Category Archives: Nonviolent News

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News, December 2022

A force for good?

A force for good? Reflections on neutrality and the future of Irish defence” is a new 62 page pamphlet from Afri, launched in Leinster House at the end of November. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Irish foreign policy and contribution towards peace in the world. The contributions include a preface by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire (who also writes another piece on ‘The true cost of violence and war’). The pamphlet’s substantial input includes a detailed account by Karen Devine of Frank Aiken’s legacy and lessons for the conflict in Ukraine. John Maguire contributes an open letter to Lt-General Seán Clancy, Irish Chief of Staff, Tarak Kauff surveys Irish neutrality as a global force for peace, Iain Atack and Carol Fox consider some other important details of the situation, before John Maguire considers the woolly thinking behind the Commission on the Defence Forces report. The pamphlet ends with the Downpatrick Declaration.

This pamphlet clearly analyses the Irish government’s drift to NATO membership and EU militarisation while reflecting on positive policies for peace in the past (Frank Aiken) and considering how Ireland could play a meaningful role in European and world peace in the future. Paper copies are available from Afri at €10 including postage at https://www.afri.ie/donate/ It will be on the Afri website in due course. Afri , 8 Cabra Road, Dublin D07 T1W2, email admin@afri.ie and website www.afri.ie

Palestine: New Irish Anti-Apartheid Campaign launched

The Irish Anti-Apartheid Campaign for Palestine has called on Ireland and the international community to publicly recognise that the State of Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, and to take concrete measures to end this crime against humanity. The coalition, made up of 18 civil society organisations, trade unions and academic experts committed to working collaboratively to end Israeli apartheid against Palestinians, was launched in late November in Dublin by Independent Senator Frances Black, a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights. Groups involved are: Academics for Palestine, Action Aid Ireland, Afri, Amnesty International Ireland, Centre for Global Education, Comhlámh/Comhlámh Justice for Palestine, Gaza Action Ireland, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Jews for Palestine, Kairos Ireland, Sadaka – the Ireland Palestine Alliance, SIPTU, TCD BDS,Trade Union Friends of Palestine, and Trócaire. See https://www.trocaire.org/news/new-irish-anti-apartheid-campaign-calls-on-ireland-to-take-action-on-israeli-apartheid-against-palestinians/ and web search.

The Steel Shutter revisited: Northern Ireland encounter, 1972

A Belfast conference on 1st December 2022 looked at the encounter group workshop of precisely fifty years previously involving four Belfast Protestants and four Belfast Catholics (including facilitation by ‘the’ Carl Rogers). The 2022 conference was organised by Michael Montgomery of PeaceFire www.peacefire.us and the original one hour ‘Steel Shutter’ film is available on this website. The conference examined numerous aspects of encounter groups and storytelling and their ongoing relevance for conflict situations and divided societies. See also https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/52536717565/in/dateposted/

H&W militarise again

There was a time that Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast made British naval ships, possibly the last was HMS Fearless which was completed in 1965. Unfortunately it looks like H&W may be returning to this practice of making ships for the Royal Navy. While it is not a done deal yet, an announcement in mid-November indicated that 3 new British navy supply ships, each 216 metres long, in a £1.6 billion contract may see the final assembly taking place at Harland and Wolff which forms part of a preferred bid by a consortium of three UK firms. If proceeding work may begin in 2025 and of course there will be many jobs created but jobs contributing to ongoing militarisation. Word search online for more information.

Protests in Cork at Dutch navy visit

At the end of November, protests were held by the Irish Neutrality Campaign at visits to Cork by 4 warships from NATO member the Netherlands (including their largest naval ship). See https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-41015759.html and https://tripeanddrisheen.substack.com/p/four-dutch-naval-vessels-dock-in Protesters pointed out that the Netherlands has supported NATO belligerance and the visit was a breach of Irish neutrality. In addition, PANA, www.pana.ie, pointed out that “The recent Fine Gael Ard-Fheis passed a motion effectively to scrap the Triple Lock on sending Irish soldiers on overseas missions, by eliminating the need for a UN mandate for such missions. Rather than equip our forces appropriately for genuine defence and UN-directed peacekeeping, our government seems intent on merging them with EU/NATO ventures such as PESCO, Battlegroups etc.”

Swords to Ploughshares: Human and ecological security

The hour long recording of the StoP/Swords to Ploughshares webinar in early November on “Human and ecological security: an alternative to war and militarism” is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpcK1QYLk6M Speakers were Diana Francis, John Maguire and John Lannon.

Ukraine war used to justify arms race

In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, western governments pledged unprecedented financial support to militarism, citing the threat posed by the war as justification. However, as the research in the report below shows, western states are already vastly superior in terms of military expenditure and defence capacity to other nations. Prior to the war the combined military spending of NATO members was 17 times that of Russia and four times that of China. Increased military spending does nothing, quite the reverse, to deal with issues of world poverty and global warming. This report by he Transnational Institute and Stop Wapenhandel, “Smoke Screen – How states are using the war in Ukraine to drive a new arms race” , is available in summary form and download link at https://www.tni.org/en/publication/smoke-screen

Afri calendars

Having a meaningful calendar around your home or work space may give you a daily lift – and a reminder of appointments. Afri produce a calendar which highlights the importance of all of us getting involved in tackling such pressing issues as climate change and militarisation. To order (at €7 per calendar plus €2.50 postage cost within Ireland) go to www.afri.ie/donate/ and click the donate button at the bottom of the page ‘donating’ the cost of your purchase and indicating the number of calendars you would like to order in the message box; remember to include your postal address. Email admin@afri.ie

WRI Prisoners for Peace

1st December and the period around then is when the War Resisters’ International particularly remembers conscientious objectors and prisoners for peace (their work to support them is all year around however). This year it has a particular focus on Russia and Ukraine – not surprisingly given the numbers imprisoned or facing imprisonment there. See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2022/2022-prisoners-peace-day and links there.

USA military empire database

World Beyond War have put together an interactive database of USA military bases worldwide. As they say “Some of these physical installations are on land occupied as spoils of war. Most are maintained through collaborations with governments, many of them brutal and oppressive governments benefiting from the bases’ presence. In many cases, human beings were displaced to make room for these military installations, often depriving people of farmland, adding huge amounts of pollution to local water systems and the air, and existing as an unwelcome presence.” See https://worldbeyondwar.org/no-bases/

CGE: Why are INGOs not talking about the global economy?

Material from the Centre for Global Education’s October workshop on why Irish NGOs are not critically engaging with issues of the global economic system, neoliberalism, as the ‘root cause’ of poverty is available at https://oneworldfestivalni.com/events/why-are-ingos-not-talking-about-the-global-economy/

2022 Pax Christi International Peace Award: Concordia

Concordia Social Projects has received the PCI 2022 peace award. The organization is present in several central and eastern European countries, and works directly to help vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families. See https://paxchristi.net/2022/11/08/2022-pax-christi-international-peace-award-concordia-social-projects/

Chernobyl Children International

Chernobyl Children International/CCI are appealing at this time of year for financial support for their work in Ukraine and Belarus. For full information, and options to donate, see https://www.chernobyl-international.com

Cyber safety for women

Women – and men – may be interested in this very detailed cyber security guide https://www.wizcase.com/blog/comprehensive-online-security-guide-for-women/

Editorial: Neutrality – being the best we can be

Ireland faces a choice as to whether to be a small bit player in a militaristic EU/NATO alliance or to plough a perhaps sometimes lonely but much more fulfilling role as an active agent for peace in the world. But any loneliness would only be temporary because of the friends it would make – as it is, an Irish passport is one of the most acceptable around the world because of Ireland’s past positions and ‘soft power’. Those who think that NATO and the EU are agents bringing peace need to consider the process of 20th and 21st century history – and extrapolate from current EU stances to the EU becoming a bullying superpower on the world stage, similar to the USA, later in the 21st century (just look at the current role of Frontex). The development of the EEC/EU as a force for peace in Europe is well and truly lost in the past.

