All posts by Rob Fairmichael

News, January 2024 – Supplement to Nonviolent News 315

Afri Féile Bride (Kildare), Louie Bennett gathering (Dublin)

Afri’s Féile Bride peace conference, theme “The Light of Peace”, takes place on Saturday, 10th February, in the Solas Bhríde Centre, Kildare town; it is organised in partnership with the Brigidines and Cairde Bríde. Further details will be available on the Afri website at www.afri.ie

l Also organised by Afri, an informal annual gathering remembering Louie Bennett and her companion Helen Chenevix takes place on Sunday 7th January at 1pm at the memorial bench for them in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. There will be a presentation of flowers and conversation. “In the dark days of winter, in an ever-darker world of destruction and vengeance, Louie Bennett reminds us of a life lived well through often equally appalling times. She worked for peace throughout World War I with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). From a Church of Ireland background, she ardently pursued Irish freedom whilst unapologetically warning her fellow leaders against militarism and violence. A champion of women’s suffrage, she was a founder of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, and the first woman elected President of the Irish Trades Union Congress.

In the 1950s she confronted the pressures of the Cold War, stoutly defending neutrality and peaceful conflict resolution just as we need to do today. She would have no truck with Official Ireland’s mythical Island of Saints and Soldiers: she made Brigid Patron of the IWWU, and named her home after the woman who sold her father’s sword to feed the dispossessed.”

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition, Linen Hall, Belfast

The vertical gallery at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, has a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition running from Monday 8th January to 28th February, admission free. This exhibition is produced by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum including photos and artefacts. There is a launch event on 8th January at 4pm, booking essential. While they state that the exhibition ends on a hopeful note with how the two cities have risen from the ashes to spread a message of peace, they also say the exhibition contains content some may find distressing. Further info at www.linenhall.com

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report

If there are lies, damned lies and statistics, then the NI Peace Monitoring Report, No.6 of which appeared in December weighing in at 184 pages, is the nearest you can get to to an accurate and in depth picture of where the North is at…and how things are progressing – or not – over time. It pulls together and interprets published material from many sources and covers four areas; political progress; sense of safety; wealth, poverty and inequality; and cohesion and sharing. It is published by the Community Relations Council, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and this issue was authored by ARK from Ulster University and covers the period 2018-23 (the first one appeared in 2012). All issues are available at https://www.community-relations.org.uk/publications/northern-ireland-peace-monitoring-report Note that the latest issue appears last in the six PDF links given there.

l Meanwhile for the first time since 1969 there were no Troubles-related deaths in the last year, according to the PSNI https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/no-security-related-deaths-in-ni-for-first-time-since-records-began-says-psni/a934436965.html

CAJ Annual Report

The detailed and extensive work done by CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice over the last year appears in their annual report, available at https://caj.org.uk/publications/annual-reports/annual-report-2023/ A couple of photos from the AGM at which the report was presented are at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53393845666/in/dateposted/ and the entry beside that.

ICCL on toxic algorithms

On 18th December the European Commission launched formal proceedings against Twitter / X for suspected infringements of the EU Digital Services Act. It will now investigate whether the Blue Tick deceives users, whether content that breaks the law is spread by the platform, and whether the platform is unlawfully non-transparent. Welcoming this development, ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties has said the European Commission should learn from the example of Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s new broadcasting and online regulator. ICCL has sent the European Commission a report urging it to follow Coimisiún na Meán’s example and switch off Big Tech’s toxic algorithms across the European Union. ICCL went on to say “Algorithmic “recommender systems” select emotive and extreme content and show it to people who the system estimates are most likely to be outraged. These outraged people then spend longer on the platform, which allows the company to make more money showing them ads. These systems are acutely dangerous. Just one hour after Amnesty’s researchers started a TikTok account posing as a 13-year-old child who views mental health content, TikTok’s algorithm started to show the child videos glamourising suicide.” https://www.iccl.ie/2023/the-european-commission-must-follow-irelands-lead-and-switch-off-big-techs-toxic-algorithms/

Amnesty welcomes Irish government action on NI Troubles Act

Amnesty International has been among the many many bodies to comment on the Irish government’s move on the Northern Ireland Troubles (Reconciliation and Legacy) Act 2023, referring the matter to the European Court of Human Rights; most comments in Ireland, North and South, were favourable to this. Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Deputy Director, said: “The Irish Government is doing the right thing for victims, for the rule of law and for the upholding of human rights. Victims’ rights to truth, reparations and justice must be realised. This challenge is vital for victims here and around the world, who face the prospect of similar state-gifted impunity. The UK Government doggedly pursued this legislation which shields perpetrators of serious human rights violations from being held accountable. It’s important that the Irish Government takes this stand. This State-level challenge is very welcome and made necessary by the UK government’s actions. Victims should be at the heart of how the ‘Troubles’ is addressed, not swept to the side with denial of rights imposed. We hope this critical litigation will bring all Troubles victims closer to the justice they deserve.” https://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Northern-Ireland

Tools for Solidarity: Tanzanian developments

Tools for Solidarity (TFS) works in Tanzania in solidarity with a local governmental organisation named SIDO (Small Industries Development Organisation). In 2022 the SIDO office in the Iringa Region expressed the wish of having a centre similar to the one TFS had opened two years before in Njombe. This was the starting point of the Iringa Artisan Support and Training Centre (IASTC), officially inaugurated during a field visit by two TFS staff last May. The focus of the newly established centre is to supply tools, sewing machines and machinery to artisans, providing also technical and sewing training and back up service supports. More news about TFS associated work in Tanzania, and other aspects of TFS work, can be found in their latest newsletter, see https://www.toolsforsolidarity.com/publications/newsletters/

Tools For Solidarity is a not-for-profit organisation based in Belfast. It is fully run by international, local and supported volunteers with the main focus to support artisans in the poorest parts of the world. TFS collects, refurbishes and ships out hand tools, sewing machines, machinery and accessories to communities, women’s groups, people with disabilities and vocational training colleges primarily in sub Sahara Africa.

Feasta: Unprecedented demand for its research and advocacy

Feasta reports growing active interest in relation to its goals. They say that “Global and transnational calls for economic system change ‘beyond growth’ are becoming far more widespread, with prominent international NGOs such as Oxfam, Friends of the Earth International, Caritas and Greenpeace taking up the cause. A major cross-party conference on the theme was held at the European Parliament in May and was packed with enthusiastic young people. There is significant new EU funding for post-growth research now, and the UN’s Secretary-General has joined the chorus of those calling for new measurements of economic progress” and that “Feasta’s research and advocacy on economic system change is in unprecedented demand.” Learn more about Feasta’s work and approach at https://www.feasta.org/

Posters on Triple Lock

The ‘Triple Lock’ on deployment of Irish soldiers overseas is a key feature of Irish neutrality – and a key restraint on them being committed to involvement in fighting wars as opposed to peacekeeping.  Two new downloadable, printable (A4) mini-posters are available from INNATE on the Triple Lock and the attempt by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to get rid of them – whatever people want.  See https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Triple-Lock-Neutrality-2.pdf  and https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Warlock.pdf     December 2023

News, December 2023

Triple lock removal: No surprise but underhand

Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Defence, Micheál Martin announced in the Dáil on 22nd November his intention to remove the ‘triple lock’ (one strand of which includes the go ahead of the UN Security Council) on the deployment of (more than a dozen) Irish troops overseas on ‘active service’. https://www.thejournal.ie/triple-lock-changes-micheal-martin-6229725-Nov2023/ He said that this was the first opportunity he had had to speak to the Dáil in detail on the issue since the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ in June. What Martin did not say was that he had long been gunning (sic) to remove it, had chosen the Forum format and the speakers there to get the answer he wanted, and, as Catherine Connolly TD stated in response, had depicted the Forum as the start of a conversation on neutrality but he had now ended it. Martin proposes alternative ratification which would be meaningless, such as EU approval – which could be the EU approving Irish involvement in the actions of an EU army!

