to do with winning and losing — at least from the U.S. point of view, which has basically “lost” (whatever that means) every war it has started since the Vietnam era. And that hasn’t seemed to matter. Winning isn’t really the point anymore, at least from the point of view of the moneyed interests of war. What matters is waging it — that is to say, what matters is keeping the profits flowing.

Or to put it more politely: What matters is keeping the sanctity of war alive and well.

Indeed, I’m reminded of George H.W. Bush’s comment in 1991, after the success of the first U.S. Gulf War.

It’s a proud day for the USA,” Bush declared. “And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.”

That is to say, the US public’s antiwar cynicism after Vietnam was now just more wreckage to be found on the Highway of Death. War is good again in the US! We no longer have to be content simply arming contras and fighting proxy wars. We can get back to the real deal. The Military Industrial Complex, which was born in the wake of World War II, has returned, front and center.

And that’s where we’re at today. As David Vine and Theresa Arriola write:

Those two forces, the military and the industrial, united with Congress to form an unholy ‘Iron Triangle.’ . . . To this day those three have remained the heart of the MIC, locked in a self-perpetuating cycle of legalized corruption (that also features all too many illegalities).

The basic system works like this: First, Congress takes exorbitant sums of money from us taxpayers every year and gives it to the Pentagon. Second, the Pentagon, at Congress’s direction, turns huge chunks of that money over to weapons makers and other corporations via all too lucrative contracts, gifting them tens of billions of dollars in profits. Third, those contractors then use a portion of the profits to lobby Congress for yet more Pentagon contracts, which Congress is generally thrilled to provide, perpetuating a seemingly endless cycle.”

This is the secret context of war — at least US war. The context is hidden behind the enormously effective public relations of war, whose headline slogans over the past few decades have mutated from “war on terror” and “axis of evil” to “Israel has a right to defend itself” — turning thousands and, ultimately, millions of deaths (deaths of civilians, deaths of children) into abstractions: collateral damage. We had no choice.

Knowing the illusions hiding behind the heroism and glory of war — the grotesque profits for some, the horrific toll taken on so many others — is crucial to establishing the urgency of its abolition. And then there’s the cost on the environment: how war poisons our ecosystems; how it murders the planet’s biodiversity; how it diverts our focus (financial and otherwise) from putting our money and energy into saving the planet, to making planetary destruction our primary effort.

And beyond all this, waging war requires the ever-presence in our national minds of . . . yeah, an enemy. War simplifies conflict, which is always inevitable and could be constructive, and turns it into “us vs. them.” And since nations spend so much money and effort preparing for war, they are always predisposed to turn conflict into the wrong kind of opportunity: an opportunity to define and kill an enemy. And step one is always this: dehumanize the enemy. That makes the killing of the bad guy (and all the collateral civilians who are in the way) totally fine, totally necessary.

And when we grow accustomed to the dehumanization of others — the refusal to listen, to acknowledge they have a point of view, let alone a soul — we simplify and diminish ourselves, essentially turning ourselves into our imagined enemy. And thus we’re always living in fear because war always comes home: Enemies always retaliate. Or their children grow up and retaliate.

So was the Civil War a “good” war, a necessary war? Ending slavery was certainly absolutely necessary, just as never creating it in the first place was necessary . . . but happened anyway.

The only lesson I can draw is that we’re not going to succeed at abolishing war unless we first succeed at transcending our exploitative interests. What does this mean in today’s world? Let the conversation begin.

– Taken from Peace Media Service https://www.transcend.org/tms/2024/06/is-abolishing-war-possible/

Billy King: Rites Again, 321

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

I get to read Nonviolent News before publication so I can make comments on contents in the same issue [What a privilege! – Ed]. The comment in the editorial about mediation and conciliation seeming to be forgotten in the international arena made me think that they are, collectively, one of the Secrets of the Universe. And that made me think about the cartoon of the guru on the mountain top, looking glum. One acolyte below the guru says to another “He has forgotten the secret of the universe again”. There seem to be a lot of Secrets of the Universe forgotten at the moment….

Elect shun

Well, the nativist far right did make a very few gains of local council seats (from zero) in Ireland in the local elections but nothing compared to what they were hoping, and nowhere near a seat in the EU elections. Now there are some people who claim true Irishness but who don’t remember anything about one of the most essential parts of Irish history in the last number of centuries, emigration.

However I was sad in particular to see Clare Daly voted out from MEP-dom. She has been a fearless advocate of peace and against EU military aggrandizement, as well as being a sensible voice on many other issues. There was a vindictive piece in the Irish Times following her defeat https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/2024/06/21/justine-mccarthy-clare-dalys-dog-whistle-to-haters-of-the-media-wasnt-just-hypocritical-it-was-reckless/ She was continually mocked and abused by the conservative media in Ireland (I would feel the above piece after her defeat was confirmation of this) so it is not surprising that said media can be judged to have had a significant hand in her defeat, or that she reacted as she did.

Meanwhile in de Nort we await the results for 18 seats at Westminster in the British general election on 4th July, using the primeval first-past-the-post voting system. This system does encourage tactical voting – voting for someone you don’t fully support but who has a chance of getting elected in order to deprive someone you definitely do not support winning. Sinn Féin did atrociously – compared to expectations – in both elections (local and EU) south and west of the border but are likely to hold most of their ground in Northern Ireland. How the DUP will fare after a) ‘Sir’ Jeffrey Donaldson’s departure in less than auspicious circumstances, and b) the admission by new DUP leader Gavin Robinson that they overstated their case on the trade barriers or checks Britain/Norn Iron having been removed. But all in all there is plenty for psephologists to get their teeth and calculators into (psephologists study voting and voting patterns, pepsiologists study teeth rot and obesity), North and South, not forgetting east and west.

While there may be one or two surprises in the British general election in the North, there will be no such surprise in Britain itself on the overall result where the Conservative party are on track for one of their worst defeats ever. In the North in general however most people will vote as they usually do, and change comes slowly; the 40-40-20 pattern of the last number of years is likely to be maintained (40% unionist, 40% nationalist/republican, and 20% for the others or less constitutionally-aligned parties).

I had hoped that the Sinners would be the lead party in the next coal-ition (it may not be very green…) government in the Re:Public. This desire on my part wasn’t for their policies on the North – which I thought would be tempered by their partners – but because they might actually stand up for a positive Irish neutrality. However on the recent showing it will be another conservative-conservative deal with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and the vestiges of neutrality will continue to be sold down the river while FG and FF proclaim no change on it….