It is hard to establish exactly where the Irish government and establishment push for full military and foreign policy integration with NATO and the EU comes from. Wanting to be with the ‘big boys’ is certainly part of it. This editorial will, further on, give some quotations from Afri’s new “A force for good?” pamphlet on Irish neutrality. But we would go further and raise the question of whether this fixation stems partly from an inferiority complex, perhaps coming from Ireland’s colonial past. The revolutionary generation in the Free State/Republic had an emphasis, naturally enough, on anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism (Karen Devine’s contribution in the Afri pamphlet is a brilliant summary of the positive aspect of this in Frank Aiken’s thinking and action). But as EEC membership beckoned, neutrality became considered by some politicians as backward, regressive and not what was needed in Ireland – in a sense a ‘culchie’ option – making its way in a world dominated by the USA and a rich Europe.

In the Afri pamphlet, Iain Atack and Carol Fox do refer to the idea that to be ‘good Europeans’* has been part of the thinking in abandoning neutrality (along with other factors). But what does being a ‘good European’ mean? Supporting militarisation and the arms industry? Being uncritical of the development of the EU as a military superpower closely aligned with NATO?

With formerly neutral countries in Europe joining NATO, surely there is a greater need than ever before for Ireland to take a neutral and active stance for peace. It is simply nonsense to think that the only possible international role Ireland can play in the future is a small, even insignificant, member of a large military alliance. The promulgation of Irish neutrality goes back as far as Wolfe Tone. Eamon de Valera played a significant role in the League of Nations. As the Afri pamphlet points out, the drift to Irish EU foreign policy and military integration has led to relative neglect of the UN – and, we might add, perhaps a wasted role as a UN Security Council member. Ireland has played a significant part in the development of peace internationally. Current directions will lead to the total negation of that role and Ireland simply being another cog in a great western militarist machine. It is already happening – for ‘NATO in Ireland’ see https://www.thejournal.ie/irish-defence-forces-nato-evaluation-artillery-5927841-Nov2022/

There are many ways that Ireland can play a positive role in peacemaking in the future, all of which are either dependent on, or would have a contribution made by, Irish neutrality. Building up a skilled team of mediators for different levels of conflict is one such role, engaging before there are even ‘rumours of war’ or armed conflict. Engaging with different parties or governments before conflicts have got ‘hot’ is another related area of work. Pushing and working for the further development of international law in relation to war is a further area – and working to get existing laws implemented and respected. Nonviolent peacekeeping can be explored as well as Ireland’s well-established – and respected – role in military peacekeeping.

This is only scratching at the surface of what is possible, even for a small country like Ireland, and all could be achieved for a small fraction of the additional money which the country is going to spend on army and armaments – which is irrelevant to Ireland’s human and ecological security needs (see the video of the StoP webinar on this, mentioned in the news section). Our politicians and elite seem to suffer from a total failure of imagination and seek no more than being a very small cog in a very well-oiled, and destructive, military machine.

Now, on to a few quotes from Afri’s pamphlet (see news section in this issue). The title of Joe Murray’s Foreword says it all: “Ireland should be a voice for Demilitarisation, De-escalation and Disarmament in the World”. Karen Devine points out that “Ireland used her postcolonial identity and history to gain support from other UN members. A fiercely-guarded commitment to independence from big power pressures, facilitated by an equally strong commitment to neutrality, produced radical and far-reaching proposals for peace in central Europe. Frank Aiken’s formulae for peace are vitally relevant to resolving the Ukrainian situation today……”

Mairead Maguire is quite clear that “Contrary to its claims, NATO is not a defensive organization. Its purpose from the start has been to act as an instrument for US world domination and to prevent all challenges to US hegemony.” John Maguire meanwhile teases out what has been going on in Ireland: “The….strategy involved: Government denials at every stage that referendums were necessary; joining NATO/PNP without the manifesto-promised referendum;’reform’ of the Referendum Commission’s mandate, from presenting the arguments For and Against to magisterially pronouncing on ‘The Facts’ – and above all the blatant rejection of two legally binding referendum results, Nice 1 and Lisbon 1.” John Maguire also usefully uses the image of a funnel: “The abiding image is of a funnel; such debate as cannot be prevented is guided – if necessary, simply shoehorned – into an ever-narrowing channel; a travesty in what our constitution still confirms is a republic.”

In the Afri pamphlet, Tarak Kauff concludes his piece “Stand up Ireland, defend your neutrality. The global community needs you to do that.” Ireland may be a little island falling off the edge of Europe but Tarak Kauffman’s admonition shows that such a matter is of much greater significance. As peacemakers we can stand tall. As warmakers we will collude with, and hide under the coat tails of, the great powers, and contribute to the militarist mania infesting the world.

* INNATE’s printable poster on being ‘a good European’ can be found at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ under “Europe and World…[EW]”

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: COP needs to be reformed

The COP climate talks, held every year since 1995, is the only international event where a concerted effort is made by almost every government in the world to reach consensus on reducing the emission of gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, that are the cause of global warming. Given the mistrust, animosity, competition and real sense of historical grievance felt by many of these countries towards each other the fact that COP exists, and is well attended year after year, is a tangible success.

That said, it is apparent from COP27, recently held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, needs to be radically reformed. At COP27 there were 636 participants with links to the fossil fuel industries. A size that outnumbered the combined representation from Indigenous communities and the ten countries most affected by climate breakdown including low-lying island states whose whole way of life will likely be erased by the ravages of climate breakdown.

The intention of the representatives from the fossil fuel industries and most of the major oil and gas producing countries was transparent, which was to lobby hard against any meaningful agreement to reduce the world’s consumption of fossil fuels. They succeeded.

An item of contention was the commitment of the host country to the aims of COP. Egypt is not only a dictatorship that prohibits dissent as its 6,000 political prisoners bear witness but it is also a close ally of Saudi Arabia. At the conference Saudi Arabia along with Russia fought hard to have the 1.5C ceiling abolished, which thankfully they failed to do. They did, however, manage to get the aim of phasing out the use of fossil fuels left out of the final text while the proposal to accelerate the development of “low-emission” energy systems, a euphemism for upscaling the use of natural gas, was added.

It was perceived by many in attendance that Egypt managed the proceedings in a way that hampered the realization of the positive outcomes that many countries hoped for. The disappointment of these delegates was perhaps best expressed by Alok Sharma, UK president of COP26, who said in his closing remarks.

Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary. Not in this text. Clear follow-through to phrase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes. Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”

COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major oil and gas producing country. Given that 30 per cent of its GNP comes directly from oil and gas and its tourist industry is oil and gas dependent through reliance on aviation, air-conditioning and desalination plants can the world expect it to fervently work towards phasing out fossil fuels? This is as implausible as a tobacco company hosting a conference to persuade the participating tobacco companies to agree to cease to do business. Likewise with COP29 which is likely to be held in Australia, a major exporter of coal.

There is widespread agreement that one of the few positives that came out of COP27 is the setting up of a loss and damage fund that will help those countries most adversely affected by climate breakdown. A committee composed of representatives from 24 countries will in the coming year work on deciding exactly what form the fund should take, which countries should contribute and how the money should be spent. It is envisaged that aviation, shipping and the fossil fuel companies will be asked to make significant contributions. This is not unreasonable as they on average have earned a $1 trillion a year, ever year for the past 50 years.*

A number of European countries have collectively pledged $300 million to the fund. This might seem a sizable amount but it is insignificant in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of damage per year that the most vulnerable countries suffer as a result of climate breakdown. In late August 2022, for example, flooding in Pakistan displaced 33 million people, killed 1,500 and caused at least $30 billion worth of damage. Like many poor countries its large international debts prevent it doing very much to make good its losses.

Sceptics will point out that it is easier to agree to contribute to the fund than actually contribute. Here one is reminded of Greta Thunberg’s comments about COP26 in Glasgow:

Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.”

The point is that in 2009 the wealthy countries, including the EU and the United States, agreed to make $100 billion a year available by 2020 to help poor, vulnerable countries prepare for the effects of extreme weather events as well as put renewable energy projects in place. Little of the money materialized. In the case of the United States, it is highly unlikely that Congress, which will be in the control of the Republican party, will approve donating money to the loss and damage fund. Without the lead of the largest economy in the world pledging money, many other countries are unlikely to.

In a nutshell the outlook for the health of the planet is not good. This is something we can’t divorce ourselves from as the life of each one of us eight billion humans, rich and poor, is directly dependent on having a healthy biosphere. A major ecological meltdown could erupt in multiple wars, from which even the wealthiest would not escape harm. This is demonstrated by Putin’s war in Ukraine where nuclear power stations are viewed as military assets, and therefore can be bombed. This is perhaps no different from the UK and the USA carpet-bombing Dresden in Germany during the Second World War. The factories, railway network and communication facilities were considered legitimate targets as were the people who worked in them.