What was also not covered is that the discussion on the triple lock at the Forum was wholly inadequate and inconclusive – see the StoP report available at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/ and in particular page 23 plus. The thoroughness of this StoP report can also be contrasted with the flimsiness of the official report by the chair of the Forum, available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36bd1-consultative-forum-chairs-report/

ICCL launches Enforce unit re human rights on tech

In mid-November ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties launched a new unit, Enforce, to investigate, advocate, and litigate to protect human rights globally in relation to technology, industry practice, and markets. Liam Herrick, Executive Director of ICCL, said “…Ireland’s unique position in the international digital realm means we’re uniquely positioned to undertake this work”. It is an area where ICCL has been working for some time; they are currently litigating in Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg. They state “We will push technology back towards democratic value. Our mission to protect human rights also helps protect journalistic media, enact smart law, and curb online hate and hysteria.” https://www.iccl.ie/enforce/

MNI courses….and work with private sector

Upcoming courses over the next number of months organised by Mediation Northern Ireland (MNI) can be found on their website at https://mediationni.org/training/#upcoming including a one day course on Dealing with difficult conversations, a three day programme on Immersive conflict resolution practice, a one day Workplace conflict resolution skills course, and an 8-day Mediation theory and practice course in April and May 2024. Meanwhile MNI has gained major Lottery funding which will enable it offer new training programmes and wrap around services for businesses and statutory organisations across Northern Ireland to get better at dealing with conflict – they quote that “Recent research from the Labour Relations Agency found that workplace conflicts cost the Northern Irish economy over £850 million every year.” https://mediationni.org/lottery-grant/

CAJ: NI Troubles Act, counterterrorism and human rights

CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice have issued a compendium of submissions and critiques it made regarding the controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Reconciliation and Legacy) Act 2023 which became law in September 2023, despite criticism both from within Northern Ireland and internationally. This detailed and authoritative 146 page compendium is available at https://caj.org.uk/publications/reports/compendium-of-caj-legacy-bill-submissions/

l The annual CAJ lecture has Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin speaking at 3.30pm on Tuesday 12th December in central Belfast on ‘Reflections from the UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights 2017-2023’; see https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-annual-lecture-2023-featuring-professor-fionnuala-ni-aolain/

Pax Christi Peace Award to Parents Circle – Families Forum

The 2023 Pax Christi International Peace Award is going to the Parents Circle – Families Forum which is a collaborative Israeli-Palestinian organisation comprising more than 700 families, all of whom have lost a close family member due to the continuing conflict; the PCFF firmly believes that the process of reconciliation between the two nations is an essential precondition for attaining a lasting peace. https://paxchristi.net/2023/11/08/the-parents-circle-families-forum-receives-2023-pax-christi-international-peace-award/ and https://www.theparentscircle.org/en/pcff-home-page-en/

Corrymeela: Shine a light for peace

Corrymeela has a ‘Shine a Light for peace’ Christmas fundraising campaign with a variety of options to support their work including individual donations, doing it collectively with named tags for donors, or organising an event. Further info at https://www.corrymeela.org/donate/shine-a-light-for-peace

Mairead Maguire on ending current wars & Ed Horgan interview

A November podcast of Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire in discussion with David Swanson of World Beyond War on ending current wars – running time 29 mins – can be found at https://davidswanson.org/talk-world-radio-mairead-maguire-on-ending-the-current-wars/ An interview with Ed Horgan, in the same slot, on Why Genocide/War Continues is at https://worldbeyondwar.org/talk-world-radio-ed-horgan-on-why-genocide-war-continues/

Chernobyl Children Int’l: Support needed, archives to UCC

Chernobyl Children International need support for their ongoing work. CCI has been working within the Chernobyl Region (Ukraine and Belarus) for over 36 years and are striving to get humanitarian aid, which includes food, water, and medicines, to children and their families who are in desperate need, as well as performing life-saving operations for children with ‘Chernobyl heart’ and helping provide supported living.

See https://www.chernobyl-international.com/

l Meanwhile the CCI archives, founded 1991, and those of its founder Adi Roche – including previous peace work as a CND activist – have been deposited at UCC.

Housmans Peace Diary 2024 with World Peace Directory

Paper diaries are not as ubiquitous as they once were but for the peace/social justice/environmental activist a Housmans Peace Diary is an important resource at your fingertips for building a peaceful world. 2024 sees the 71st edition of the diary, with a feature on 50 years of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, a significant organisation in the British peace movement – and internationally – plus a listing of over 1400 national and international peace, environmental and human rights organisations. The format is two pages to a week with anniversaries noted, quotes, a forward planner etc. Order online from www.housmans.com/peace-diary/ It is priced at UK£9.95, with a £2 discount per copy for 10 or more in the UK; postage is £2 flat rate in UK postal area or £6 outside it, irrespective of the number of copies ordered. Housmans, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, ph +44 20 7837 4473.

A more extensive version of the World Peace Directory in the Diary is available online at http://www.housmans.info/wpd/ It is worth reading the background information on the web in the site home page to get the best use out of it. And as their blurb says “It’s the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of its kind” – don’t be caught out without a contact when heading to Ulaanbaatar……

Everyday Peacebuilding

Everyday Peacebuilding https://everydaypeacebuilding.com/ is a very useful website where you can see a growing compilation of resources on peacebuilding. Taylor O’Connor wanted to build a global community of peacebuilders who could share learnings and resources and support each other. The idea was to connect and share creative ways to build peace and justice and taking care of peacebuilders’ wellbeing too. People can sign up and each week they will receive in their inbox a selection of resources on building peace from around the world.

These are the values at the base of Everyday Peacebuilding: “Simplicity. Content and products will be user friendly and accessible. Creativity. Content and products present creative approaches to peacebuilding.

Exploration. Content and products support community members on their personal peacebuilding journeys.

Diversity. Representing the ideas and perspectives of diverse peacebuilders from around the world is important in our content and products. Our community is intentionally global. Collaboration. We’re building a global community of peacebuilders and in doing so create spaces for community members to connect, share ideas, take collaborative action and support one another.”

Resources go from definitions of violence and peacebuilding to analysis tools for conflict transformation, from quotes for peace to blog pieces that tackle current global issues under the peacebuilding lens. In the newsletter the topics usually vary, there is a diversity of topics (gender, education, anti militarisation, art and peacebuilding…) and links to articles or resources from different places around the world. There are private facebook chats as well on the different topics, for people to communicate, share ideas, links and events worldwide. It is very accessible and inviting for people who are new to peacebuilding but also for who want to know more and get connected.

Our mission as active nonviolence”

A useful and perceptive short statement on nonviolence, made in late October, by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, can be found in different places including https://paxchristi.net/2023/10/26/cardinal-bo-our-mission-as-active-nonviolence/

Crimes Against Lough Neagh

Friends of the Earth NI has a few tickets left for this panel discussion from 1-5pm, on Friday 15th December 2023, at the MAC in Belfast, with Bernadette McAliskey, Prof Mark Emerson, Bróna MacNeill, Sam McBride, Shauna Corr and Tommy Greene, and chaired by John Manley. It will include breakout sessions where people will be invited to share their ideas on a recovery plan for the Lough. Book at https://friendsoftheearth.uk/about/events-northern-ireland

FOE on COP28, and opportunity for Christmas support

Friends of the Earth in the Republic has been busy campaigning on COP28 and are involved in the Christmas gift card market whereby for each €20 you donate “for the protection of our planet and all its inhabitants” they will post you a specially designed gift card that you can give to your friend – this will include your friend’s name, the amount donated in their name and your name. https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/

Eco Congregation newsletter now monthly

Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI), the Christian church green network, is now issuing its newsletter monthly; you can sign up to receive it at info@ecocongregationireland.com ECI recently welcomed Anna Byrne as the new Catholic representative. https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/

Editorials: War and the rules of war, In Dublin’s fair(ly violent) city

War and the rules of war in an era of perpetual armed strife

There is no such thing as a civilised war. But having ‘laws’ that govern the conduct of warfare is useful in at least helping to avoid some of the worst atrocities, even if these laws are breached almost as much as they are observed, and we have seen terrible examples from both Hamas and Israel, not to mention what is happening elsewhere in the world such as Sudan or Ukraine. The development of such laws, like the banning of landmines and cluster munitions, is again a progressive move even if some of the ‘great powers’ of the military variety refuse to be bound by them. Warring parties may not adhere to the standards but these laws may set a means for the conduct of the war concerned to be judged, and, hopefully perpetrators face some reckoning with justice subsequently. This includes ongoing issues about the British army’s SAS executing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan around 2011.

Attempts to limit warfare are nothing new with many examples coming from antiquity around the world. Our own Adomnán (or Adamnán) was a brilliant example of this with the Synod of Birr which he called in 697 CE and which in the ‘Law of the Innocents’ sought to offer protection to women, children and non-combatants. It is told that when he was in a position to do something about the effects of warfare, which he was as Abbot of Iona, he responded to a promise made to his mother, Ronnat, to do what he could when as a young person accompanying his mother they stumbled across the pitiful aftermath of a battle.

Unfortunately today warfare has continued currency as a means of behaviour found acceptable to many, at least for those who are ‘on our side’. Mediation and conciliation has a long road to travel to be the only accepted methods for dealing with conflict – along of course with nonviolent action.

None of this, of course, mean that those of us who reject war as a methodology need to be complicit in such war-making, though depending on where we live our taxes may be contributing financially to such warfare. Avoiding this complicity is extremely difficult but is also an aim worth striving for. We can still see the value of laws or rules which curtail atrocities in war even if we reject the concept of war as a legitimate methodology of struggle. Further extending those rules, and getting existing ones respected and implemented, is an important area of peace work.