Haven’t we heard that before?

Speaking of neutrality, the Oireachtas, well the Seanad, missed the opportunity https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad/2024-05-29/11/ to prevent arms coming from or passing through Ireland to Israel – this was thanks to a rearguard action by the powers that be not to do anything (full stop). Recognition of Palestine, how are ye. Suspending a decision for 6 months on the matter, and on adequate inspections of planes at Shannon, was a death knell for any measure being of relevance – and maybe a literal death knell for some people in Gaza too.

I just happened to come across a cutting I had taken from the Irish Times of 14/6/06….which mathematicians among you will realise is 18 years ago, i.e. almost two decades: “US military-linked flights may face inspections in Shannon” was the heading which began that “The Government is to reconsider introducing inspections on US military-related flights landing in Shannon after a US marine being held prisoner was transported through the airport without the necessary permission being obtained from the Irish authorities.” The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said he was going to engage with the US Embassy “with a view to strengthening the verification procedures and if that entails inspection so be it.” So, that was then, and nothing happened. Don’t be surprised when nothing happens now or in the future either. Heaven forbid that little Ireland should even look at what the the most powerful military in the world is shipping through Irish territory and skies…..or that it should actually consider what it is using it for, or the fact that simply permitting troops to pass through is directly assisting US hegemony and warmaking.

Mapping it

The randomness of the effects of war and violence never ceases to amaze me. I mean of course the randomness of the victims in the sense that they could be anyone, anywhere, you, me, your granny. There is nothing random however in the planning of the violence, it is often meticulously planned even if who actually dies may be subject to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being in Gaza at the current time is being in the wrong place at the wrong time for everyone; even if you are not injured, killed or dying from lack of medication or food, you face constant fear from there being no safe place available anywhere.

I was drawn back to Tom Weld’s artwork by these thoughts, particularly https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/48861290991/in/album-72157711237159086/ with parallels between the terrors of the Second World War and today. For me the power of his imagery is in people – living, breathing human beings – being reduced to lines or areas on a map. For me this illustrates the worst aspects of the militarist mindset. However in the current situation in Gaza it seems everywhere is marked for obliteration, not just the carefully marked areas in Tom Weld’s artwork.

Transcending war and violent conflict

Nonviolent News often uses pieces from Transcend Media Service (‘Solutions-oriented Peace Journalism’ is their strapline), indeed there is one in the Readings in Nonviolence slot in this issue. Some of the pieces are very much written from a US point of view, but there is no harm in that, especially given that they come from the belly of the beast, the world’s number one military superpower. If we wanted we could use lots more from that source. If you are interested in the origins of US imperialism, apart of course from the initial colonialism of taking the land in north America, you can read about the 1823 Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed the US hegemonic interest, and intent to control, the northern and southern American continents, in the issue of 24-30 June 2024 https://www.transcend.org/tms/weekly-archive/

The issue of 17-23 June (available at the same link) had a piece about a survey showing “94% of people in the US and 88% in Western Europe want a negotiated settlement to end the war in Ukraine, but NATO opposes a peace proposal made by China and Brazil, and refuses to invite Russia to talks in Switzerland.” And also in that issue Mairead Maguire writes “A mother’s plea for peace” to the people of Gaza. And that is only touching on a tiny amount of their coverage. It is worth keeping in touch with what is online at https://www.transcend.org/tms/

Ancient caring in situations of disaster and disability

In common with doubtless the rest of yez, I receive dozens of items of spam and unsolicited ‘news’ daily to my phone or email. Most are relegated to the netherworld without being seen by my eyes. One piece that did get my attention, being interested in history and archaeology (primarily what it says about humankind) was about the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. https://www.yahoo.com/news/records-pompeii-survivors-found-archaeologists-124107499.html

But this study by Steven Tuck was not about those incinerated or overcome by the tidal wave of heat, or fumes and ash, but rather the survivors. There were many people who survived, perhaps a majority of people he concludes, some of whom prospered and others didn’t when they moved, mainly nearby. But some of the conclusions of the piece are worth quoting: “While the survivors resettled and built lives in their new communities, government played a role as well. The emperors in Rome invested heavily in the region, rebuilding properties damaged by the eruption and building new infrastructure for displaced populations, including roads, water systems, amphitheaters and temples. This model for post-disaster recovery can be a lesson for today. The costs of funding the recovery never seems to have been debated. Survivors were not isolated into camps, nor were they forced to live indefinitely in tent cities. There’s no evidence that they encountered discrimination in their new communities.”

How’s about that then. Another very different piece I will refer to here indicates that our cousins the Neanderthals were caring and compassionate to those who could not reciprocate. https://www.theguardian.com/science/article/2024/jun/26/fossil-of-neanderthal-child-with-downs-syndrome-hints-at-early-humans-compassion A severely disabled child with Down’s Syndrome (possibly from a couple of hundred thousand years ago!) survived to the age of six which implies that their mother received lots of help from others. There is no mention of possible support from the Da but that could have been an important part of it too, I don’t know and no one will ever know except those people aeons ago. Caring and sharing is in our DNA – and except for those from Africa we do all literally have Neanderthal DNA in us.

It is my wont at this time of year to quote Christy Moore’s definition of holidays, in his old song Lisdoonvarna, when he says “When summer comes around each year / They come here and we go there’”. I wish you time and space to get your head showered (with Irish rainfall rates that is likely to be literal) but a good break anyway. Summer goes by in a flash [of lightning? – Ed], be good to yourself and each other until I see you again in September, Billy.

News, June 2024

Ireland is paying for ammunition going to Ukrainian army……

Despite repeated Irish government protestations of only providing ‘non-lethal’ aid to the war in Ukraine (e.g. Leo Varadkar speaking on 8th February 2023), Ireland has already, through the EU ASAP (Act in Support of Ammunition Production) programme, been contributing around €12 million for ammunition, including bullets and shells, to the Ukrainian army in 2023 and 2024. This comes out of Ireland’s general net contribution to the EU. The EU gets around prohibitions on armaments funding by doing it ‘off budget’ or under ‘research and development’, and, in the case of ASAP, set up to provide ammunition to Ukraine, doing it as a measure to support industry (!). The information about Irish payment for Ukrainian ammunition emerged from an Oireachtas joint committee meeting on 22nd May at which both the Transnational Institute (TNI) www.tni.org/en and Afri www.afri.ie made submissions. See https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53739610022/in/dateposted/ for photo and links. Senator Alice-Mary Higgins (Independent) and Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh (Sinn Féin) provided effective questioning in the session.

and recognition of Palestine doesn’t necessarily mean anything….