With regard to future COPs, Simon Stiell, the UN climate chief, will scrutinize the COP process to ensure transparency, their smooth running and that they are less susceptible to the interests of the fossil fuel industries. On the basis that the fossil fuel industries peddle what the world urgently needs to wean itself off they should be banned from attending future ones.

COPs should also have strict guidelines about who their sponsors are. In the case of COP27 it was Coca-Cola, which produces more than 100 billion plastic bottles a year. Much of this plastic, which is made from oil, ends up discarded causing serious ecological problems. Such sponsors undermine the integrity of COP.

* Kevin O’Sullivan, Burning of fossil fuels relegated to side issue, The Irish Times, 21 November 2022.

Readings in Nonviolence: Recent UK peace history, review

Review: “The Peace Protestors – A history of modern-day war resistance” by Symon Hill. Pen and Sword, 2022, UK£25 (hardback), 264 pages.

Review by Rob Fairmichael

This is a well researched, well written account of peace campaigning in the UK in the last forty or so years, since around 1980. Symon Hill is also a well known British peace activist who has worked for both CAAT/Campaign Against Arms Trade and PPU/Peace Pledge Union. It is a major undertaking and judging what to put in and what omit in a book of this sort is a massive task in itself.

One surprise is in the title in that no geographical attribution is given, and there is no explanation inside about his geographical unit of reference being the UK. It is to his credit however that he attempts to include Northern Ireland which may ‘look two ways’ but is indeed part of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. There are further reflections on the Northern Irish angle below.

The book is more or less chronological and divided into twelve chapters, some of which are single issue themed (the development of the Greenham Common women’s protest, the Falklands/Malvinas war, etc) and some of which cover a variety of issues. He has done his research well and able to quote from many different activists, new and old, which gives the book a very human dimension.

He also traces certain themes through the book, such as the development of nonviolent direct action (a major theme) and increasing public opposition or resistance to war. Both are encouraging developments though it remains to be seen how increased Tory legal penalisation of protest (of all kinds) works out in the longer term – in suppression of vocal dissent or in increased public sympathy for protesters. Only 22% were opposed to the Falklands war under Thatcher after it had happened. By the time we get to the Iraq war, or the possibility of British bombing in Syria, a majority of the population were opposed. One possible paradox he refers to is a high level of support for the British army but also a high level of opposition to being involved in war. Iraq and Afghanistan do of course receive considerable attention in later chapters.

I certainly got a good sense of the development of the peace movement in Britain over the period concerned, and I don’t even live on the island of Britain (though I am in the UK jurisdiction). Being involved in networking and various conferences and events in Britain over the years it was good to see a significant number of names that I could put faces to – and many, many more that I could not. While Northern Ireland is included in his coverage it is obviously mainly ‘island of Britain’ and it was interesting to read about, and try to come to terms with, the peace movement somewhere I am not generally involved.

While he gives relatively good coverage of Northern Irish involvement in international peace issues, and tries to cover Northern Irish ‘Troubles’ issues, it is in relation to the latter that I find difficulties. The first difficulty is that the Troubles began well before his starting point of 1980 (a starting point which makes sense in relation to international peace issues but not in relation to the Troubles) so early groups and happenings such as Corrymeela, early local peace action, Witness for Peace, the Feakle talks, Northern Ireland Peace Forum, Peace People etc are outside this starting point (although both Corrymeela and the Peace People are mentioned). So he is taking up the story a decade into the Troubles.

Having a conflict right on your doorstep and ‘in your home’ is also qualitatively different to working in opposition to war and conflict elsewhere, and one’s own country’s role in it. The significance of a death or killing for a family and friends is universal however, whether it be on a street, lane, village or countryside in Northern Ireland or in Afghanistan. Despite the attempt to cover some important aspects of the Troubles I feel that some paragraphs here and there do not fit well what was needed. It would not have gone with his chronological ordering but for me the only way to include and deal with the Northern Ireland Troubles would have been in a separate chapter which might have made this coverage both more cohesive and comprehensive.

But there is a huge amount to cover and convey and he does a remarkable job in his couple of hundred pages – and there are 35 pages of references and an index of another 16 pages.

Errors and omissions can creep in to any work, even the best planned. Presumably his reliance on PPU archives leads him to state that the PPU made it a priority to support pacifist groups in Northern Ireland such as the peace camp at Bishopscourt (page 45). While it may have been covered in PPU publications, I am not aware of any direct PPU support, and I was a Belfast organiser for Bishopscourt peace camp. The PPU did however show an active interest in Northern Ireland issues and produced a couple of pamphlets on it, and later on the Northern Ireland Working Group of the National Peace Council, which would have included PPU involvement, was involved (the NPC became defunct in 2000). Something like BWNIC (British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign), which was directly anti-militarist, was also before his starting point.

One omission which perhaps needs correction is in his reference to a failed attempt to get a statement together involving British pacifists and Adolfo Perez Esquivel and other Argentinian activists about the Falklands/Malvinas war, in 1982. (page 21) There was subsequently a joint statement made by Esquivel and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, both Nobel Peace Laureates, and while the latter might identify as Northern Irish rather than British it happened within the boundaries of the UK. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/27350563020/in/dateposted/

Repression, police spies, attempts at greater militarisation (‘Armed Forces Day’ etc) and inculcation of militarism in young people are all part of the resistance by the British state to moves away from war. What is quite shocking, and I didn’t know or if I ever did I had certainly forgotten, was British army generals publicly expressing opposition to, and even threatening mutiny against, a Jeremy Corbyn government over Trident and NATO (page 191).

In ending, I would like to quote a couple of great anecdotes – which do your heart and activism good – from the book. In 1985, at a time of turbulence in international relations, the USA bombed Libya. During a resulting demonstration in London “…two pacifists, Pippa Marriott and Richard Yarwood….noticed that Selfridge’s in Oxford Street had a display of national flags flying from the roof……they managed to make it all the way to the roof without being stopped. They lowered the United States flag and replaced it with a Peace Pledge Union banner. There were cheers from people in the street. The two activists were banned from Selfridge’s for life.” (page 66)

And at a time of mass demonstrations against the war in Iraq in early 2003, the Stop the War Coalition had a phone call taken by Ghada Razuki there. “A woman called up and said, ‘I can’t come to the demo because I’m very old and not very mobile. So I said, ‘That’s OK. What if I send you a few flyers that you can have in your home and if someone comes round you can give it to them?’ And she said, ‘No, no, my dear, you don’t understand – I’m going to go and lie down on the M3.’” ! (page 130)

An interesting aside is the title of the publishers – Pen & Sword – who are mainly publishers of military history. In my understanding the words ‘pen and sword’ are contained in the aphorism that “The pen is mightier than the sword’, which is almost an admonition to nonviolence. If they are publishers of mainly military history it seems a strange title for them to have; yes, it may be the pen about the sword but it begs the question about whether the pen is mightier. I hope that Symon Hill’s book might be a small indication that it can be.

– – – – – –

Billy King: Rites Again, 305

In the damp of Irish weather you might not always recognise relatively warm weather outside of summer, but the autumn has been just that. In the garden, leaves and foliage have been very slow to die back and perennial plants to take on their winter garb (or lack of it). ‘Our’ lilac – actually in a neighbour’s garden – still has quite a few leaves on it and the new growth which came after it got chopped back in the summer looks perfectly green and healthy. Marigolds and rudbeckia are still flowering away. The gorse/furze/whins/aiteann outside the city looks like it is coming into nearly full bloom. A few decades ago you could have expected a hard frost before the end of October – I define a hard frost as probably something below -2° although in practice I see it as when all the nasturtiums turn to mush. Last winter there was no ‘hard frost’ at all. It’s global warming at work, and in the Irish context that can mean more rain and wind. And you may want to issue a religious or secular prayer that the Gulf Stream doesn’t stop or Newfoundland here we come…..