As to what the laws or rules of war state, plenty of information can be found online including about their historical evolution. One short cartoon video from the International Committee of the Red Cross offers a simple overview, available at https://www.icrc.org/en/document/what-are-rules-of-war-Geneva-Conventions However we would dispute their unproven assumption at the start that humankind has always been violent as a way to settle disagreements; maybe they haven’t visited the Céide Fields, regarding which the jury would be very much out on such an assertion.

The main aspects of the laws of war includes international treaty law as well as established customs. It is evolving as the outlawing of landmines and cluster weapons in recent decades show. But there are still many uncertainties, as for example with current bombing of Gaza by Israel, and while most people might come to the same conclusion in relation to a particular incident, others on a partisan basis may dispute an action or actions being contrary to the laws of warfare. So greater clarity is needed.

Those of a nonviolent persuasion, who reject the use of warfare as a tool of policy, have much work to do. We do have research in our favour such as the work of Chenoweth and Stephan on violent and nonviolent campaigning within states where the nonviolent approach comes out much stronger in terms of success. However while some international conflicts, particularly ones between close neighbours, can have similar characteristics to intra-state conflict, others do not. Making even detailed judgements in this area is not easy. And the mechanisation and autonomisation (drones and military robots etc) of war removes any human element ‘at point of contact’.

We also have aspects of humanity in our favour which the military seek to breed (bleed?) out in their soldiers. Rutger Bregman in his book ‘Humankind’ points out many of the ways in which humanity intervenes even for soldiers on opposing sides looking to avoid killing the other.

But we do need to develop new tactics including possibly mass civilian intervention or intervention by symbolic leaders to ‘stand between’ warring parties as well more dynamic approaches to mediation and making mediation available and acceptable. Of course there are risks involved. But as Martin Luther King said “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” We have avoided nuclear war by the skin of our teeth in the past, we may not be so lucky in the future, with another nightmare scenario being numerous wars in different locations making whole regions intolerable to live in (if global warming does not do that first). The Irish constitution supports the pacific resolution of international conflicts – though you would not know this from the behaviour of recent governments.

The failure to overcome violence and avoid war is partly a failure of imagination. War and violence are regarded as a ‘realistic’ option in many circumstances by most states, very much including the ‘western democracies’ of which Ireland is a part. However the likely outcome is that war will lead to a pyrrhic victory with extreme human costs and ongoing problems, not to mention economic and environmental costs. And still states expect to do the same thing and get different results the next time.

In Dublin’s fair(ly violent) city…..

The recent night of violent rioting in Dublin has been well analysed in all the media so that it is difficult not to be making points which have not already been made elsewhere. For this reason we will keep our comments fairly short.

The rioting was organised by far right individuals or groups who sought to create trouble around the fact that a very emotive stabbing of young children and an adult had been perpetrated by an immigrant, albeit one living in Ireland for a couple of decades and a naturalised Irish citizen. While the motivation of the attacker is unknown it is fair to assume that an attack of this nature is likely to be due to mental health issues. As well as a few injured children, one very seriously, an Irish born woman was badly injured trying to defend the children; men of Brazilian and French origin were involved in disabling further attacks by the man, and an Irish woman was involved in preventing retaliatory attacks on the assailant. The disgust held for the incident was shown by online funding for the Brazilian man who helped to disarm the assailant reaching hundreds of thousands of Euros.

Having to date failed at the ballot box, far right anti-immigrant campaigners sought – and succeeded by their speedy assembly from around greater Dublin through using social media – to make their point through violence. No one could have foreseen the situation getting out of hand so speedily with perhaps five hundred people involved in rioting, property destruction and looting. Only some of these would have been far right activists, others were obviously opportunists of various kinds.

The case has been made https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/2023/11/28/irish-fascism-is-not-a-reaction-to-immigration-or-poverty-its-not-even-a-new-phenomenon/ that fascists in Ireland do not need immigration to create violence since communism was used as such a focus in the 1930s in Ireland. However it is still clear that the far right methodology is to create a scapegoat which can be blamed for the ills of society. If you wanted to find a current scapegoat for the housing crisis in Dublin, a better one would be the multinational companies which have created so many jobs and thus influx of people, or better still successive governments who have done such a poor job in ensuring the requisite housing and accommodation was built. An open door policy to Ukrainian refugees, leading to upwards of a hundred thousand people coming since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, has been a generous response but has made accommodation scarce around much of the country.

There are many answers and solutions to this upsurge in a threat from the far right. One is further solidarity with newcomers, something of which there are many good examples, and some very bad examples (the continuation of the direct provision system for asylum seekers is atrocious for many reasons including that it isolates newcomers from the rest of society). Another is dealing effectively with issues of housing and health so that current deficiencies cannot be blamed on immigrants, aside from the fact that this is necessary for justice and equality for all. Showing the positive contribution that immigrants have made to Irish life – and they have in many ways – is again an important aspect. Civil society has an extremely important role to play in all of this. Immediately challenging false information by far right groups in social media is another necessity so distortions and falsehoods cannot get traction.

It is unlikely, though certainly not impossible, that the far right will make a significant electoral breakthrough in any part of Ireland which means they may continue to focus on exploiting any situation they can use to foment division through creating on street mayhem. It would be unwise to have a knee-jerk reaction to the recent rioting in Dublin and, though obviously the Gardaí need to be prepared, escalation in the policing response can lead to escalation in rioters’ response in any future altercations. Authoritarian reactions could just encourage further attempts to destabilise things and lead to chain reactions.

Eco-Awareness: The Paradox

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

The Paradox

If any of us went to see our doctor for a health check and the results revealed that all was not well we would immediately address the problem which might include eating less processed food, committing to a regime of daily exercise, getting sufficient sleep and if we drink alcohol reducing the amount we consume. For, unless we are in a state of despondency, we want to be as healthy as we can for as long as we can. Not only because we want to live an enjoyable life and there are things we want to accomplish but also because we don’t want to leave our loved ones bereft through our premature death. Yet, when it comes to the ill-health of our extended selves, the biosphere, without which we would not exist, we respond to the evidence of its critical condition with a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders.

There are studies galore that describe the poor health of the planet. A recent report published by the non-profit organization Climate Central, based in Princeton, New Jersey, found that the past 12 months were the hottest since records began with one quarter of humanity experiencing dangerous levels of extreme temperature. In September, Science Advances, informed us that 6 of the 9 planetary boundaries have been breached. These boundaries they say “are critical for maintaining the stability and resilience of the Earth’s system as a whole.” Studies published in advance of COP28 show that rather than reducing our consumption of fossil fuels, as we should be doing, consumption is rising in spite of the investment in renewable forms of energy.

Scientific research tells us that we are living in a new human created geophysical epoch called the Anthropocene which is significantly less benign than the Holocene epoch of the past 11,700 years. It was the Holocene period that provided the conditions that allowed civilizations to flourish. Life in the Anthropocene epoch will be exceedingly difficult for human and nonhuman beings alike rendering the Enlightenment idea of progress redundant and much of our sophisticated technology unusable.

A paradox of this tableau is that while we our concerned with our own wellbeing and that of family, friends and acquaintances we are not concerned enough about our extended selves to do something meaningful about it. I am inclined to think that Hannah Arendt, author of the best-selling book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil’ (1963), shines light on this paradox.

Arendt is of the view that horrendous deeds, such as the industrial-scale mass murder of Jews and other peoples by the Nazis during the Second World War can, aside from hate and furry, stem from automated instruction-obeying behaviour rooted in a lack of critical thinking. In other words, people will do terrible things because they are told to by someone in authority or because they regard what they are doing as normative and therefore don’t think about its meaning and consequences.

This lack of critical reflection, or one might say complacency, can largely be attributed to the strong desire humans have to belong to a group, a tribe and in recent centuries a nation. The wish to adhere to prevailing norms is a part of our social-navigation software with our antenna alerting us to align with the prevailing views and behaviour of the group / tribe we feel we belong to or risk being scorned as deviant or out-of-touch. The commercial world is well aware of this and uses the persuasive power of advertising to reinforce or change what is considered normative and desirable. This November and December £9.5 billion will be spent in the UK doing precisely this.

The answer to the riddle of why we don’t extend our strong desire to care about our personal wellbeing to the biosphere is because our society does not value it. The biosphere is perceived as external to us rather than part of us. It is the ‘other’.

Viewing living entities as ‘other’ enables both ecocide and genocide.

The Hutu militias who massacred an estimated 800,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 called the Tutsi “inyenzi” – cockroach, and “inzoka” – snake. In Hitler’s Germany, Jews were called “Untermensch”, subhuman. Many Turkish people referred to Armenians as “dangerous microbes”. When Europeans colonised the Americas, Australia and other parts of the world they called the Indigenous people brutes and savages on the basis that they were thought not to have a soul as they supposed themselves to have.