In a case of not putting words into action considering the Irish recognition of Palestine during the destruction of Gaza, a bill in the Seanad (Air Navigation and Transport (Arms Embargo) Bill 2024) proposed by Alice-Mary Higgins and seconded by Lynn Ruane to outlaw arms equipment going to Israel from or through Ireland was derailed by the ‘powers that be’ in delaying consideration of it for 6 months. It had also proposed proper inspections of planes passing through Shannon with weapons. https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad/2024-05-29/11/ The USA seems to have transited Apache attack helicopters to Israel via Shannon https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/us-moved-helicopters-to-israel-via-shannon/26388716.html

Law of the Innocents, 21st century

War is a crime against humanity – War is a crime against the earth – War is a crime against the future’. The text of the new ‘law’ – rewritten for the 21st century – plus a brief history of Adomnán’s original law of 697 CE, and mission statement for the project, can all be found on the website, now online, https://lexinnocentium21.ie/ The email and web editions of this issue of Nonviolent News reproduce the main part of the new law, and a brief history of the original law. The Law of the Innocents/Lex Innocentium, 21st Century, will be launched on International Day of Peace, 21st September in Birr, Co Offaly (in the morning) where the synod took place that adopted the law, and in Lorrha, Co Tipperary, (in the afternoon) which had a 17th century link with the law. The website has a link to book for the launch, which is free to attend, and a contact form.

Nonviolent resistance in the Ukraine war context – webinar

A webinar will take place entitled “Pacifism Today : Alternatives to War in Ukraine” with Majken Jul Sørensen on Monday 17th June at 7pm, Irish time, running for about 90 minutes. INNATE is sponsoring it, along with Cymdeithas y Cymod (Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales) and the webinar is organised by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in England and Scotland. The speaker has written a book entitled “Pacifism Today: A Dialogue about Alternatives to War in Ukraine” which was was reviewed in Nonviolent News 318 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2024/04/02/the-possibility-of-nonviolent-resistance-in-the-contemporary-world/ and PDF copies will be available for those booking. Participation is free and open to anyone interested; to book please go to https://www.tickettailor.com/events/fellowshipofreconciliation/1279331 but it would be appreciated if you are booking from Ireland to let INNATE know at innate@ntlworld.com

Corrymeela service for Northern Ireland Day of Reflection

Corrymeela invites people to join in a service which draws on the healing practice of lament, on Friday 21st of June at St Anne’s Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast from 11.30am to 12.30pm. This is part of the Day of Reflection, established by Healing Through Remembering (HTR) in 2007 and held on the longest day of the year. Using the biblical practice of lament, Church leaders stand with victims and survivors in marking collective hurt and in committing to ensuring there is no return to the violence of the past. https://www.corrymeela.org/events/214/service-for-the-day-of and HTR is at http://healingthroughremembering.org/

Summer with Chernobyl Children International (CCI)

Throughout the Summer and in the absence of its Rest and Recuperation Programme visits to Ireland, CCI are providing in-country Summer Camps for the children and young adults who otherwise would spend almost 365 days a year in institutions. Plans are also underway for their Family Support Days on the Hospice and Community Care Programme which are a chance for the children who have life-limiting conditions, and their families, to have fun and connect with other families. Meanwhile another Cardiac Mission, will be starting shortly in addition to its day-to-day healthcare, hospice and human-rights work. https://www.chernobyl-international.com/

New QCEA website

Quakers are often doing interesting things so far as peace and other activists are concerned and the Quaker Council for European Affairs has launched a new website https://www.qcea.org/ which has lots of news plus information on their primary 3 projects – migration and peace, climate justice and peace, and dialogues for transformation.

WRL USA 100

The War Resisters League in the USA, 100 years young in 2023, has been marking its centenary with weekly blogs on its history. Described as “a secular militant pacifist organization, the War Resisters League is made up of people united in nonviolent opposition to all wars while seeking to remove the causes of war, including racism, sexism and all forms of exploitation.” https://www.warresisters.org/ and go to ‘Centennial’ for the history blog.

Dublin and Monaghan bombings: 50 years on and no truth or justice

A statement was issued by ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International about the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the largest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles. “…. Amnesty International Ireland, Amnesty International UK and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) call on both the Irish and British governments to deliver truth, justice and reparations to the families. It is wholly unacceptable that, five decades later, the families are still waiting for accountability for the grave human rights violations committed. The British and Irish governments must fulfil their obligations to victims and vindicate their rights. The failure to date to deliver long awaited answers to the families of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings has shamefully served to exacerbate their trauma. Justice delayed must not be justice denied…..” The statement continued “We reiterate our unequivocal opposition to the UK government’s Troubles Act, designed to close down paths to truth and justice for conflict-related violations, and call for its urgent repeal and for Stormont House Agreement to be legislated for in a fully ECHR compatible manner.” https://www.iccl.ie https://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Northern-Ireland https://www.amnesty.ie/

MNI and UU joint mediation course in Derry

Mediation Northern Ireland (MNI) and Ulster University are jointly running a new postgraduate mediation course, titled “Workplace/Community Mediation Training”, starting in October. Designed to meet the growing demand for skilled mediators in various sectors it aims to provide participants with a deep understanding of mediation principles, techniques, and best practices, preparing them to effectively facilitate constructive dialogue and resolve conflicts in diverse settings. The “Workplace/Community Mediation Training” course will be offered as a standalone program and as part of Ulster University’s professional development offerings and is worth 30 University credit points; it covers the content of “Mediation Theory & Practice” – a Mediation Northern Ireland training course accredited by CPD and the Open College Network Northern Ireland.

https://mediationni.org/https-www-ulster-ac-uk-courses-202425-workplace-community-mediation-training-short-course-39201/

MII: Restorative justice and policing

MII, the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland, has a webinar at 3.30pm on 18th July looking at recent developments in Restorative Justice and Policing in Ireland. The speaker will be Dr Ian Marder, Assistant Professor in Criminology at Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology. https://www.themii.ie/restorative-justice-and-policing-in-ireland/

FOE NI film: How a Climate Change Act was achieved

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland have an hour long film on their website about how a Climate Change Act was achieved, and the role of people power and activism in getting there, with the law coming into effect in June 2022. However as they state, “there’s still plenty of work to be done.” https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate/film-act-now-race-get-climate-act-northern-ireland

FOE: Major study of attitudes on climate

Friends of the Earth in Ireland have published the results of a major study on public attitudes to climate change and action. Oisín Coghlan, director of FOE, said The majority of people in Ireland remain very concerned about climate change and solidly supportive of government action to cut polluting emissions. If anything the data shows they want the Government to do more. Roughly a fifth of people name climate as one of the top three priority issues that will influence their vote in the coming elections. That’s a lot more than the 4% who say they will vote Green. Climate is an all-party issue not a one-party issue.” See https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/news/no-sign-of-climate-backlash-in-irish-public-opinion/ and links there for further info.