Reconciliation

Reconciliation is an interesting word and concept, conciliation is too but what does it mean and especially in the context of the North? Rev Norman Hamilton, a former Presbyterian Church in Ireland moderator, recently accused the various governments and politicians of not having a clear definition https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics/ex-presbyterian-moderator-asks-london-dublin-washington-and-ni-politicial-parties-for-their-definition-of-reconciliation-3906790

There are technical definitions of reconciliation in relation to accounting and legislative processes but relevant definitions in this context include “The act of reconciling parties at variance; renewal of friendship after disagreement or enmity” and “the process of two people or groups in a conflict agreeing to make amends or come to a truce” – obviously in the context of the North, however, we are talking about group processes, so “the process of making two people or groups of people friendly again after they have argued seriously or fought and kept apart from each other, or a situation in which this happens” is a bit more apposite (as opposed to opposite). We probably all need to work on our own definitions of reconciliation, and indeed our understanding of forgiveness (another difficult one to be clear about).

I am reminded of the old cartoon about a character expressing thanks for advice they were given about dealing with interpersonal conflict rather than letting it fester. Asked how they resolved the matter they stated, “I killed the bastard”. No, not funny except just possibly in a fictional circumstance of someone doing the unexpected. And doing something positive and unexpected is an excellent way to promote reconciliation. A positive gesture or undertaking can be a great way to assist travelling to reconciliation. Actually listening to each other in the North, as opposed to talking at each other, could be such a gesture.

The U?S of A

There are bodies which proclaim themselves unreformed and unreformable. However realities change over time even if systems do not and the US political system seems singularly inappropriate for the 21st century, likewise the idea that you need a billion dollars, or thereabouts, to even enter the presidential race, and before that there is a long race to enter the bigger long race.

I have been following events there with some interest especially in the Trump era and afterwards, including Republican moves to get into key election posts where they can call the shots (sic). I know US democracy, such as it is, is teetering on the brink. But I was astounded to read an article in the Guardian where all three writers took quite pessimistic views on the topic of how close the USA is to civil war https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/06/how-close-is-the-us-to-civil-war-barbara-f-walter-stephen-march-christopher-parker?CMP=share_btn_link

Of course definitions of ‘civil war’ do not need to move to images of Gettysburg, it can be assassinations, turmoil of various kinds, political violence. The ‘U’SA is certainly already very divided and did have what amounted to some sort of coup attempt within the last couple of years in the Capitol invasion of 6th January 2021. Where the legitimacy of the decision making process in the political system is already hotly contested then there are certainly Big Problems.

Will mob rule trump or can the USA move to a more democratic system? I am not sure of the answer to that one. There are strong labor, civil rights, peace and other movements within the US which are often not recognised. But whether they and those on the left and centre of the political class can avoid meltdown is an unfortunate question to have to ask.

The extent to which the USA is being overtaken as an economic superpower is also relevant. People may go with the ‘bigger pie’ argument of economic development, unsustainable as that is, and many people have gone with Trumpism, it would seem, because of hits they have taken economically. However the Donald is not as much flavour of the decade in US Republican circles since the US mid-term elections didn’t show he was delivering the goods (in terms of people he was backing doing well) but it would be a brave person to write off Trump. To mix metaphors, you can’t keep a rotten apple down.

Edumbification

There are many questions about the economic development model in the Republic and its reliance on multinationals but there is no denying that It Has Worked to a considerable extent in helping to bring wealth. And why did it work? Relatively low taxation, a largely English speaking environment, membership of the EU, and an educated population attracted the, mainly US, multinationals. And where did the population get educated? Partly from (what were) the regional technical colleges, now technological universities, established from the start of the 1970s, but also because of an emphasis on education within many families.

However the relative lack of investment in education in the Republic is a danger for the future, as quality may decline in some instances. But in the North under the current British government regime, and no Stormont, there are going to be actual cuts as opposed to inflation eating away at educational spending power. This is so short sighted as to be dangerously myopic.

A recent survey by the ESRI https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-63779243 showed economic productivity in the Republic to be 40% higher per head than in the North – there are some uncertainties about the role of multinational profits in this but the study tried to take this into account. “An additional economic modelling exercise undertaken by the authors suggests that almost all of the productivity gap can be explained by lower levels of investment and skilled workers in Northern Ireland. Low investment and relatively low levels of skills are chronic problems in the Northern Ireland economy, although there has been some improvement in skills in recent years. The authors suggest that if firms in Ireland were faced with the same labour market as exists in Northern Ireland productivity levels would fall by an average of 30% and as much as 60% in some sectors.”

Cutting spending on education, at any level, is simply crazy. Skilled workers have to be paid for and their skills built up from the first day of kindergarten and primary school, not in a rat-race way but in terms of allowing the potential of the child or young adult to develop. For the North to have to cut back on education at any level, and in the economic context most directly post-secondary education, is totally crazy. But that is where things are at, and it is sadistic as well as sad for those whose life chances will be stymied by such cuts.

Celebrating murderers

Celebrations of gunmen who have killed others in the Troubles are common in Northern Ireland, in numerous different formats including especially murals and ‘wayside shrines’. However the writing is certainly not on the wall for violent murals like the new UVF one on the Shankill Road, Belfast which celebrates two arms-toting men and a red poppy wreath (on the latter my comment is ‘no comment’). Naturally the daughter of someone murdered by one of the gunmen is distraught; having the killer of your father openly celebrated must be painful beyond the imagination.

However the law, as interpreted, says this mural is legal. It is certainly not a moral mural but it is judged legal by the police who have said that while it is abhorrent it does “not constitute the offence of Encouragement of Terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2006, or other offences.“ If that is the case then the law is a wal-ly and needs to change. How paramilitarism is remembered and celebrated in the North is deeply problematic and paramilitary memorialisation is a key way in which territories are defined and marked, something which has to be overcome if divisions and hatreds are ever to be transcended.

Maybe in time in Northern Ireland we can come to celebrate togetherness in a vibrant and meaningful way which overcomes and leaves far behind the divisions which exist but marks our common humanity. Last time I looked, Catholics and Protestants in the North, or however you describe those two cultural-political grupings, were both human beings and members of homo not-too-sapiens.

Leprechauns and leps forward

It would be remiss of me, given the news item about The Steel Shutter film and 50th anniversary conference in the news section of this issue, not to mention a little saying by one of the participants involved in the original event. Belfast community worker Sean Cooney, who was in the 1972 encounter group, used to talk approvingly, in the community context, about “the leprechauns – the people close to the ground”! My only surprise in mentioning this is that he is the only person I have heard using this expression or joke.

Well, the year is drawing towards a close, not a year to look back on with any fondness in relation to building peace and progress at home or abroad. In fact with the ecological crisis closing in on us there is a more than a sense of trepidation. But I wish you a peaceful and pleasant Christmas/New Year and, well, a peaceful world in 2023…..and if I wish you a Preposterous New Year then what I wish for is some people stepping outside of their constraints to do the radically positive actions which are needed to transform the dire circumstances we face. Imagination and not procrastination is what is needed in many areas of life and the world. I hope you have a great break over Christmas and New Year, and c u in 2023…. Billy

News

StoP webinar looks at real security

Swords to Ploughshares Ireland (StoP) is organising a webinar on “Human and Ecological Security: An Alternative to War and Militarism” on Wednesday, 9th November from 8 to 9pm This will consist of a conversation with Diana Francis, British peace activist and writer, and John Maguire, Irish peace activist and writer, moderated by John Lannon of Shannonwatch. StoP states “We are calling for a new vision of human and ecological security that challenges this current preoccupation with military security. Human and ecological security that meets real human needs and protects the planet can form the basis of an active and constructive use of Irish neutrality as a central part of Irish foreign policy.The link to register for this free webinar on Eventbrite is https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/human-and-ecological-security-an-alternative-to-war-militarism-tickets-450528381517 The event is co-sponsored by Afri and INNATE.

Successful protest at Dublin war-fair

It didn’t stop it happening but it did raise questions inside and on a wider front – a lively lunchtime picket by upwards of 50 people, from a variety of groups and affiliations, were in attendance at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin where the grossly misnamed Irish government sponsored arms fair, “”Building the Ecosystem: Identifying connections for collaboration in security, defence and dual-use technologies” was in session on 6th October. The main organiser of the protest was Afri. Afri is at www.afri.ie For more information, photos and links see https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/52409713183/in/dateposted/ and entries beside it.