Committing ecocide without the enormity of what we are doing dawning on us is what makes it banal. We have wiped whole habitats from the face of the earth along with thousands of species. We are in fact living through the sixth mass extinction and are on course to extinguish a million species in the next few decades.

The worldwide annual consumption of 8,127,632,113 chickens and 3,331,950,000 cattle together with a plethora of other farm raised animals can justifiably be called ecocide especially when the horrendous ecological consequences of rearing and transporting the animals to the point of sale is taken into account. The banality of the infliction of so much suffering is underscored by the fact that it draws so little comment.

Is ecocide a sin?

Do religious people hold that poisoning soils and rivers, felling primary forest, polluting the atmosphere with emissions, noise and light amount to turning one’s back on God? Is striving for infinite economic growth, with the annihilation of life this causes, to disown God? Further, is the method of keeping billions of sentient, intelligent, imaginative, problem-solving, familial-bonding creatures in sensually deprived conditions an affront to God? These are pertinent questions as religious beliefs are an integral part of the dominant paradigm which, if we wish to be considered good ancestors, we should examine with the thoroughness of a forensic scientist.

Whatever the outcome of COP28, and other ongoing negotiations to regulate our relationship with the biosphere, we are unlikely to follow through on any positive agreements without embracing the idea that our extended self, the biosphere, has moral value and an intrinsic right to exist. As the Brazilian Indigenous academic and activist Ailton Krenak says in his book ‘Life is not Useful’ (2020): “Either you hear the voices of all the other beings that inhabit the planet alongside you, or you wage war against life on Earth. Waging war against life on Earth is what we are doing and unless we cease our defeat is assured as is the elimination of most life-forms we share with this small spherical rock.

Readings in Nonviolence: The life and death of Francis Sheehy Skeffington (1878 – 1916)

By Gearóid Ó Dubhthaigh

The circumstances surrounding the murder of the life-long pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington during the 1916 Rebellion probably did more than any single incident to bring British rule in Ireland into disrepute. Although his memory has been largely neglected in Ireland it is honoured by pacifists throughout the world

He was born Francis Skeffington, an only child, in Bailieboro, Co. Cavan, in 1878, and was educated by his father, a medical practitioner, whose idealism was infectious.

As a student at University College Dublin, Francis Skeffington – or “Skeff” as he was now known among his friends – earned a reputation as a nonconformist; he didn’t shave, was a tee-totaller, a vegetarian, a suffragist, and a pacifist. He was a contemporary of James Joyce. When their writings were turned down by the college magazine, they collaborated to publish their rejected articles in a pamphlet. Despite this success, their partnership did not persist; Skeffington regarded Joyce’s elopement with Nora Barnacle as contemptuous of women, while Joyce considered Skeffington to be ridiculously idealistic and much too radical in his feminism.

Another student, Hanna Sheehy (1877-1946) became his wife in 1903. She was born in Kanturk, Co. Cork, where her father was an Irish Party MP and her uncle, a priest, was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). At an early age she became an outspoken suffragette. When they married he prefixed Hanna’s surname to his own, and hence forth called himself Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. Together they pursued social and political ideals through their involvement in many radical societies.

After graduating he served as editor to various publications and wrote for a variety of periodicals, urging political leadership. Among his more important works are a biography of Michael Davitt (1846-1906), founder of the Irish Land League, whose idealism and life he so admired; a one-act feminist comedy “The Prodigal Daughter”; and a novel “In Dark and Evil Days” which offered a quasi-historical account of the rebellion of 1798.

During the Lock-out of 1913, his efforts to encourage negotiations between employers and the workers came to an abrupt end as riots erupted. When the Irish Citizen Army was formed, he was named vice-chairman, after it was decide that the organisation would remain purely as a defence front against police brutality. He left when it took on a militaristic character.

When the first world war broke out in 1914, he began a campaign against recruitment. In May 1915 he delivered a lecture pledging to resist the introduction of conscription and was sentenced to six months hard labour for “seditious acts”. However, after a six-day hunger-strike, he was released and his sentence suspended, under the “Cat and Mouse” Act. His wife had gone on hunger-strike in 1913 when she was imprisoned for throwing stones at Dublin Castle.

As a friend of a number of key figures in the IRB, he attempted to convince them to forego violence and to arm themselves with “weapons of the intellect and will”. On bank holiday Monday, April 24th, 1916, the Easter Week Rebellion broke out in Dublin. The unarmed metropolitan police abandoned the city centre resulting in shops being looted. On Tuesday, April 25th he went into the city to put up notices to discourage this looting. Returning home in the early evening, he was arrested at Portobello Bridge as an enemy sympathizer and taken to Portobello Barracks, which garrisoned about 300 soldiers mainly from the Royal Irish Rifles and the Ulster Militia Battalion.

Later that evening, Captain Bowen-Colthurst, who hailed from Dripsey, near Cork city, gathered a picket of about 40 soldiers and marched them towards Kelly’s tobacconist shop, at the corner of Upper Camden Street and Harcourt Road. Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was brought as a human shield. Bowen-Colthurst seemed to be under the impression that Kelly was a supporter of the insurrection, and that the declaration of marshal law allowed him to take the law into his own hands. In fact, Alderman James Kelly was a prominent conservative nationalist.

The picket had only reached Rathmines Road when Bowen-Colthurst struck and then shot dead in cold blood a 19-year-old youth J.J. Coade, who was returning home from a sodality meeting at Rathmines church. Bowen-Colthurst then led his men towards Kelly’s, firing shots at random. There he arrested two newspaper editors who happened to be in the shop at that time; Thomas Dickson and Patrick McIntyre. Together with Francis Sheehy-Skeffington they were marched back to the barracks and placed in the guard room for the night. No charge was made against them.

On the following morning Wednesday 26th, all three prisoners were told to stand against a wall and before they realised what was happening, they were shot dead on Bowen-Colthurst’s orders. A cover-up began immediately, led by the commanding officer in the barracks. Royal Engineers removed and replaced the bullet-marked masonry. Bowen-Colthurst himself led a raid on Sheehy-Skeffington’s home in an effort to find incriminating evidence. However, the case became a cause célèbre, thanks to the efforts of Sir Francis Fletcher Vane (1861-1934), an officer of exceptional moral courage in the Royal Munster Fusiliers.

Vane was a hereditary peer born in Dublin of an Irish mother and English father. Although an army officer he wrote against the atrocities committed during the Boer War in South Africa. Retired from the army he subsequently stood unsuccessfully for parliament as a Liberal candidate, and was active in the anti-war and suffragette campaigns. At the outbreak of the First World War he returned to the army, and with the rank of Major he was sent as a recruiting officer to Dublin. He was stationed at Portobello Barracks but was not present when these acts of violence were taking place.

When he returned on Wednesday 26th, Vane was outraged that Bowen-Colthurst was allowed to carry out his duties as if nothing had happened. On reporting the matter he found no support for decisive action. Vane obtained leave, travelled to London and managed to secure a meeting with the private secretary to Prime Minister Asquith and Field Marshal Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. As a result Bowen-Colthurst was tried and found guilty but insane by a military court martial held in private so as to spare the Government adverse publicity. Initially imprisoned in Broadmoor Criminal Mental Asylum, he was released in 1922 to settle in Canada where he died in the mid-1960s.

Vane was dismissed from the army, or as official papers released decades later put it: “this officer was relegated to unemployment owing to his action in the Skeffington murder case in the Sinn Féin rebellion”. For a number of years he waged an unsuccessful campaign for reinstatement, even appealing to the King. In addition manuscripts of various books he wrote were seized and suppressed by the military censor.

When the details of the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington were first made known in the British House of Commons by the nationalist MP John Dillon they aroused widespread indignation. Hanna was devastated by her husband’s senseless execution and was disgusted by the way in which British authorities handled the affair. Soon afterwards she travelled to the United States and even succeeded in enlisting the interest of President Theodore Roosevelt in her campaign to uncover the truth. Eventually the British Government offered her £10,000 compensation which she promptly refused, since she fiercely opposed the partition of Ireland.

She supported the anti-Treaty side during the Civil War, was a founding member of the Fianna Fáil Party, but later left it to act as assistant editor of the Republican paper An Phoblacht during the 1930s.

Although Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was raised as a Catholic it seems that by the end of his life, he had become what would today be known as a secular humanist. His only child, Owen Sheehy-Skeffington was an outspoken Senator.

This article by Gearóid Ó Dubhthaigh cultureofpeace@gmail.com has been issued as a leaflet for Pax Christi.