ICCL: Human rights in Irish policing, 5 years on

ICCL’s report on this, 5 years after the Commission on the Future of Policing, is on their website https://www.iccl.ie/

The report finds that while some progress has been made on the Commission’s overall recommendation to introduce a human-rights based approach to policing in Ireland, significant gaps remain, particularly in the areas of accountability and transparency: “….while the establishment of a Human Rights Strategy and Human Rights Unit within An Garda Síochána has led to an increase in human rights training for Gardaí, concerns about the institutional independence and scope of powers of restructured police oversight bodies remain. In particular, limited eligibility criteria for oversight roles such as the Independent Examiner for Security, and restrictions on access to and transparency of information have led to concerns that An Garda Síochána and other information holders will be able to withhold information from oversight bodies on vague “national security” grounds…..”

Editorials: MADness, The Law of the Innocents

Humanity and MADness

The risk of self-destruction is a real one for humanity. This is not the aim of people’s actions but the result, applying to both war and global heating. It is not that we rationally want to destroy ourselves, literally or figuratively, but that this is the possible result of our actions and policies. During the Cold War there was the doctrine – policy – of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD): NATO (the USA and it allies) and Warsaw Pact (Soviet Russia and its allies) threatened each other with nuclear war which would have wiped out many cities and regions of the northern hemisphere and, ironically given global heating, brought about a nuclear winter which would in turn have wiped out the vast bulk of humanity through cold, hunger and radiation-related illnesses.

MAD was a threat; attack us and this is what you will get. But unlike conventional warfare which aims to destroy the enemy and only the enemy (not factoring in so-called ‘friendly fire’, ‘collateral damage’ to civilians, and retaliation), the result of MAD would be, as the name suggests, mutual destruction. There is a myth that this ‘kept the peace’ (we would strongly dispute that it did) and avoided war because the stakes were not only high but suicidal. This ignores the very real risks involved at the time such as with the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 or false alarms when warning systems indicated one side was being attacked. The balance of terror involved in MAD was itself a form of madness and a very real risk to the future of the billions of individual people who make up humanity.

Unfortunately we live in another era of MADness, in relation to nuclear warfare but through ecological destruction too. We seem to have learned little about how to deal with threats. It is as if we do not want to know, and to some extent we do not. Considering global heating which is a threat to the whole world, fauna (including humanity) and flora combined. We know where we are going in general terms – if not precisely what temperature increase we face – and we know the likely catastrophic effects – but we seem incapable of taking the necessary radical actions which would minimise the risk. Yes, we will do a certain amount but not so much as to discomfort ourselves currently. It is rather like a scary film with a train hurtling towards destruction down the line; we know where the brake is, we know how to use it but we are unwilling to apply it because it might make for a bumpier ride in the here and now. There is an analogy here between the real prospect of global heating armageddon and the high risk (over time) of nuclear armageddon,

And the risks of nuclear warfare have certainly not gone away. Conflict and mediation theory are clear; it is through a process of discussion and building understanding that we can make progress. Threats and counter-threats simply escalate the problems. Of course there are people or countries who do harmful things (including very much those in ‘the west’), and these need dealt with, but how do we deal with them and end cycles of violence and oppression? The Irish constitution commits the southern-and-western state to the pacific resolution of international disputes; there are only occasional signs that this is a policy as opposed to an ignored semi-aspiration.

The current war in Ukraine is a scenario reminiscent of the First World War’s death and attrition on both sides. Neither side feels they can give way. Both sides feel justified in their actions, and they are unwilling to sacrifice their sacrifices to date (move away from continued sacrifice of lives and resources because of the lives and resources already ploughed into the warfare). This is a recipe for ongoing disaster. In invading Ukraine, Russia thought it would easily gain territory and solve a problem (its military security); in doing so it created a monster. But NATO and the west, in expanding eastwards in Russia and clearly not regarding meaningfully Russia’s fears, was instrumental in the creation of that monster. We are now in the grips of a limited form of MADness. Lives and money are being thrown away on both sides in the Russia-Ukraine war in a situation of attrition just like the First World War and its trench warfare but with modern weapons and technology. It is a form of ‘chicken’, racing towards each other at speed in motorised transport, in a macho confrontation which is inimical to anyone’s wellbeing.

However the greater form of MADness is lurking in the wings. Nuclear weapons have not gone away. NATO has no doctrine of avoiding first use of nuclear weapons. Neither does Russia and Putin has upped the ante by mentioning the use of nuclear weapons on more than one occasion in the last couple of years in the context of the war in Ukraine. This would presumably be ‘tactical’ (battlefield) nuclear weapons, i.e. ones with smaller explosive yields, but this would or could open the way to all out nuclear warfare. The Deputy Commander of the Air Force and Air Defence Forces of Belarus, Leonid Davidovich, has stated that the Belarusian military is ‘theoretically and practically’ ready for ‘actions with non-strategic nuclear weapons’.

On the positive side of things, the vast majority of countries in the world reject the concept and use of nuclear weapons, a position which was eventually codified in the 2021 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which explicitly bans the use, development, testing, production, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transferring, receiving, threat of use and deployment of nuclear weapons. This treaty has been totally ignored by the nuclear powers and their fellow travellers; so much, then, in terms of respect for the international community and developing peace.

Nuclear weapons are held as a WMD/Weapon of Mass Destruction that countries can use in extremis. But the problem is not only, if used, the unleashing of everything in this Pandora’s box; the problem is that, when holding nuclear weapons, others then wish to hold them as a counterweight. This is the case with India and Pakistan, frequently at military loggerheads. All of this leads to increased international instability.