Glebe House, Strangford

The Harmony Community Trust (HCT) has appointed a new Director, Andrew McCracken. HCT is the charity which owns Glebe House, the 16 acre wildlife area and residential centre in Kilclief in the Strangford Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Andrew’s background includes a career spent in managing charities and social enterprises with 12 years at Mediation NI as Assistant Director. Glebe House’s programmes include adult, youth and environmental programmes. The residential centre is now open for bookings post Covid and the team can offer groups a competitive package of accommodation food and activities. Contact Glebe House on 028 44 881374 and at www.glebehouseni.com

MII and Red Cross project for Ukrainians in Ireland

Since the outset of the war in Ukraine, the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland (MII) has been working to support those directly affected by the war and to advance the practice of mediation in high conflict situations. Speaking at the MII annual conference in October, President of the MII, Ber Barry Murray.said “Our engagement with mediators in Ukraine has led to MII engaging with the Irish Red Cross to assist them in their work with Ukrainians coming to live in Ireland.”

The mediation programme that has been developed will help address issues that may arise in reception centres or possibly where host families and their Ukrainian guests are faced with challenges that may require mediation or problems that might arise for Ukrainian people in Ireland,” said Andrea O’Neill, who led the MII team that developed the programme with the Irish Red Cross. “We expect the programme to be fully up and running early in the New Year” added Ms O’Neill. This is the second major collaboration undertaken by MII in 2022; in March, MII agreed a partnership with Elder Mediation International. In addition, MII is playing a key role in an EU Erasmus project that aims to standardise the training required to become an accredited mediator in the EU. https://www.themii.ie/

Housmans Peace Diary 2023 with World Peace Directory

Yes, it’s that time of year again, as the current year starts to get old – and it felt pretty old from early on – and a new one beckons. Paper diaries may not be as de rigueur as they once were for the peace/social justice/environmental activist but with a Housmans Peace Diary you really do have the seeds of a peaceful world at your fingertips. The theme for this year in the Diary is 70 years of the Diary itself, plus a listing of nearly 1500 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; 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 website home page to get the best use out of it. Never feel a lonely activist again…..

CAJ: Legacy Bill, rights, housing intimidation

CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice has welcomed the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers calling on the UK to rethink its Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill https://caj.org.uk/2022/09/23/caj-welcomes-com-call-for-rethink-of-ni-legacy-bill/ Meanwhile CAJ deputy director Daniel Holder will lead a hybrid seminar at lunchtime on 6th December about state practice and paramilitary housing intimidation 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). The event is being held as part of the QUB Human Rights Centre Seminar Series. See https://tinyurl.com/mpt7p53s CAJ’s AGM will be held prior to this but there will be an open in person seminar in Belfast on human rights 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement, from 11am to 12pm on 6th December, with input from Alyson Kilpatrick, Chief Commissioner for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), and from CAJ; see https://caj.org.uk/2022/11/01/human-rights-25-years-after-gfa/

Challenges to the rule of law in Ireland

In mid-October ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties together with Minister for European Affairs Thomas Byrne TD hosted an event on the European Commission’s Rule of Law Report in Ireland. The report highlights challenges and threats to the rule of law in Ireland and makes several recommendations for reforms to the judicial, legal and political systems to better protect people’s fundamental rights. The Commission’s 2022 report highlighted the need to reform Ireland’s defamation laws, lower the cost of litigation to ensure access to justice, strengthen ethics legislation, ensure that judicial appointments are transparent and to amend legislation which sees restrictions on the work of CSOs. ICCL was the coordinating body for a joint submission to the Commission’s reporting mechanism in 2022. The Commission’s report closely reflects the issues highlighted in that submission. ICCL will again be coordinating a submission in early 2023 and any organisations involved in this area are encouraged to get in touch. https://www.iccl.ie/

Eco-Congregation Ireland

Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) encourages churches of all denominations to take an eco approach to worship, lifestyle, property and finance management, community outreach and contact with the developing world. As their Autumn Newsletter reveals, there is much and varied work going on around the country in different churches with action on biodiversity as well as work in the area of education and awareness; the Newsletter can be subscribed to but is available on the website at https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/ Resources are available on the website and also information on the Climate Justice Candle which is used to both link and raise awareness. Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist churches are involved and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

34 Irish environmental groups submit on energy security

In a submission on government energy security policy, the organisations asserted that Ireland must prioritise its climate commitments and that Ireland should not allow commercial or state-owned LNG. They demand that the policy against the import of fracked gas must become law. Jerry Mac Evilly, Head of Policy, Friends of the Earth/FOE commented:“The energy security review must reject LNG, including state-backed, and new oil and gas exploration. It is also essential that Government decision-making fully reflects and respects climate commitments. This means that the Government must not accept industry attempts to misinterpret energy security as simply equating to ever-more fossil fuel infrastructure. Rather the real solutions are to both prevent further expansion of data centre demand and to double-down on renewables and energy efficiency. These measures will reduce our fossil fuel dependence, permanently enhance our security, reduce emissions and protect households from rising energy costs.” See https://www.foe.ie/news/over-30-environmental-groups-join-forces-to-reject-lng-decla/

Meanwhile on 12th November FOE will be gathering at the Famine Memorial in Dublin’s North Dock for a photo opp in solidarity with climate vulnerable countries and using the photo to call on the Irish Government to show climate leadership and global solidarity at the COP27 UN Climate Talks. This will be organised with the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. And the same day, 12th November, Colm O’Regan’s new comedy show ‘Climate Worrier’ will be on at Smock Alley Theatre at 7pm. See https://www.foe.ie/news/

The Irish Civil War 1922-3 and the evolving laws of war

The Irish Centre for Human Rights in Galway is hosting a one day conference on Friday 21st April 2023 on this topic, noting that the laws of war were frequently referred to at the time. There is currently a call out for the submission of papers, see https://www.universityofgalway.ie/irish-centre-human-rights/newsevents/call-for-papers-the-irish-civil-war-1922-23-and-the-evolving-laws-of-war.html

Síolta Chroí

The main mission of Síolta Chroí is to restore the ecosystems of Ireland. Two inextricably and inherent parts to this are;

One. Humans are part of the ecosystem and wider nature so we need to work on healing at different levels. This includes our individual trauma as well as our ancestral as well as our collective trauma.

Two. The local is global and global local. We work to restore Ireland’s ecosystems while being part of a global movement on ecosystems restoration www.ecosystemrestorationcamps.org.

At Síolta Chroí the work is under three pillars:

1. Regenerate cultures. Which states that we need to create new ways of being in the world. With each other and wider nature.

2. Resilient and regenerative food systems. We need to create food systems that are sovereign, that sequester carbon. Build biodiversity and feed our communities locally sourced nutritionally dense non toxic food.

3. Wide scale ecosystem restoration. Our greatest chance of mitigating climate change is restoring our ecosystem. It is also a case if healing ourself while healing wider nature. Taking our place back as part of nature not her master. Living in an ecosystem as opposed to an ego system. If possible check out the Loess Plateau China on YouTube with the film Hope in a changing climate by John Di Liu.

Síolta Chroí are currently building an education retreat centre in Monaghan made of strawbale. It will be opened early next year. For more information or to get involved in its training go to www.sioltachroi.ie

Editorials: 1) Dangers of war – and nuclear war 2) Choices for and about unionists in Northern Ireland

The dangers of war – and nuclear war

If you look at war from the beginning, military resistance seems plausible and a possible solution. If you look at it from the end, the `military solution´ is a disaster.”

The above is a quote by someone from the Balkans, who would have lived through the wars there, at a recent Church and Peace https://www.church-and-peace.org/ conference which took place in Croatia. Most wars begin with optimism about the result – on all sides – and a belief in the cause, usually in the European and some other contexts blessed by the churches. But hope turns to fear, dread, regret, mourning and a thousand other negative feelings – but once warfare begins it is difficult to end as chauvinism and stubbornness kick in. We face Macbeth’s dilemma, in Shakespeare’s words ““I am in blood / Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o’er”. And there is the feeling that some benefit from the war must be shown for ‘the blood of the martyrs’, those who have died for ‘our’ cause.

It is totally understandable why Ukraine decided to resist the Russian invasion with military means. In Mohandas Gandhi’s hierarchy of responses to injustice, inaction comes bottom, violent reaction next, and nonviolent resistance is preferred. But how may will be killed, in Ukraine and Russia, at the end of the war? How many will have had their lives ruined or disrupted? How long will it take to rebuild anything like normality?