Drumcree before ‘Drumcree’

Drumcree Faith and Justice Group and monitoring Orange parades on the Garvaghy Road, Portadown, late 1980s+

by Rob Fairmichael

Introduction – The general situation

In “Track III Actions – Transforming protracted political conflicts from the bottom-up” (Ed. Helena Desivilya Syna and Geoffrey Corry, pub. De Gruyter, 2023) Brendan McAllister gives a detailed account of the Drumcree parading dispute in Portadown from 1995 and his involvement with attempts at mediation then and in ensuing years. Brendan had become director of what is now Mediation Northern Ireland in 1992; sadly he died in December 2022. The publication of his article challenged me to write something about “Drumcree before ‘Drumcree’”, i.e. before the name of that locality became common on news media around the world. This is both to provide some context and because there is a story, or stories, well worth telling.

In 1995 the Drumcree situation of an Orange parade going through a Catholic area ‘blew up’ and in Rev Ian Paisley’s words it became not just a battle for Drumcree but a battle for Ulster. Pitched battles were fought in fields close to Drumcree church and loyalists from around Northern Ireland joined in, one way or another, seeing the denial of ‘their’ perceived right to march down the Garvaghy road as a direct attack on their culture. Once there is that much identification with a struggle, and engagement with it, there is little chance of a mediative settlement (as Brendan McAllister’s account shows). And it was a costly ‘blow up’ in terms of tension, violence, and the loss of life associated with it.

Some unionists and loyalists saw the emergence of parade disputes as a major issue around 1995 (not just Portadown but the Lower Ormeau in Belfast and Dunloy, Co Antrim, for example) as manufactured mischief by republicans and Catholics looking for issues to hit Protestants with after the ceasefires of 1994. But political parades have always been problematic in the north of Ireland both before and after partition. The emergence of parades issues at this time was simply that previously Catholics had felt relatively powerless to raise the issues concerned, particularly pre-ceasefires.

The loyalist perception of the ‘right’ to march where desired comes from a previous era when the state itself was unionist-loyalist in orientation, in the period 1921-1972, and Orangeism would have been fully facilitated by the state (though it would also have drawn on unionism before the foundation of Northern Ireland). In practice the loyal/marching orders mainly restricted marches to Protestant and mixed areas so the vast majority of marches were uncontroversial.

Orangeism is a form of cultural and political expression albeit made publicly in the form of military-style parading and effectively the marking of territory. But it is also, within part of the Protestant community – and it is exclusive in this way – a bonding exercise and the Twelfth (12th July) is, for those involved, a great celebration and gala occasion. For supporters it is also a family fun day, or morning, watching the parades, and for young bandsmen, and some bandswomen, an opportunity to impress their friends, female and male. The Twelfth is quite a spectacle along with the bonfires the night before.

However the more general issue regarding parades in contested areas is one of clashing human rights; the Orange or loyalist right to express political views and culture versus the Catholic or nationalist right not to be intimidated. Some would see Orangeism and Orange parades as religious and if so there would be issues of religious freedom involved too but I consider the religious dimension of Orangeism to be very minor compared to it being culturally Protestant. Incidentally, the service at Drumcree Church the Sunday before the Twelfth, this precedes the parade or attempted parade down the Garvaghy Road, is a very distinctively Orange service (processing, hymns, sermon) and not remotely a typical Church of Ireland Sunday service.

Regarding the right not to be intimidated I include not just physical intimidation, or the threat of it, but also the possibility of people being made to feel as unconsulted second class citizens with no control over their own area. There are many different forms of powerlessness and that is one of them.

While the state developed a new strategy in 1998, giving over decisions on parades to a Parades Commission where previously it was the police, the answer to clashing rights is of course dialogue. The ‘Derry model’ shows one way this can be done with considerable success. It was the willingness of the Apprentice Boys of Derry to talk to local people in that city – even if there were caveats – which unlocked the impasse there and which enabled relatively trouble free parades. The ‘Derry model’ is covered by Michael Doherty in the above mentioned book with notable features being a) the involvement of the business community b) the willingness of the Apprentice Boys of Derry (loyalist parading organisation) to talk to both the Parades Commission and local residents at least in a forum context, and c) this took place in a majority nationalist area. The business community in Portadown did not have the same impetus to be involved as that in Derry where business was badly affected by parades trouble.

Orangemen in Portadown were unwilling to talk directly to Garvaghy Road local residents because of the involvement of republicans or former combatants there, and there would also be an element that they considered they should not be obliged to do so. They felt they had the right to parade while their being denied marching down the Garvaghy Road was also attacked by some, falsely, as a denial of their right to worship at Drumcree Church of Ireland.

1995 was not the beginning of the ‘Drumcree dispute’ or indeed of parading controversy in Portadown – this went back to the 19th century. But in the 1970s and earlier 1980s the flashpoint in Portadown had been the route of the parade through Obins Street closer to the centre of town – which is another story in itself and the site of considerable violence; this route was then banned in the mid-1980s. It would seem that at this stage the police might have had an opportunity to refuse future parades down the Garvaghy Road, but they did not take that option, and the conflict continued and subsequently exploded in a way which eclipsed even the violent riots at Obins Street.

The complete story of parading in Portadown is a long, complicated and frequently violent one which there is no time or space to explore here; information is available on the CAIN website and elsewhere. Parades in general had been so troublesome or trouble-producing in the 19th century that the British government had banned them for two periods (1832-1845 and 1850-1872); trouble associated with parades was nothing new.

In this piece I wanted to share some of my limited knowledge of the period immediately before Drumcree became ‘Drumcree’. While I have tried to check the facts of or from my involvement, and ‘run it past’ someone involved, I have not done any extensive research in writing this. I was involved in support for the Drumcree Faith and Justice group and did some nonviolence training with them and attended various meetings.

Drumcree and DFJ

The parade down the Garvaghy Road was experienced by most Catholics in the area as treating them as second class citizens and as something imposed on them. In 1986 the local Drumcree Faith and Justice group (DFJ) on the Garvaghy Road, in the Catholic area, organised a ‘tea party’ during the parade coming through the area as they paraded home from Drumcree Church of Ireland. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/46711654212/in/photolist-2eaKrou-2m1iLas-2m1sRev

The ‘tea party’ was a symbol of nonviolent resistance to the parade. But it was also proposing an alternative to IRA violence by offering resistance in a way that challenged, but also respected, opponents. This was perhaps the more important element in the demonstration, in that locals saw it as a challenge to IRA ideology.

The DFJ also stressed that there were about 40 Orange parades in Portadown in the course of a year, so the Order could not argue that its identity was not respected. Further, they said since nationalists were a minority greater weight needed to be given to their identity when there were disputes.

It should be stated that while the DFJ might have been most associated with resistance to the Orange parade coming through, they were a group committed to nonviolence and involved in other peace, cross-community and community development work. They even directly challenged republican violence and control, in one case when republicans were expelling some local men, by surveying local residents on the issue, showing there was tiny support for such action – undertaking this was bravery of the first magnitude. Here is what they wrote about it themselves:

In May 1990 the group confronted the North Armagh Brigade of the IRA who expelled three local men from Northern Ireland, apparently on the grounds of “antisocial” behaviour. Members of the Group did a door to door survey in Churchill Park of how local residents responded to this threat. Out of 162 houses approached, 4 supported the IRA position, 8 abstained, 122 condemned the IRA action, and the rest were not at home. The Group subsequently publicised the results of the survey in the press and on radio and got wide coverage. This was a difficult action for the Group to take, but they were determined not to give in to this kind of oppression from the IRA”. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/31758301747/in/album-72157717096321767/

They also put an advertisement in the ‘Portadown Times’ following a large IRA bomb in the town in 1993. This asked “As Catholic Citizens of Portadown we ask: Why Wreck Our Town?”. Again, this was a direct challenge to the IRA and its violence.

Many unionists and Orangemen felt, indeed feel, that they have the right to walk the “Queen’s Highway”, that anywhere in Northern Ireland should be open to them. The phrase is not so much used now and in any case it would currently be the “King’s Highway”. However most Orange parades only take place in Protestant, neutral or mixed areas where they are generally welcomed or tolerated. While those of an Orange or loyalist persuasion might feel this right to march is principally for loyal citizens, and not for Catholics, the DFJ were involved in an action which showed that in Northern Ireland there is no such thing as a neutral “Queen’s Highway”.

Marking the 5th anniversary of the founding of DFJ, in 1989 they tested the waters for parading by applying for permission to parade up to the centre of town and back again. Loyalist paramilitaries issued a threat. The police (who still made decisions on parades at this stage, before the Parades Commission) banned the parade leaving the Catholic area. QED there was indeed no such thing as a neutral “Queen’s Highway”, a point which ironically the loyalist paramilitaries had helped to make by issuing the threat. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53283767509/in/dateposted/

And at that time such threats were very real. The DFJ was associated with a small Jesuit community in a local house. Some loyalists and Protestants had an idea of the Jesuits which was probably mistaken in the 17th century let alone the late 20th. A story was shared during a local meeting with renowned nonviolent activists Jean and Hildegard Goss-Mayr in 1998; a reformed loyalist paramilitary told that, subsequent to the Jesuit community house being established, he was part of a team sent to kill them – he said the Jesuits were spared because the paramilitaries could not find the house…..