The Economist, a well informed but in many ways conservative journal, gave its analysis of nuclear weapons in its 6th April 2024 issue entitled “The balancing act gets harder” (along with a satirical graphic of Xi, Putin and Biden barely balancing on a tightrope held up by nuclear missiles). It considers various aspects of the situation. If we take The Economist article as representative of a certain important strain of western thought on the matter, there are some startling omissions in it. What it does not consider is how nuclear de-escalation and disarmament can happen; this is a bit like wondering what to do about a fire without calling the fire brigade. There is no mention of trust building, treaty making, mediative and communication processes. There is simply a detailed description of the mess nuclear issues are in and what options are considered to exist within the framework of nuclear deterrence as understood by western power holders. Nuclear disarmament has to happen for the long term security of our small globe; we have been lucky so far in avoiding nuclear war (and luck has played a part) but do we imagine we can be lucky in perpetuity? That is a nonsense assumption.

A second related issue in The Economist’s coverage is that there is no real analysis of the dynamics of arms escalation, and of why Putin and Xi are maintaining and/or building up their nuclear arsenals. One side responds to another. The USA is modernising and developing its nuclear capacity but this is not understood in the west as a problem issue for other countries, a culturally specific omission of great importance (i.e. it is a very pro-western view). Of course Russia and China may want to have strong nuclear capacity to throw their weight around, but is that any different to the USA throwing its weight around? Or indeed ‘little’ (by comparison) Britain retaining its nuclear weapons because it wants to still play with the big boys?

There is also no mention whatsoever in The Economist article of the 2021 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which has been supported by the vast majority of the world, including Ireland, but not the nuclear powers and their fellow travellers. The nuclear powers ignore the developing consensus internationally against such weapons of mass destruction. While the Treaty may be aspirational it is through aspirations that we move forward. If the Economist piece is representative of western powerholding opinion then we are in trouble.

There was a slogan in the peace movement of forty years ago that ‘Unilateralists are multilateralists who mean it’. In other words, if we wait around for ‘everyone’ to agree on nuclear disarmament then it will never happen. We need countries to be brave enough to say ‘We will start the ball rolling….’ Nye Bevan, a founder of the National Health Service in Britain, opposed the abolition of nuclear weapons by the UK on the basis that it would mean “going naked into the conference chamber”, i.e. losing a bargaining chip. But someone has to start any process and those familiar with nonviolent tactics will know that voluntary nakedness can actually be a very strong and effective tactic in situations of injustice and political tension; in voluntarily choosing vulnerability in this way it shows real strength (it has various connotations in different cultures which can be part of this). We are not advocating literal nakedness here but going nuclear-naked.

Safety does not grow from aggression and threat. Safety comes from people being comfortable with each other and this in turn needs justice and equality, relatively speaking. Belligerent words (mentioning the possibility of engaging directly in the war in Ukraine) and actions (increased supply of weapons to Ukraine) does not deal with the conflict. Wars are ended by victory and defeat or by talking, or both.

We are currently in our world, northern hemisphere certainly, in a period of MADness. We cannot continue this way, for the wellbeing and survival of humanity. We need a different form of MADness – Mutually Assured De-escalation, which perhaps we could label SANity – Simple Action on Needs, dealing with the real needs of the world which are so pressing rather than adding additional worries. We need a process of dialogue and actions which take us to safety and cooperation to deal with the urgent needs of the world in relation to global heating and ecological sustainability, as well as much greater global justice, and allow for people to feel secure and unthreatened.

MADness or SANity – we have a choice.

The Law of the Innocents, 21st century

There are different positive approaches or responses to war, and there can seem to be a dichotomy between those who a) refuse to participate or back war in any form, and those who b) try to limit and/or deal with the effects and extent of war through measures such as extending ‘laws of war’ and so on. In the first category are people who could be labelled believers in nonviolence or nonviolent activists and, in increasingly archaic and abused language, ‘pacifists’. In the second category are bodies like the Red Cross/Crescent, addressing the effects of war and other disasters, and activists who have brought about the banning, in international law, of landmines and cluster munitions, or indeed those who have worked for nuclear weapons non-proliferation and for bodies who work in early intervention and addressing the causes or war.

Life is not usually very simple and different people will take different approaches as to where to address issues of war and mass violence, or stated colloquially, there are different strokes for different folks. There are many different factors in war happening including greed, injustice, imperialist (sic) attitudes, issues of resources, xenophobia and nationalism, as well as the well of history and geography. Some of those who oppose war in totality, category a) above, may get involved as a pragmatic choice in working on restricting what is considered legitimate in war so that the effects of war are not so terrible, and warfare becomes more circumscribed.

Wars will continue as long as nonviolent alternatives are not available or are not seen. It can certainly be argued that most people’s approach to mass violence and war is a blind spot; wars are entered for reasons that are considered ‘worthy’ – however mistaken they may be – but the fact that the war in question is subsequently proven to have negative consequences – think Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya among many others – does not bring about a thoroughgoing reassessment of views and a more critical approach ‘the next time’. This is despite clear research which shows nonviolent struggle is more likely to be effective (Chenoweth and Stefan, 2011, see e.g. https://www.innatenonviolence.org/readings/2020_03.shtml and https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2022/04/01/nonviolent-resistance-to-invasion-occupation-and-coups-detat/ )

All approaches to undermining war and aspects of war as a legitimate and legal form of action are welcome. The project on The Law of the Innocents, 21st Century, is one such enterprise and deserves support. As those who are familiar with the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland are aware, there can be problems in defining who is ‘innocent’ and who is not, who deserves sympathy for deprivation and loss (including loss of life of self or loved ones) and who either deserves less sympathy or none at all. The nonviolent approach is to say that all those who suffer are victims; Russian soldiers in Ukraine may be fighting on the side of an aggressor but if wounded or killed they are also victims. The new law states that “Given the indefensible nature of modern warfare, defence can no longer justify engagement in war or military aggression of any kind OR the military industrial complex, including the arms industry and all other associated institutions. In its protections, Lex Innocentium, 21st Century, renders modern warfare impossible without breaking this law, and necessarily rejects the Just War Theory.”

We therefore should not be too literal in our understanding of who the ‘Law of the Innocents’ might apply to in 2024 CE, more than 1300 years later after the original. Undermining the credibility of war – which includes its tie up with the state and state identity – is a major but necessary task, and all projects and critiques of war as a viable and legitimate form of action are very welcome. The Law of the Innocents, 21st century, also draws on Irish history and is part of an honourable tradition in Ireland of rejecting and seeking to ameliorate the effects of war. Various cultures around the world in antiquity had similar attempts to impose restrictions on warfare. Including the earth in the categories covered in the “21st century” version is of course a necessary and welcome move; the military are major polluters and carbon contributors even without the devastation of war which wreaks total havoc with the environment.