And what dangers have we yet to pass through? We have previously spoken about the dangers of even mentioning the threat to use nuclear weapons, as Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian figures have done. We also have stated that it is simply holding nuclear weapons that is the danger and the UK, for example, has no ‘no first use’ doctrine – in other words they would use them if they felt it necessary. The problem with a war like the war on Ukraine by Russia is that we do not know what escalation might happen, and how it might happen, and it remains a very real danger. If Russia used a tactical nuclear weapon then NATO would respond strongly and militarily and we could be on the road to a European, and possibly wider, armageddon. There is a strange sense of deja vu to be contemplating the horrors of nuclear war once again – for those old enough to remember the 1950s, 1960s, or 1980s.

Carl von Clausewitz may have said that war is the continuation of politics by other means but while it may be an attempt to do so the result is very different. Politics as such does not necessitate the filling of body bags. Politics does not destroy whole cities and displace whole populations. Politics does not precipitate the hate and venom that war does. Politics, we should hope, creates few orphans and widows. Of course some politicians may see war as a continuation of politics – and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a political misjudgement of mammoth proportions, and an attempt to get by force what he had been unable to get through diplomatic and political pressure, insofar as he tried those.

But Putin was not the only one to miscalculate. NATO’s promise to Russia on the fall of communism in eastern Europe not to expand eastward was broken again and again. The failure to have Ukraine state categorically it would not join NATO was another crass mistake, as well as the failure to implement the Minsk agreements which would have given relative autonomy to eastern provinces of Ukraine; even if Russia was not keeping to its side of the bargain, the move to implement its obligations by Ukraine would have pulled the rug under further moves by Russia.. Len Munnik’s cartoon on the transfer of ‘foremost enemy status’ from the USSR to Islamist militant militant fundamentalists after the end of the Cold War was very perceptive (see NATO entry at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ ) – but the problem is now that ‘foremost enemy status’ has switched back to Russia, and the west has had a large role in turning an erstwhile friend into a deadly enemy.

The risks of war, and managing a proxy war like that in Ukraine (NATO supplying Ukraine with war equipment but not itself fighting) include not only the destruction of the people and territory involved but also a significant risk of escalation. We have referred to nuclear risks above. The world is actually lucky not to have had nuclear exchanges (see e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/27/cuban-missile-crisis-60-years-on-new-papers-reveal-how-close-the-world-came-to-nuclear-disaster ) and it has been a very close run thing at times, not to mention the many accidents which could have been catastrophic. These dangers continue in a very real way. Nuclear power is another, although somewhat related. Matter but we see its danger in the war situation in Ukraine as well.

The only way to eliminate the threat of nuclear war and nuclear blackmail, by all sides, is to work for universal nuclear disarmament. Some will say that goal is utopian. We would say that goal is realistic in that this is the only way to eliminate the ever real danger of nuclear war – and we may not always be as lucky to avoid that eventuality as we were in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis between the USA and USSR. Of course nuclear disarmament is only likely to come about through wider international rapprochement and the creation of human and ecological security way beyond what exists today. But the alternative to moving forward on disarmament is to move backwards to greater human insecurity and misery – and the denial of wellbeing to billions because obscene amounts of money is spend on weapons and the military. There is a long road to travel.

Choices for, and about, unionists in Northern Ireland

It is understandable that unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland feel cheated or even threatened by the Northern Ireland Protocol between the UK and the EU. Whether it affects their standing in relation to the Good Friday Agreement is a moot question but it has changed part of the economic relationship between the North and Britain, whatever about the constitutional position – though in relation to that, Northern Ireland still ‘feels’ and functions as part of the UK even if culturally distinct from Britain.

If unionists were sold out in any way then they were sold out by their own government and there is no one else they should blame apart from their own role in the debacle. It was an English nationalist move both for Brexit and especially a ‘hard’ Brexit which created the issue of an EU single market boundary. A hard Brexit was a move which had staunch DUP support and led directly to the NI Protocol.

Any system of government in Northern Ireland has to have broad support across both major political entities, unionist and nationalist, ‘cross-community’ (there are issues in relation to a vote for a united Ireland and constitutional change in this context which we have explored and will explore again). At the moment ‘the system’ clearly does not have such cross-community support. We doubt whether the DUP boycott of Stormont is justified given the severe issues which face the North, as well as the fact that the NI Protocol is a UK-EU issue; although boycotting is a classic nonviolent tactic it is not always for positive reasons or results. The whole matter is also caught up with internal unionist brinkmanship and showing that ‘we are stronger on the Union than you’ within the unionist community which is an unfortunate game of ‘chicken’ (and more like a game of ‘Dodo’).

Realities have changed in Northern Ireland but other realities remain the same. A new election would be pointless, the two largest parties might gain a seat here or there but the result would be the same stalemate. What are needed are substantive talks which involve all sides in the North. Yes, the issue may be a UK-EU one but where there is a will there is a way, and there is no reason why parallel, simultaneous talks cannot take place which provides input from, and feedback to, the Northern parties while the EU and UK do some final bargaining. This would be the most democratic option with the inclusion in some form of all sides in the North.

There are various parts to the current reality. One is that Stormont is only a part-time partial success; whether you judge this to be a ‘total failure’ is an open question, but even when functioning it has not dealt successfully with many issues of which education is a glaring example. It could have better decision making mechanisms which encourage compromise and at least partial consensus. But some republicans and nationalists are very unwise to recently talk about ‘joint authority’ (between Britain and Ireland, Republic of) as an alternative ‘backstop’ to the Stormont assembly, either as a threat or possible reality – apart from any issues of practicality it is not in accord with the Good Friday Agreement and such talk gets loyalist paramilitaries preparing to go on the warpath – not that they should exist or be in position for any warpath.

But the more major, societal change which has a major bearing is the demographic one that unionist parties are no longer in a majority, but then neither are nationalists. The DUP is reputed to have spent less than half an hour deciding to back Brexit, showing a very considerable lack of strategic thinking. Unionists need to think strategically about what will ensure, for their constitutional preference, the continuation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.

So what is the best way for unionists to ensure the continuation of the ‘UK’? Clearly it is by making it as attractive a place to live for people – especially nationalists, ‘others’, and not-naturally-unionists’. How? By making Northern Ireland an economic success, which it clearly is not at the moment – and by making people feel ‘at home’.

And how can the North be made an economically successful ‘homely’ place? For one, providing political stability, making the system (whatever it is) work, and building on the privileged access which the NI Protocol gives to exporters to the EU (including continuing to grow sales to the Republic). Certainly there are issues and problems with the NI Protocol in the EU having been overly strict but then the UK has been overly lax in meeting its obligations. The EU is well disposed towards Northern Ireland so a bit of effort by the British government, plus compromise and creativity, on both sides, should get a win-win-win result (for the EU, UK and NI itself), and this ongoing sore settled.

As to making people feel ‘at home’ in the current constitutional situation, unionists need to think ‘what do other people want’ – and if possible give it to them. A specific Northern Ireland human rights act (as promised as long ago as the Good Friday Agreement) – certainly. Support for the Irish language act – yes. Creativity and generosity of spirit would go a long way. And perhaps some awareness might be warranted that nationalists in the North do not have the constitutional arrangements that they desire – and this might temper unionist anger at perceived changes under the NI Protocol. Both sides need to think what it is like to walk in the other side’s shoes; it is actually to their advantage to do so..

Please note that we are not saying ‘we support a united kingdom’, what we are saying is we support the coming together of the people of the North, whatever the constitutional situation. And unionists have usually been their worst enemies when it comes to strategic thinking. That may have worked relatively well for them when unionism was in a clear numerical majority but not any more – and even less so in future. If they choose ideological purity over practical progress then everyone will certainly lose – including themselves. But for anything to work there needs to to a stable and relatively strong unionist voice (not necessarily from one party)..

There are many myths about ‘the Protestant work ethic’ (and that is certainly not a runner in the Ireland of today and it never was an unvarnished fact) but there was a reason many Quaker businesses thrived in Britain and Ireland in the past. Apart from any hard work and creativity on the part of the proprietors, they were known to be trustworthy and reliable, and they treated their workers well by the standards of the time. Unionists could do worse than learn from this by thinking of everyone and not just themselves. Compromise can seem a dirty word to some but it can also be the means to achieve a lasting result which is found acceptable to all.

But current unionist concerns need addressed and a way found to do so. Thinking of others includes thinking of unionist concerns by nationalists and the British and Irish governments.