After a couple of years of the tea party as a symbol of resistance, the DFJ subsequently took to sit down protests about the parade coming through. See photos from 1989 (and a short general album about DFJ) at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72157717096321767/with/50659770223/

DFJ did communicate directly with police in a friendly but direct fashion during the events of Drumcree Sunday. On one occasion they succeeded in getting the police to withdraw police dogs out of sight of residents for fear that this would antagonise them if people thought that police were intending to use them.

There was one instance where for DFJ paying the piper was not necessarily calling the tune – literally. One year (1989) DFJ had a local band playing on a flatbed trailer as an attempt to provide a positive atmosphere on the Garvaghy Road as the parade came through. However as the parade approached, and totally contrary to why they were engaged, the band struck up “A nation once again”! That’s what I remember though another person present recorded it as “We shall overcome”.

It is worth telling about a detail of a meeting I attended, possibly in 1990, organised by DFJ but including some other people. An issue under discussion was the fact that the police were turning back young Catholic men from going up the centre of the town; while the police were responding to the real risk of sectarian trouble and fighting between Protestant and Catholic young men, their response was in itself sectarian (turning back Catholics and presumably only Catholics) and contrary to their human rights (freedom of movement).

There was a prominent local Catholic citizen present at this meeting, from outside the immediate area and not involved with DFJ. He asked why these young men were going up the centre of the town anyway as “it isn’t ours” (i.e. it was mainly Protestant). I was gobsmacked. He wasn’t from the area that young people were being denied freedom of movement but he seemed to be accepting an apartheid-type situation not just for Portadown but, extrapolating, for the whole of Northern Ireland. This is just one, perhaps surprising, detail at the time of acceptance of sectarianism in what was, and is, a very divided town.

INNATE monitoring

From 1989 until 1993 INNATE was involved in providing monitors during the Drumcree parade. While INNATE was invited to do so by DFJ, and in that sense supportive of them, INNATE was quite clear that it was there to observe everyone and as far as possible to feed back to the different parties what had happened and what could have been done differently – including to DFJ. INNATE developed its own model of monitoring/observing and did some work in encouraging others to use this methodology in conflict situations (the INNATE report is available in Dawn Train No.11, 1992, available at https://innatenonviolence.org/dawntrain/index.shtml).

INNATE was the first body to use monitoring in parades and potential conflict situations in Northern Ireland as the Troubles were winding down (there had been considerable monitoring type activity early in the Troubles – see e.g. article by John Watson, Dawn Train No.10, also at https://innatenonviolence.org/dawntrain/index.shtml). It was presumably nothing to do with INNATE but by the mid-1990s there could be up to half a dozen different monitoring groups at a contentious parade.

Brendan McAllister himself was an INNATE monitor on the Garvaghy Road in 1991 and 1992 – he is the guy sitting in the middle wearing a tie in a photo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/3281825083/in/album-72157607571533994/. His first time monitoring with INNATE in Portadown was his first time monitoring – something which he developed extensively, with a different model to INNATE, in his mediation role – you can see some photos including Brendan himself in a photo album on monitoring and accompaniment at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72157629555375796. He played a significant role in preventing escalation to violence that first day he monitored in Portadown. A policeman in a police line across a road was engaged in verbal interaction with a citizen in front of it; the situation was escalating and the likely outcome would have been the man being arrested and quite possibly subsequent violence.

However a colleague of the policeman engaged in the interaction was seen talking to him, it was presumed informing him that there was at least one independent monitor (Brendan McAllister, identifiable in that role by an armband) nearby looking at the situation; the policeman concerned calmed down, and escalation was avoided. This account is based on the report back by Brendan at the INNATE debrief immediately after the parade. The RUC was not renowned for discipline in this sort of situation at the time and it seems having a visible monitor or observer present promoted best behaviour and prevented significant deterioration and the risk of violence.

INNATE observers/monitors came from a variety of backgrounds including peace activists, Protestant and Catholic, some people who had a human rights involvement, and some international volunteers. One of the last managed the difficult task of writing an account of the DFJ tea party, sit down, the Orange parade and police activity in a humorous manner while also making serious points. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53283768339/in/dateposted/ Another monitor, a Quaker (of which there were several involved as INNATE monitors), was originally from the Portadown area and recognised by some loyalists; he was threatened in no uncertain terms – i.e. a very deliberate threat to his physical wellbeing – not to come back and monitor again. He was viewed by these people as a turncoat or traitor in the Northern Ireland sectarian response that if you are seen as doing something for ‘them’ you are doing it against ‘us’.

In a subsequent year to when INNATE provided monitors, I presume 1994, I was engaged to assist local stewards on the Garvaghy Road in preparing for being present for the Orange parade through the area but that is another (long) story. However the relevant point is that a significant number of local residents, not just DFJ people, as part of the residents’ coalition were trying to prevent violence ensuing on their side of the metaphorical fence because of the Orange parade. A much smaller number of military minded republicans would probably have been quite happy if trouble ensued.

For a brief comparison between mediation, stewarding and monitoring there is a leaflet produced from an INCORE project in 1999; see https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/20334307318/in/album-72157629555375796/ and entry beside it. The contact information in this is out of date but it is interesting to compare the different approaches and the overlaps between them. The approach developed by Mediation Northern Ireland with Brendan McAllister and others, mentioned above, was to monitor and feed back information up a chain which could be used for mediation, in current time or subsequently. The cross-interface phone networks set up in Belfast when mobile phones were still a novelty was another approach; this enabled community workers or activists ‘on the other side’ to be advised about what was happening across the divide, or indeed coming from their side, so they could take appropriate action immediately to help defuse situations.

In 1991 as part of its follow up to monitoring the Drumcree Sunday parade, INNATE decided to make representations to the Belfast News Letter regarding their report on the parade; this labelled all those present looking on at the parade from the Catholic Garvaghy Road as republican, i.e. Sinn Féin/IRA supporters (showing a prejudiced view and/or ignorance about the area). This would not only have been manifestly untrue but also dangerous since labelling people in this way, particularly pre-ceasefire, was making them targets.

The letter sent to the News Letter was clearly headed and underlined so as to be unmissable, before the text of the letter, “This letter is not intended for publication.” They published it. They refused to apologise until a complaint went to the Press Council. INNATE’s letter included criticism of the police on the day in question which INNATE would not have been made publicly (comments were made directly and privately to the RUC on their performance).

The News Letter said the letter was typed onto their computer system by an editorial assistant and simply marked ‘Letters’ (without the ‘not for publication’ part). The only compensation they offered was that INNATE could offer a suggestion for the topic of an editorial which they would write! A reasonable gesture might have been a free advertisement. However there was one humorous outcome; in response to the mistakenly published letter which had been signed by myself (and it probably was a genuine mistake although very sloppy journalism or office management), another letter was published criticising “Mr Fairmichael and his INANE organisation….”!

Conclusions

In this period there was great variation from year to year in the feeling associated with the Drumcree parade depending on both local events (local killings and who did them as well as other factors) and the broader political situation. However one feature remained constant; once the parade was over there was relief (this was pre-1995) and no compulsion to deal with the issues, aside from residents, and when the summer loomed again the next year it was felt to be ‘too late’. Thus it was always ‘the wrong time’ for an initiative to solve the issue.

But the moral of this story is that a ‘little local issue’ – expressed in inverted commas because it was actually a big deal locally – when left to fester could blow up to be “a battle for Ulster”. The situation remains unresolved today though active and general unionist backing for the Orange cause at Drumcree waned after the killing of three young Catholic children in the one family in Ballymoney, in an attack seen as associated with it, in 1998.

Before 1995, before it did become ‘Drumcree’, a concerted initiative by the police and/or a respected civil society group outside the area might have had some chance of success in reaching at least an implicit agreement – if the Orange Order could have been persuaded it was in their interests to engage (which it would have been, and still is, to negotiate ‘safe passage’ down the Garvaghy Road). They would need to have been offered a way to talk or negotiate, directly or indirectly, which they could accept, like the Apprentice Boys in Derry subsequently. But it does also need stated that focused mediation work was only beginning in Northern Ireland at this stage. When Brendan McAllister was able to be involved it was already too late despite determined effort, after it became an international issue and a shibboleth in Northern Ireland.

In conclusion about the Drumcree parade at the end of the 1980s and start of the 1990s, I joke that our work was so successful that the word ‘Drumcree’ was never heard again…. The lack of success at this time, and the subsequent explosion in the situation, was certainly not due to the Drumcree Faith and Justice Group who were an impressive and brave group of local people seeking to make a positive contribution to their own area and to Portadown as a whole on a broad range of issues. Unfortunately the Drumcree parading situation joined the long list of unresolved matters in Northern Ireland though inclusive talking of some kind could still bring about a ‘result’ – a win-win one – for everyone.