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: We are the words we use

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

When I was growing up in Belfast I was oblivious of the ideological and ethical meanings imbedded in the words people used. Rather, what my mind alighted on were accents. When I worked in community education I became so attuned to accents I could tell what part of the city the person I was listening to likely grew up in. Although this was interesting to know, a person’s accent did not tell me anything about their values, worldview or emotional disposition. Words, I came to appreciate, are more important than accents as they reveal a person’s unconscious biases, fears, aspirations, moral code and political ideology.

While I am still interested in accents and what they tell about a person’s background I am by far more interested in the words people use, especially when talking about public affairs. The following selection of phrases used to describe the ecological consequences of our behaviour are, as part of the dominant lexicon, fairly good indicators of what the likely outcome of our unfolding story on Earth will be.

A term used by a wide range of people to describe our warming planet and the accompanying consequences is ‘climate emergency’. The word emergency is commonly used to describe a serious situation that is temporary in nature. For instance, in the aftermath of a serious motor vehicle collision the emergency services are called who will respond with speed and use their skills and specialist equipment to mitigate the harm to all involved. There is no sense of permanency associated with the emergency. Likewise, with the word crisis. A crisis interrupts normalcy and all relevant resources are deployed to deal with it until such times as stability is achieved and a potential catastrophe averted.

To describe the warming of the planet and the consequent extreme weather events which uproot hundreds of millions of people on an annual basis. causing the premature death of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people, a temporary situation, as implied by the use of the word emergency, is not only inaccurate but harmful. It is harmful because believing that the rapidly warming planet is a temporary phenomenon does not incentivise us to structure the economy in a way that does least harm to it and its inhabitants.

The words emergency and crisis downplay the serious and in many cases irreversible consequences of global warming. Fiona O’Connor of the UK Met Office tells us that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere means that the planet will continue to warm for another hundred thousand years. This is approximately twenty times the amount of time that has passed since the advent of civilization, which is when our ancestors began to live in a network of urban settlements and developed economic and social hierarchies. Within this time scale the warming of the planet is not temporary but forever.

Other misleading terms which go unexamined are ‘normal society’ and ‘common-sense’. Unlike weights and measurements as determined and overseen by the International Committee for Weights and Measures set up in France in May 1875 there is no authority that specifies what constitutes a normal society and defines what is common-sense.

Yet people in Northern Ireland are commonly heard to say that they want to live in a normal society. I am inclined to think that what they consider a normal society is a Disneyworld / advertisement version of society in which racial discrimination, the unfair treatment of women, economic injustice, widespread poverty, under-funded public services and wanton ecological destruction are rarely depicted. Through repetition, and lack of critical critique, the public mind comes to consider the construct as a depiction of normal society.

When the term ’common-sense’ is used the question to ask is whose common-sense?

When Donald Trump was president of the United States he, his advisors, financiers and supporters, thought that it was common-sense to nullify over 100 pieces of legislation governing air and water quality, wildlife and toxic chemicals which resulted in endangering the life of the entire population. In the Trumpian paradigm the common-sense role of government is to enable the wealthy and the corporations to make and retain as much money as possible without regard to nonhuman nature, economic equality and people’s health.

Being a good ancestor, as in taking care of our biosphere and cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations, is not common-sense for those who think that we are not charged with the welfare of future generations.

The term common-sense is held by its users to mean that which coheres with their preferences and view of the world as if these were supported by empirical evidence. As the term can mean almost anything it is a nonsense term. It is also a derogatory one as it implies that those who do not share your view of the world are not sensible and might in fact be deranged.

Deranged is tagged with another nonsense term that is widely used to demonise and undermine those who are fundamentally opposed to one’s worldview, this is ‘radical ideology’. The implication is that those thought to subscribe to a radical ideology should be on the police watchlist. Radical of course means to get to the root of something. Thus, scholars and investigators of all kinds are radical and whether people are aware of it or not they have an ideology. If, for instance, you think there should be no potholes then this view is part of your ideology and if you want to get to the root cause of why there are potholes then you are radical in this regard.

What we can take from this brief survey is that words and phrases can be used to enlighten, liberate, comfort or confuse, coerce, denigrate and shame. As participants of the ultimate democracy, which is the use of language, we should be mindful of the embedded meaning in the words we and others use. Such mindfulness is critical to nurturing good personal relationships and creating a better society.

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Reading in Nonviolence: Updating Adomnán: A Law of the Innocents for our time

Introduction by INNATE to the material below

In their mission statement, the promulgators of the Law of the Innocents, 21st Century (Seán English, Elizabeth Cullen and Marian Naughton), state that “While we have and fully support international laws for the protection of people and the environment in war, we wish to write this new law, a moral law; a bottom-up, soft-power law, a law of and for people around the world who are concerned about the current situation world-wide and the very real threats that war and the arms industry pose to all of us, and to our beautiful planetary home.”

War is often accepted as part of the nature of things. It is not. It is a human construct and like other such cultural constructs it can be changed or even ended and replaced with something more fitting – and respectful of all humans – for dealing with conflict. While conflict will always be with us, how we deal with it is crucial. Cooperation is necessary in various fields for humanity to survive and thrive and warfare is the very opposite.

We are reproducing here both the brief account of the history, and the 21st century Law of the Innocents/Lex Innocentium (but not the penalties or restitution sections or the Message to Future Generations – these can all be found on the website). Further details and information about getting in touch, and booking for the launch in Birr (Co Offaly) and Lorrha (Co Tipperary) on 21st September, are on their website https://lexinnocentium21.ie/

Please note that the texts involved are still undergoing minor development and changes. Up to date versions will be on the website

History of the law

This does not attempt to be a detailed history. It is a brief account of the history that has inspired the creation of Lex Innocentium, 21st Century. Most of the account of Adomnán and his Lex Innocentium is taken from the work of James W. Houlihan listed below. Anything appearing in quotation marks comes from Dr. Houlihan’s work. We have also greatly enjoyed reading Warren Bardsley’s book, Against the Tide.

Lex Innocentium, 21st Century takes its name from the original Lex Innocentium, Cáin Adomnáin or Adomnán’s Law, which was signed and decreed at the Synod of Birr (Co. Offaly) in the summer of the year 697 AD. In his Lex Innocentium, Adomnán secured protection in times of war (jus in bello) for clerics (and church property), women and youth (those yet too young to engage in war). While this might not have been the first law in relation to the conduct of war, it was probably the first law to identify specific non-combatants and to procure protection for them.