Eco-Awareness: The need for new stories

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

As revealed by innumerable, scrupulously researched reports on the climate and biodiversity the consequences for the biosphere and humanity as a result of us living the way we do are dire. This is that people everywhere are likely to experience an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather conditions in the coming years as well as live impoverished lives due to the steady collapse of the Earth’s life support systems. Perhaps the reason we pay little heed to the science of impending ecological disaster is that we have internalized the myth that a super hero, heroine, good fairy, athletic figure on a white horse, a bugle-led cavalry or a divine being will save us. We absorbed these stories during our childhood and if we are parents or grandparents probably tell or told them to our young offspring or gave them the story books.

In one sense we know that these stories, whether told, read or seen on film, are the product of the imagination. Yet, and it may be primeval, most people appear to believe them, not so much the details but the embedded message that somehow, we will be saved. We are inclined to deduce this on the basis that our culture has long taught that humankind is an exceptional species. The religious texts of the Abrahamic religions, which most of us are familiar with, are absolutely clear that we are the chosen species and will be saved. In effect this means most people consider our species to be so exceptional that we are, like the mythical gods, endowed with immortality.

One of the most commonly believed saviour stories is the one the UK Prime Minister Liz Truss never ceased telling the electorate with the conviction of an evangelist, which is that economic growth is the formula to economic salvation. Like a magic wand it would save the country’s public services, provide a living income for all of its citizens and enable them to live long productive lives in a world that has a stable moderate climate and thriving wildlife. Fanciful as this is she was elected by her political party to be their leader and thus the prime minster. Although Liz Truss held the post for the shortest period in British history the problem is that almost all governments believe the story about economic growth, including the whole of the EU. Not only this, the fable of continual economic growth is so widely believed it is rarely questioned by the public media as was evident when Liz Truss was campaigning to be elected leader of her party and during her time as prime minister.

The fact that there cannot be infinite growth in a finite world is something governments, corporation executives, the financial institutions and voters must know in the same way they known that two plus two equals four. So why the cognitive dissonance? In part it is because, as the political history of Northern Ireland shows, fables play a more determining role in our lives than facts. Another reason is the tendency to accept things as we find them.

All of us were born into a political, economic and cultural world we did not create and in the same way we assimilated language, norms of behaviour, tastes and preferences, acquired an accent, we internalized one of the most destructive stories of all, that of unlimited material consumption in a materially limited world. In the same way most people don’t question the ideas that form the scaffolding of our cultural world such as belief in God, that humans have eternal life, are self-determining and are entitled to holiday overseas once a year, most don’t question the plausibility of the foundation story of our global economic system or its ethics.

Aside from the power of fable and the tendency not to question the nature of the society we grew up in, a third reason for the widespread belief in economic growth, in spite of its absurdity and the dire ecological, climatic and human consequences, such as the present famine in the Horn of Africa, is that we, and in particular those who have immense political and economic power, simply don’t care. It is a case of out-of-sight out-of-mind. Although this attitude has survival benefits such as reducing stress, in our intensely interconnected world in which the fate of others, human and nonhuman, affects us all, it is fatal. As the poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote: “No man is an island, Entire of itself.” Our interconnectedness is why the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP27, is meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt this November and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, COP15, is meeting in Montreal in December. It is why Putin’s war in Ukraine has caused a spike in inflation and hunger around the world and why the outcome of the presidential election in Brazil affects us all vis-a-vis the fate of the Amazon rainforest.

Our lives are entwined with each other and the biosphere. What we need are not stories of economic salvation through, to quote Liz Truss, “growth, growth and growth” but stories that tell of our interdependencies and the consequences of not respecting them. This means stories which, when they have seeped into our subconscious, trigger a red alert when influential and powerful people present economic fables as fact.

The effectiveness of violence and nonviolence

by Rob Fairmichael

We were going South……..Global South that is. INNATE had a workshop on ‘Nonviolent struggle in the Global South’ as part of the One World Festival in Belfast in October. Participants seemed to think it was useful and we certainly did, combining as it did information from Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s “Why Civil Resistance Works – The strategic logic of nonviolent conflict” (Columbia University Press, 2011) with a focus on the Global South. It got us thinking in various directions. Input and facilitation was by Stefania Gualberti and myself.

One question to arise in the workshop on Chenoweth and Stephan’s extensive study was whether the data was robust and accurate. One person said they would need another study of the same area (to be persuaded). However as they show a 2-to-1 success rate in favour of nonviolence for the hundreds of campaigns they studied 1900+, they have to be mighty wrong for nonviolence to be any less successful than violence. There is a question of whether you trust their data and analysis but to a lay person it certainly looks well constructed though in addition to questions about their own biases there is also the question of possible bias in data which they took from elsewhere.

There are critiques of their work, some of which are listed at the end of this piece. One key question addressed in relation to Chenoweth and Stephan is how to classify violent and nonviolent campaigns, and inherent difficulties in doing so. Different categorisations can lead to different conclusions.

However in terms of author bias it has to be stated that Erica Chenoweth went into this empirical study of violent and nonviolent campaign very sceptical. It was her voiced scepticism about the relative success of nonviolence while at a nonviolence centre that caused Maria Stephan to challenge her to look at this whole area. They then collaborated together. Such an empirical study hadn’t been done before which led to a workshop participant asking ‘why not?’. No one had got around to it. Obviously there had been lots of studies of successful nonviolent campaigns but no one had tried to compare the violent and the nonviolent in such an empirical study, which was a major omission.

There are many qualifications and so on used in the book, as befits an academic study, but they stand over their 2-to-1 ratio of success. There are lots of questions which arise, including the complexity of campaigns and how they work out especially where violent and nonviolent campaigns are happening simultaneously. One comment brought up in the workshop was whether violent campaigns tended to happen where nonviolent ones had already failed; their work states that it is just as likely for the situation to be the other way around, nonviolent campaigns following violent (e.g. South Africa or in the overthrow of the Shah in Iran).

I would question their judgement (on page 240 in the table of violent and nonviolent campaigns they studied) that the IRA campaign of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland was a ‘partial success’; yes, it came to an end with their allied political party, Sinn Féin, well placed to make advances, and with mechanisms in place to protect all sides. But the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was a peace agreement at the end of some very nasty violent actions on all sides which further divided people in Northern Ireland and made agreement more difficult. And the GFA didn’t actually make further agreement possible on many issues through the functioning (or non-functioning) of the Assembly. I fail to see what was in the Good Friday Agreement which could have not more easily been arrived at the end of a nonviolent campaign, and possibly somewhat earlier. It would be interesting to know what in their own data made them conclude the IRA campaign was a ‘partial success’ – to an interested layperson like me it looks like a disastrous failure but then maybe I am using wider criteria than they had.

The deprecatory quote on two of the ‘sides’ in the GFA (attributed to various people including Tony Blair and Seamus Mallon) that “Republicans are too clever to admit they’ve lost and Unionists too stupid to see they’ve won” has a kernel of truth in it. However if you question one judgement on a campaign (Chenoweth and Stephan’s on the IRA) – admittedly one which is favourable to the effect of violence – it does mean you should carefully question others. And that would be a mammoth task.

One general objection, though not one that surfaced too much in the workshop, is that nonviolence may only work in ‘liberal’ societies or democracies. Definitely not so say Chenoweth and Stephan, it is just as successful in dictatorial or autocratic regimes. Part of the reason for this is that violence gives an excuse for out-and-out repression while nonviolence does not in the same way, or state violence against a nonviolent campaign is likely to backfire and cause disaffection. And that is one of the strengths of nonviolence, they state; nonviolence is very successful, compared to violence, in getting key figures who act in support of the regime to question their role and possibly defect to the opposition (whether in the army or other bastions of the regime). Part of this is because nonviolence engages much more people than violent and they may have, collectively, lots of contacts in the regime elite. While people can be killed by the regime in its countering of nonviolent campaigns, the statistic they come up with it that twenty times (or more) people are killed in violent campaigns, on average.

Another aspect is that they state that nonviolent campaigning is likely to lead to a society that is freer and more democratic than using violence. As with most ‘rules’ there are exceptions; within a couple of years after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran that country had turned into a theocratic autocracy or dictatorship. And an exception the other way is that the violent revolution in Costa Rica after the Second World War (1948) led to the disbandment of the army and a relatively stable and peaceful country.