Billy King: Rites Again, 315

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

Gender equality, how are ye

It caught my eye on the BBC NI website on 27/11/23: three stories in a row about the treatment of women and girls. Under the heading of ‘Latest updates’ were three stories in a row, “Childminder’s husband jailed for abusing children”, “Upskirting and cyber-flashing laws come into effect”, and “Medic admits sterilising woman without her consent”.

The first story was about a former senior civil servant from Co Down who sexually abused two young girls (age unspecified) in his wife’s childminding care. The second story might be considered ‘good news’ in that new laws came in to effect on upskirting, downblousing and cyber-flashing with perpetrators potentially facing up to two years in prison and up to 10 years on the Sex Offenders Register. But the question underlying this is – why was this new law necessary? The NI Assembly (remember it?) had backed this law in spring of 2022 before the Assembly disappeared in a puff of smoke, with the bill, now law, being introduced by Naomi Long. And the final story was about a male consultant gynaecologist in a regional hospital in the North who admitted sterilising a woman without her permission and without medical need.

These are three stories covering different aspects of the treatment of women and girls in our society, all concerning aspects of what I would consider violence against them. These things happened to happen in the North but could be anywhere. You could come up with many other examples from different aspects of life and society. It doesn’t look very much like equality for women and girls, does it.

Bill Hetherington

The death of long time British peace activist Bill Hetherington removes another of the ‘old’ faces from the peace movement there. He was 89 years old. While associated most with the PPU/Peace Pledge Union (where, incredibly, he was on their Council for fifty years) it is hard to think of a substantial peace initiative in past decades, in Britain or internationally, that he was not involved with. He was well informed on, and involved with, Northern Irish and Irish matters and, if I recall correctly, had some Irish blood in him. He was involved with the BWNIC campaign to withdraw British troops from the North and subsequently was on trial in 1975 for his involvement in that (and was imprisoned for a while, accused of breaking bail conditions) – were the BWNIC 14 encouraging British soldiers to disaffect? Maybe they were but fortunately were found not guilty.

An appreciation of his life as a peace activist can be found at https://www.ppu.org.uk/news/peace-movement-mourns-lifelong-pacifist-campaigner-bill-hetherington and there is a great photo of him there, looking a bit like an old seafarer – and he certainly had to negotiate lots of choppy waters in his time.

The INNATE coordinator remembers fondly the socio-political walking tour of Dublin that he (Rob Fairmichael) conducted for a group from the 2002 WRI/War Resisters’ International Triennial conference. This ran, or rather perambulated, from the Garden of Remembrance to the Dáil; he would give a short take on the relevance of the building, memorial or topography involved….and then Bill would, as was his wont, extend it “with the due parts of legal and constitutional history in detail” as the Triennial newsletter related. There is a photo of just such a scene at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/3269226483/in/album-72157613605954884/ Small of stature, Bill Hetherington was a big presence. For me he was one of those people who I didn’t have much contact with on an ongoing basis but knew were contributing hugely to work for peace I definitely feel sad that he is no longer around.

Shannon ‘not being used’ – but Varadkar is…..

Ah yes, the main supplier of lethal equipment and just as lethal money to Israel is of course the good oul USA. It was kind of Leo Varadkar to tell us https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2023/11/19/shannon-airport-not-being-used-by-us-to-supply-military-equipment-to-israel-varadkar/ that Shannon Air/Warport is not being used by the USA to move military supplies to Israel. He has the USA’s word on that.

But since the Irish state never inspects what is coming through on US military or military-contracted planes he really doesn’t have a clue. And while the US army has no boots on the ground directly fighting in Gaza – I am sure there are lots of military advisors somewhere – he might think that is OK. But any support to a military aggressor or supporter of aggression is plain and simply wrong. And despite the atrocities committed by Hamas in southern Israel on 7th October I think we can be quite clear that Israel is an aggressor in its assault on civilians in Gaza. And, in general (and for generals), armies need soldiers so transporting soldiers through Shannon is every bit as nefarious as transporting weapons.

The Irish state is complicit in supporting US military aggression. [full stop]

EU Bottlegroups

Useful little piece by Conor Gallagher in the Irish Times of 16th November https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/2023/11/16/ireland-faces-embarrassment-as-just-35-troops-volunteer-for-eu-battlegroup/ and follow up on 23/11/23. The first story was that “Ireland faces embarrassment as just 35 troops volunteer for EU Battlegroup”, less than a fifth of those needed from Ireland for a German-led ‘rapid response’ battlegroup being formed in January. It would be good to think that this was Irish soldiers voting with their feet not to get involved. The Irish Times reported that “It will act in support of UN-authorised missions and will also be deployed to aid humanitarian crises and support existing peacekeeping missions that face heightened difficulties” but given the plan to remove the Triple Lock on deployment of Irish troops overseas, and developing EU militarism, it is a further move towards Irish military integration with other military powers.

However this article and the follow up indicated that reluctance to sign up may be mainly due to uncertainty about additional financial allowances for being part of the battlegroup (interesting term that, they don’t even use a euphemism – which they are so good at – such as ‘peacekeeping group’). It is expected that the government will introduce financial incentives to get the 182 soldiers they need (however, it being an army, if needed soldiers could be ‘volunteered’). However amazingly Ireland already withdrew from participation in military peacekeeping in the UNDOF operation in the Golan Heights to get involved in this battlegroup which will be training for most of the next year and on standby for 2025.

Starmint

Is it a new mint flavoured confectionery in rounded star shape? Or a rather unpleasant tasting confection currently out of production? The varmints in Starmint, the House on the Hill, are still not meeting thanks to a DUPlicitous party. Please note I am not saying other political parties are not or cannot be duplicitous, it is just as clear as day that the DUP turned what they saw as electoral survival into a principle. And there are principles involved for unionists who have been sold down the river, again, by a British government intent on its own nationalist project and their desire for survival.

But unionists are not the only people in Northern Ireland, or indeed in the United Kingdom to which they have allegiance. And while they stick to their principles the whole of Norn Iron is going down the tubes in relation to most things – including health and social services, poverty, community groups and the services they provide, and education (how can anyone hope to pull out of such a downward spiral when education funding is cut so badly?). The economy is just ticking over with remarkably low unemployment but also lots and lots of low pay. And Chris H-H as Shockretary of State compounds the problem by using, and adding to, the suffering of ordinary people as a weapon to try to get the DUP back in residence in the House on the Hill. I was thus wondering whether Chris Heaton-Harris deserves the title of (Vindictive to a) Tee-Shock. Meanwhile Troubles victims have been terribly short-changed again.

What a mess. While the new year was being signed up in the last while as a possible point for a return departure, the stars do not seem to be aligned [is Sammy a star?] for, or rather within, the DUP who may struggle on with an assembly boycott while the North falls apart at the seems (sic). Perhaps political bravery could win out but I suspect what is in store is that is not mint to be in NOrthern Ireland. I hope I am wrong, I would be delighted to be proven thus.

Waking up

It’s official, sort of. The Irish – and in Ireland generally culturally Catholic – way of death is superior, certainly compared with another western European island. It is something many of us have known for a long time, and Kevin Toolis’ book “My father’s wake” is on the topic, but research has now proven it (usual caveats…) that active social engagement and collective remembering after the death of a loved one can help you. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-67462985 “The Ulster University study, which involved more than 2,000 people, looked at prolonged grief disorder (PGD). It described the disorder as an enduring yearning for the deceased persisting for more than six months. About 10.9% of grieving people in Ireland featured in the research fulfilled the disorder’s criteria, compared to 15.3% in the UK. The study does go on to say “cultural differences with regard to death may be an explanatory factor” in relation to waking and so on.

So not only is the West a-wake but much of the rest of the island too. You may not be able to wish ‘slainte’ to the deceased but being able to do it to and with their kin, even with a cup of tea, can assist in coming to terms with the death. There is no simple answer or time limit to, or remedy for, grief when you lose your nearest and dearest. But waking can help and waking up to that fact is important so it is never lost.

Recently we have come on for a cold spell (blame the witch/wizard/warlock though I thought the last of these was Micheál Martin’s alternative to the Triple Lock….) but I have bright red salvia still in full bloom in the gordon, however the current cold may knock them on the head – being in a city and only a few k’s from the sea we escape some frosts manifested elsewhere.

But Christmas and New Year festivities and break are coming up fast and so I wish you an enjoyable and restful time (when you get there!) and, as always, a Preposterous New Year – the new year will be well established when I join you again. One piece of good cheer is that a song about Norn Iron trade union and peace activist May Blood is to be released just before Christmas https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/entertainment/music/news/song-about-work-of-ni-peacemaker-for-christmas-release-a-lot-of-people-dont-really-know-who-she-is/a2133175073.html

Let’s hope, and work that, 2024 is more peaceful than the current year – Billy.