Adomnán was an Irish Monk, born in or around the year 627/28 AD. His parents, Rónán and Rónnat, were of two separate branches of the Cenél Conaill, whose homeland was in the region now known as Co. Donegal. Adomnán was a fourth cousin of Loingseach mac Óengusso, who became King of Tara in the year 695 AD and who was one of the signatories of Lex Innocentium. Adomnán was also related through Cenél Conaill to Columba (Colmcille), founder of the Abbey at Iona. Indeed, Adomnán was writing his life of Columba, Vita Columbae, at the time of the Synod of Birr in 697, the centenary year of Columba’s death.

Adomnán became the Ninth Abbot of Iona in the year 679. At that time, Iona was a centre of the Irish Church. The Abbot of Iona presided over a confederation of monasteries across Ireland and Western Scotland. Adomnán was a man of immense learning, talent and ability. Ireland of the seventh century was known for its religion and its learning. People from Britain and Europe ‘looked to Ireland for instruction in religion as well as other subjects, such as Latin, rhetoric, grammar, geometry, physics and computus’ (calculation of the date of Easter). However, Ireland was also a violent place, with conflicts, disputes, skirmishes and battles underway in various places at various times. Adomnán, no doubt, would have been aware of and witnessed violence in his lifetime. Indeed, it is suggested that it was his experience, with his mother, Rónnat, of witnessing the horrendous aftermath of a battle in Brega (now, more-or-less, Co. Meath) that deepened his abhorrence of violence against unarmed people whom he called ‘innocents’. While this specific account might not be true, it may well be that Adomnán was moved by such an incident. His very real concern for the welfare of innocent people in times of war resulted in the calling of the Synod of Birr and the enactment of Lex Innocentium (the Law of the Innocents).

Adomnán’s connections with noble families in Ireland, his position as Abbot of Iona and his reputation as a wise and learned man empowered him to invite kings and other civil leaders as well as bishops and abbots of the church to his Synod at Birr. In all, there were ninety-one signatories to Lex Innocentium, forty clerical leaders and fifty-one lay persons. They came from all over Ireland, Dál Riada (parts of Western Scotland-and-the-Isles and part of Northern Ireland) and Pictland (Scotland). It is not certain that all of the signatories were present at the Synod, but there is a strong possibility that they were. The law was an Irish Law to be enacted in Ireland and in Britain.

It is unclear as to the exact application or impact of this law in Ireland and Britain. However, there are some mentions of it in the records down through the years. Most interestingly, almost a thousand years after the Synod of Birr, in the winter of the year 1628/29, Franciscan Brother, Micheál O’Cléirigh, Leader of the Four Masters, discussed his copy of the Law of Adomnán with Flann Mac Aodhagáin (Mac Egan) of the lawyer family at Redwood Castle at Lorrha, Co. Tipperary.

The old Irish Order (including the ancient tradition of the Brehon Laws) was on the point of collapse, particularly following the Flight of the Earls in September 1607, as the British extended their control over Ireland. O’Cléirigh had been sent by his superiors in Louvain to compile a record of Irish Saints. However, he extended his brief to include ancient Irish history and Irish law before they were lost to memory. Over a number of years, he travelled the length and breadth of Ireland collecting histories and copying manuscripts. Within twenty years of the meeting at Redwood, the castle was abandoned and in ruin.

O’Cléirigh’s copy of Adomnán’s law is housed at the Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels. The only other surviving copy is at the Bodleian Museum, Oxford.

According to James Houlihan (2020), the reading of Adomnán’s Law at Birr in 697 was the first legislative expression of the concept of ‘innocents’ in the history of Western Europe. Houlihan advises us that it was not until the Geneva Conventions of 1949 that the concept of the non-combatant was again so clearly and explicitly defined. Indeed, Adomnán’s Law has sometimes been referred to as the Geneva Convention of the Gaels.

History is usually taught through a series of battles, wars, conquests and violent resistance. But real history is a complex fabric made up of many threads and themes. Indeed, there are many who would argue that war has not always been a widespread or constant part of human history or a naturally inevitable part of human development (for example, the Seville Statement on Violence, UNESCO, 1986).

The persistent themes of non-violence, education, justice, charity and peace-keeping are very real in the fabric of our history here in Ireland, and we are sure they can be found in the histories of other peoples throughout the world. A brief review of our Irish history allows us to follow such threads from Colmcille’s decision to walk away from a military life into a monastic one; Brigid’s decision to sell her father’s sword to buy food for the poor and Adomnán’s Lex Innocentium – through our history as the Island of Saints and Scholars, O’Connell’s non-violent mass movements for social reform; our membership of the League of Nations and the United Nations, and our long traditions of overseas missionary work, humanitarian aid and peace-keeping up to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Northern Ireland Peace Process and Article 29 of our Constitution which commits us to ‘devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality’ and ‘adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination’.

Our belief in and love of peace, justice, protection, education and kindness have always been with us. It is now time to give them voice. We hope that friends across the world will pick up these themes in their own histories and weave them with ours to make a better future for all of us.

Sources

Houlihan, James W., Adomnán’s Lex Innocentium and the Laws of War (Four Courts Press, 2020)

Houlihan, James W., The Great Law of Birr (2022)

Bardley, Warren, Against the Tide, The Story of Adomnán of Iona, Wild Goose Publications (2006).

Other sources

Bunreacht na hÉireann

The Seville Statement on Violence UNESCO (1986)

LEX INNOCENTIUM, 21ST CENTURY

The Law of the Innocents, 21st Century

INSPIRED BY ADOMNÁN’S LAW, LEX INNOCENTIUM (697 AD) and its protection of ‘innocent’ non-combatants in war, by other pertinent ancient laws, beliefs, traditions, and religious teachings; by international laws of our own time; by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and by the hard work, dedication and sacrifices of peace activists and environmental activists down the years and throughout the world, WE, THE SIGNATORIES AND SUBSCRIBERS to this new law, Lex Innocentium, 21st Century, believe that it is now time to launch this people’s law, a moral law, a law of principle, that can be used by individuals and groups to highlight failures of governments around the world to save humanity from the scourge of war; to call governments and international leaders to account for those failures; and to challenge all those who have a vested interest in the instigation, justification and normalization of war. We also believe that, given the nature of modern weapons, it is now time to extend protection from the scourge of war to our Planet Earth and to the Future. WE HEREBY DECREE:

1. That it is wrong, and a crime under this people’s law to kill, hurt, harm, or take hostage Innocent People in war, military operation or armed conflict, deliberately, consequentially or accidentlyy (whether a war has been declared or not) OR through siege, lockdown or the cutting off of essential supplies OR through damage to civilian infrastructure.