News, November 2023

Freedom to Choose? StoP report on International Security Forum

The report from StoP, Swords to Plougshares Ireland, on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ was published the day after the official report from the Forum chair, Dame Louise Richardson. The StoP report, entitled “Freedom to Choose?”, is at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/report (and other websites) while the official report is at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36bd1-consultative-forum-chairs-report/ The individual submissions made by civil society will be published by DFA in due course. The official report is 27 pages including appendices but under 16 pages of actual report; the StoP report is around 50 pages.

Louise Richardson’s report is analysed in an editorial in the email and web editions of this issue. The StoP report has a preamble which sets the scene regarding Irish neutrality and security before four different authors carefully scrutinise each day of the Forum proceedings. It also includes coverage of one of the “People’s Forum” meetings, in Galway, and the full text of Lelia Doolan’s unscheduled intervention in the official Galway Forum. There are four pages of conclusions and recommendations.

StoP’s conclusions include: The Forum was biased in intent, design and implementation and therefore valid conclusions cannot be drawn from it: Discussion of the ‘triple lock’ on deployment of Irish troops overseas was wholly inadequate and does not in any way justify change in this area: It was not an open ‘Forum’ as in the dictionary definition and common understanding since the speakers were only those chosen by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department: The format of the Forum was inadequate to deal with the issues properly: Various topics were systemically avoided including the use of Shannon Airport by the military of the USA: The Department of Foreign Affairs proclaims its commitment to disarmament but it promotes Irish involvement in the arms trade and lauds its contribution to nuclear disarmament but is now openly involved with NATO, a nuclear armed alliance committed to first use of nuclear weapons.

Palestine/Neutrality/Ukraine demo, Dublin, 4th November

2pm on Saturday 4th November sees a big Dublin demonstration, starting at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square with the themes “Stop Israel’s assault on Gaza / Defend Ireland’s neutrality / Stop the war in Ukraine”. A variety of organisations are backing it, including Irish Neutrality League, Irish Anti-War Movement, World Beyond War, Shannonwatch, Peace People, FEIC, Cork Neutrality League, Veterans for Peace, Independent Workers Union, TCD SU. See various including https://irishantiwar.org/ https://neutrality.ie/ http://www.shannonwatch.org/ https://www.facebook.com/CorkLeague/

MII: Awards at annual conference, Mediatators in midst of war

The annual conference of the Mediators’ Institute Ireland (MII) took place in early October in Cork. One highlight of this was the presentation to Catherine O’Connell of a Generosity of Spirit Award and to Geoffrey Corry of a Lifetime Achievement in Mediation Award; for video see https://www.themii.ie/mii-award-winners Geoffrey Corry’s account of some of the early story of mediation, “The story of Dublin City Mediation (DCM) after 25 years” can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/2a4nnu7v (and accompanying entries). Another feature of the conference was an Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Naoimh McNamee, CEO and Mediator with Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, discussing 25 insights that have helped or hindered peace in Ireland. Keynote speakers were Hon. Ms. Justice Siobhán Lankford on the judicial system and mediation, and Prof Noam Ebner on ‘Mediation, Artificial Intelligence, and Change’. https://www.themii.ie/

lAn online seminar on ‘Connecting mediators in the midst of war’ takes place on Monday 6th November at 5.30pm with speakers Ken Cloke, Mediator Vikram and Mohammad Hadieh as they share their thoughts and insights on unfolding events in Palestine and Israel. They will also discuss the role of the mediator and the world mediation circle in fostering understanding. Participation is free, register at clr.ie/135140 and a Zoom link will be sent.

Nurturing hope – and a learning journey

Nurturing Hope’ is an extensive five–book learning resource, written by Derick Wilson, Duncan Morrow, J. Jean Horstman and Dong Jin Kim, being published by the Corrymeela Press. It will be available shortly as an open source resource. The five individual titles in the ‘Nurturing hope’ series are Background fundamentals, A facilitator’s guide, Understanding relationships, Some dynamics of conflict-affected cultures and societies, and Some dynamics for hope. Please email shonabell@corrymeela.org to order a copy of the Nurturing Hope resource.

There will be a related extensive ‘Learning Journey’ 5-day residential programme running each summer 2024 – 2027 involving Corrymeela, Mediation Northern Ireland, TIDES and the Understanding Conflict Trust. The ‘Learning Journey’ is for those seeking to create spaces through which people who are divided can “experience the intimacy of our honest differences”. It draws on Corrymeela members’ decades of experience and was developed with learning partners in South Korea and the USA. This is a detailed and in depth programme with some details available at https://www.corrymeela.org/programmes/nurturing-hope/summer-learning-journey

Glencree Centre for Reconciliation

A detailed annual report on Glencree’s work, entitled ‘Peacebuilding for the next generation’, can be found at https://glencree.ie/homepage-highlight/annual-report-2022 including detailed accounts of the various different programmes (though if you want the financial report you will need to download it). Meanwhile a relatively new staff member is Dorothée Potter-Daniau who has the newly created position of Measurement, Evaluation, Research & Learning (MERL) Manager. Glencree CEO Naoimh McNamee said: “Dorothée’s appointment to the new role of MERL Manager comes at a very exciting time in Glencree’s development. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation next year, we are focused on realising the goals of our 5 Year Strategic Plan which includes establishing Glencree as a national and international Centre for Practical Peace Education and Learning Exchanges.” https://glencree.ie/

Corrymeela: Dialogue for Peaceful Change training

Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC) is a global training programme developed by practitioners working in national and international conflict settings around the world. The DPC methodology offers a practical toolkit and methodology for managing key aspects of both interpersonal and group conflict. There will be a training running at Corrymeela from 18 – 22 March 2024, cost TBC. More details and contact info at https://www.corrymeela.org/events/237/dialogue-for-peaceful-change-training

PANA on ambassadors, supporting Shannon protest

PANA/Peace And Neutrality Alliance has issued a press release about the importance of ambassadors at a time when some call for, e.g., the Israeli ambassador to be expelled. Edward Horgan, International Secretary of PANA said “Expelling ambassadors in time of war is a serious mistake. While we may not like the ambassadors in question and we may not like or agree with the actions of their governments, it is vital to keep diplomatic lines of communications open at such critically important times” and “Neutral countries especially should be playing an important role in promoting an end to those conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, the Sahel region in Africa, and elsewhere.” https://www.pana.ie/

Meanwhile the next Shannonwatch/Uplift/PANA rally at Shannon Airport against US military use is on Sunday 12th November at 2pm; subsidised bus from Dublin, contact info@pana.ie You can also help fund Dan Dowling’s Shannon nonviolent action fine https://www.gofundme.com/f/ShannonAirport

FOE Act Local campaign

Friends of the Earth has begun an Act Local campaign to assist local activists by focusing on two important issues or campaigning topics, Space for Nature and Connected Communities. There are how-to guides and briefings. See https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act-local/

CAJ: Impunity video, jobs

The important recent seminar, ‘Impunity and the NI legacy bill – 50 years on from the Pinochet coup’, is now available to view online; this was hosted at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), and was organised with CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), and the International Expert Panel on Impunity and the Northern Ireland Conflict. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/event-video-impunity-and-the-ni-legacy-bill-50-years-on-from-the-pinochet-coup/

l Meanwhile CAJ are recruiting a Senior Research and Policy Officer and a Project Research & Campaign Worker for the Migrant Justice Project, deadlines late November. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-is-recruiting/

ICCL: GDPR, Garda, hiring

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has expressed concern at internal investigation into alleged Garda human rights violations in the Lynskey and Kerrigan case, stating that an independent investigation into the role of An Garda Síochána is required. ICCL has also prepared amendments to the European Commission’s proposal for procedural harmonisation on cross-border GDPR enforcement, identifying four primary flaws in the Proposal. Meanwhile they are hiring a new Membership and Development Officer, deadline 20th November. https://www.iccl.ie/

Eco-Congregation: News, Leinster gathering

As always, the newsletter of Eco-Congregation Ireland, the church green network, has a round up of news, island wide. They also have an upcoming online meeting for anyone interested or potentially interested in Leinster, 10-11am on Saturday 11th November; contact info@ecocongregationireland.com to attend. https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/

Church and Peace: Overcoming racism in the church

A short report on the Church and Peace European conference on this topic is available at https://www.church-and-peace.org/en/2023/10/racism-and-the-church-a-needed-debate/ and there is more news and resources on the same website. Church and Peace is an ecumenical church peace network.

Palestine-Israel peacebuilding job

An international peaceworker is being hired by KURVE Wustrow & New Profile to be based in the Jerusalem/Bethlehem area in Israel/Palestine, working on a variety of issues including planning and implementation of a Civil Peace Service project focussing on objectors to military service. The deadline for applications is 12th November. Details at https://pzkb.de/stellenanzeigen/international-peace-worker-m-f-d-in-jerusalem-bethlehem-area-in-israel-palestine/