1.1 For the purpose of this clause, the term ‘innocent people’ will include all non-combatants of all ages and gender; conscientious objectors and those who walk away from war, violence or military operations of any kind; aid workers; journalists and peace activists (all ‘Innocents’ under this law). It is also wrong and a crime to kill, injure or harm the crops, livestock or domestic animals (including household pets) upon which these innocent people rely for food or companionship.

1.2 That Innocents under this law will also include ‘Innocent Witnesses’ – all those who are troubled, offended, distressed or traumatized by the harmful impact of war on their Fellow Human Beings, on the Earth or on the Future, caused without their consent, and caused against their principles, against their feelings of empathy and compassion, and against their wisdom.

1.3 That it is wrong, and a crime under this people’s law to force individuals to commit acts of violence and aggression against their will, their beliefs or their principles.

1.4. That it is wrong, and a crime under this people’s law to harm, injure or diminish the heart, soul or spirit of humanity through acts of violence, cruelty and war.

2. That it is wrong, and a crime under this people’s law to hurt, harm, injure or damage Planet Earth (an ‘Innocent’ under this law), her soil, water or atmosphere or any of her wide and varied ecosystems and living creatures, including humanity; whether deliberately, consequentially or accidentlally, through war or aggression, military operation or armed conflict, or through the manufacture, testing, storing or decommissioning* of weapons of any kind, including traditional explosive weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons and weapons yet to be invented.

3. That it is wrong, and a crime under this people’s law to threaten, put at risk or harm Future Generations of Humanity or the Future Welfare of the Earth, her soil, water or atmosphere or any of her wide and varied ecosystems and living creatures (all ‘Innocents’ under this law), whether deliberately, consequentially or accidently, through war or aggression, military operation or armed conflict, or through the manufacture, testing, storing or decommissioning* of weapons of any kind, including traditional explosive weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons and weapons yet to be invented.

*While we wish for all weapons to be decommissioned, decommissioning can be extremely toxic. Every care must be taken in the decommissioning of weapons to avoid harm. Given their toxicity, it is better not to make such weapons in the first place.

4. That it is wrong, and a crime under this people’s law to spend money and resources on war, including the stockpiling of weapons. It is also wrong and a crime for any individual, group, business, manufacturing enterprise, or government to assist, aid, abet or facilitate the harms and injuries listed in this law on the Innocents protected by this law. For the purposes of this law, facilitating will include ignoring and failing to try to end the harm through mediation, negotiation and peaceful means.

5. Given the indefensible nature of modern warfare, defence can no longer justify engagement in war or military aggression of any kind OR the military industrial complex, including the arms industry and all other associated institutions. In its protections, Lex Innocentium, 21st Century, renders modern warfare impossible without breaking this law, and necessarily rejects the Just War Theory.

THIS LAW THUS DECLARES that War (whether declared or not) is a Crime against Humanity, a Crime against the Earth and a Crime against the Future

See https://lexinnocentium21.ie/ for further details and information, or to get in touch.

Social Change Now: A guide for reflection and connection (Deepa Iyer)

A commentary by Stefania Gualberti

To engage in social change at this moment in time requires consistent attention, deep reflection, and committed collective action.” (Deepa Iyer, https://www.deepaiyer.com/home/social-change-now )

In this guide Deepa Iyer offers a framework for social change. In a world that demands action and change we can easily burn out, feel numb and disconnected as our efforts never feel enough.

What if we could realize who we are, what role we play and what we can offer and connect to a social ecosystem to create effective and lasting change?

Are you a healer or a disrupter, a caregiver or a storyteller, a frontline responder or a visionary? These are some of the ten roles mapped out in this framework and Deepa maintains all are needed.

Frontline Responders: We address community crises by assembling and organizing resources, networks, and messages.

Visionaries: We imagine and generate our boldest possibilities, hopes, and dreams, and remind us of our direction.

Builders: We develop, organize, and implement ideas, practices, people, and resources in service to a collective vision.

Disrupters: We take uncomfortable and risky actions to shake up the status quo, to raise awareness, and to build power.

Caregivers: We nurture and nourish the people around us by creating and sustaining a community of care, joy, and connection.

Experimenters: We innovate, pioneer, and invent. We take risks and course correct as needed.

Weavers: We see the through-lines of connectivity between people, places, organizations, ideas, and movements.

Storytellers: We craft and share our community stories, cultures, experiences, histories, and possibilities through art, music, media, and movement.

Healers: We recognize and tend to the generational and current traumas caused by oppressive systems, institutions, policies, and practices.

Guides: We teach, counsel, and advise, using our gifts of well-earned discernment and wisdom.” (Page 42, Social Change Now : A guide for reflection and connection, Deepa Iyer).

People do not have to force themselves to change and be different, they are encouraged to operate from their resources and skills and to offer what they have in connection with others in the ecosystem.

An ecosystem is defined as “a community, a home, or a place and space where we feel a sense of belonging, familiarity, and alignment around our values, goals, and strategies for the future, and where we emphasize the importance of cultivating, nurturing, and sustaining relationships, connections, and solidarity.” (Page 24, Social Change Now: A guide for reflection and connection, Deepa Iyer).

According to Deepa Iyer coming together to do social change work in ecosystems, brings in accountability, collaboration, care and support.

I have loved this model when I encountered it through a study group organised by the healer and visionary Maggie McKeever across Ireland online as a response to the overwhelming nature of the recent actions in support of Palestine. It made sense to me as it is accepting, inviting, inspiring and hopeful in a time when we can feel the opposite.

We had the privilege to have Deepa Iyer at one of our fortnightly meetings.

She was reflecting on how we can’t all be frontliners and disrupters to get involved as for some people this leads to exhaustion and disengagement. Others gain energy and motivation and absolutely thrive in street actions. We can all support each other however and she mentioned the importance of healers and carers, who often are not considered in social change movements. She suggested that we could be part of different ecosystems and show up and take different roles in different groups, the key is to be aware and name it for yourself and others.

The other element I liked was the focus on body and energy. How is your response? How can you gather wisdom from your body cues (drained energy, burn out as well as empowerment and generating energy) and how can you take care of self and others?

Deepa Iyer encourages us to consider the bigger picture to make our work and involvement sustainable for the long term. Social change is not a short-term commitment. So, before you get tired, learn to connect.

l Workshop materials on group work and dynamics on the INNATE website can be found in the second section of ‘Workshops’ at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/workshops/