Chenoweth and Stephan’s case studies in their book are all ‘Global South’ ones; Iran and the overthrow of the Shah, the first Palestinian Intifada, the movement in the Philippines that overthrew Marcos, and the Burmese uprising against military control at the end of the 1980s. One point of clarification here is that the term ‘Global South’ may include most of the southern hemisphere but is not identical with it – perhaps its meaning is the same as the old concept of the ‘Third World’. So Palestine, for example, would be in the ‘Global South’ but Australia and New Zealand would not.

A focus on the Global South is also useful in terms of where our thinking on nonviolence comes from. The classic grand-daddies of nonviolence are often (and sometimes stereotypically) thought of as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, which is ‘one each’ for Global South and ‘Global North’. But if we look at Gene Sharp’s examples of historical nonviolence in his classic “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” (1973) we see that while he does give numerous examples from India and China, and more occasional ones mentioning somewhere like Cuba, the vast majority of his cases are from the Global North’ (including a number from Ireland). So we need to up our quota of examples from the Global South. Some are however relatively well known, without even mentioning Mohandas Gandhi, such as women’s action in Liberia for peace and a settlement to the civil war (2003-2005), and the current actions by young women in Iran.

There are other questions which we didn’t get to consider in the workshop. One would be whether societies concerned are ‘individualistic’ or ‘collectivist’, and to what extent, and whether ‘traditional’ societies may be more collectivist, and differences on this in different parts of the world. How does this interact with the violence or nonviolence of campaigns and their effectiveness? While you might say societies need certain individual freedoms to be truly free, if you take individualism to an extreme then there is no care for anyone else other than yourself. And while a certain amount of collectivism is desirable, to protect minorities and those at the bottom of the pile, too much collectivism can stifle creativity and freedom. Do violence or nonviolence thrive in one kind of society or another?

At a further point in discussion you could perhaps look at differences in nonviolent struggle ‘South’ and ‘North’, and ask whether whatever differences exist, if they do, are because of the nature of society, people’s creativity and determination, or what.

INNATE would be happy to replicate or adapt the workshop on “Nonviolent struggle in the Global South” for other groups and participants.

If you want a quick video overview of Chenoweth and Stephan’s work in this area you can look at

1) Why civil resistance works by Erica Chenoweth – 8 min – 2021 (shown at the One World Festival workshop)

https://www.hks.harvard.edu/behind-the-book/erica-chenoweth-civil-resistance This is on Erica Chenoweth’s follow up book, “Civil Resistance: What everyone needs to know” (Oxford University Press).

2) The success of nonviolence civil resistance – Erica Chenoweth – 12 min – 2013

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJSehRlU34w

Critiques and reviews of the material include:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/24886176 and https://www.jstor.org/stable/24886190 (login to JSTOR required on both of these);

peter-gelderloos-the-failure-of-nonviolence.pdf

https://medium.com/@forstudentpower/erica-chenoweth-and-the-shoddiness-of-nonviolence-research-9944340b4365

https://roarmag.org/essays/chenoweth-stephan-nonviolence-myth/

https://regener-online.de/journalcco/2012_1/rezension_chenoweth.htm

https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/21cs.pdf

Billy King: Rites Again, 304

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Here is my pot-pourri for this month, or, given the content, perhaps my veggie hot pot…..[Or is it just you going to pot? – Ed]

Hopefully never taking off……

A considerable part of success in nonviolent action lies in creativity and imagination. Doing things differently, perhaps with humour or verve (not to mention nerve), can be vital. On the other hand repetition (e.g. walk ons at Shannon Airport) can also be symbolic, particularly where the potential cost to participants is high (legal charges lasting for years and the risk of a significant sentence in the case of Shannon walk ons).

But links are important too – what are the buttresses or pillars that hold up a particularly unjust policy? People around the world have been aghast at some of the goings on in British politics and policies, and none more than the dangerous and crazy, human rights destroying policy of exporting asylum seekers to Rwanda where they will be out of sight, out of mind – and probably driven out of their minds by being dumped thousands of miles away by a rich world system of screwing anybody unable to stand up freely for themselves – and a lot of those as well.

Lateral thinking on the ‘pillars of injustice’ front was what came to mind by news that an airline which had contracted to deport people from Britain to Rwanda had withdrawn. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/oct/21/airline-hired-uk-rwanda-deportations-pulls-out-privilege-style?CMP=share_btn_link

In this case, human rights and anti-torture activists, in opposing a woeful British government policy, put pressure not directly on the British government (which might be considered a bit of a lost cause, in more ways than one) but on a firm which had been willing (wiling?) to sell its soul to do the government’s bidding. Taking the anti-deportation case directly to bodies who do business with the firm and and other potential customers has succeeded; the firm realising that being a human rights destroyer was not a good image and likely to be detrimental to the business overall. So they have withdrawn. And hopefully that is a significant undermining of a British government policy that is inhuman, racist and a lot of other things beside.

So think laterally, and think of commercial pressure you can bring.

The home manager

The citizens of the Republic most likely face a referendum in 2023 on Article 41.2 of the Constitution which states “… the state recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” and “the state shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

There is more to this area than meets the eye. Of course this anachronistic and discriminatory piece in Bunreact na hÉireann should be obliterated and removed. But there are lots of issues herefamily, cultural, economic, human rights, and so on.

The term ‘housewife’ (a term not used in the Constitution) is also anachronistic. In the era of hybrid or remote working, many men are also in the home and it is up to a couple or the household to sort out who does what. Statistically women still do far more work in the home on housekeeping and child care than men but things have been changing even if equality may be some considerable distance away in heterosexual households.

If someone, woman or man – currently more likely to be a woman than a man – decides to stay at home to look after children and manage the home then that can be a Good Thing in terms of the family’s lifestyle and wellbeing. It is likely to lead to less pressure overall, and that can be good for all concerned, because combining paid work and looking after a home can be stressful. There are many tasks to be done about the home, especially with young children, including conveying them to pre-school or school, cleaning, washing, cooking and shopping, organising other eventualities such as doctors visits, play dates, and so on. There is a lot to be done.

Finance is an essential element in this. In many or most families today and in the recent past, if there are two adults then both may need to go ‘out’ to work to survive financially (today ‘out to work’ can mean paid work remotely at home), or they may prefer to do so. On the other hand if children are very young then creche fees may cancel out an adult’s pay. People can make their own decisions about what is possible and feels good for them and their family and it is right that people should have a choice without feeling constrained one way or another by norms and societal expectations. Making a statement in the Constitution about gender roles, except to support and promote gender equality, is inappropriate in 2023, whatever about 1937 (when the Constitution was first enacted). Providing adequate financially accessible support for pre-school children in creches where both parents work is a major issue in the Republic (and also in the North).

Finding a replacement for the term ‘housewife’ which is non-sexist and recognises the role a stay at home parent or a parent who does a significant amount of work in the home is a difficult one and it does not need to be in the Constitution. I would suggest the term ‘home manager’ – because that is what the role entails.

Taoiseach goes ballistic at the plain truth

He was raging. “Taoiseach Micheál Martin has angrily rejected an accusation that the Government is “cynically using Putin’s war to drive a coach and four through Ireland’s neutrality” https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/10/25/it-makes-my-blood-boil-taoiseach-rejects-accusation-the-government-is-using-putins-war-to-address-irelands-neutrality/

Oh no, he would never do that when it is as obvious as anything that is precisely what the three government parties (FF, FG and Greens) are doing and have been doing by both commission and omissionin alliance of course with others in elite circles including in the army and business. I am not saying they don’t want to do ‘right’ for Ukraine according to their views of what is ‘right’.

But hey, they didn’t need the excuse of the Ukraine war to support moving ever closer to EU and NATO militarism through Nice and Lisbon referenda, joining NATO’s so-called ‘Partnership for Peace’, and EU’s PESCO. The Ukraine war has been an added opportunity to get Ireland on board the militarist train.

But Martin let the cat out of the bag (or the missile out of the silo) in going on to say “I made it clear that we’re not joining Nato, that no government decision has been taken. People can have different perspectives on that. I suggest we have a citizen’s assembly in the fullness of time, but not now in the middle of this conflict, this war.” In other words it is clearly on the government agenda to move towards NATO membership and/or full EU-military participation, whatever proves possible; a citizens’ assembly would only be mooted if a change is desired. They just don’t judge the time to be the most opportune at the moment. If there was an open and accessible citizens’ assembly on the issue, as opposed to a government stitch up, then the peace movement and neutrality groups could face that eventuality with confidence as an opportunity to put their case. The political elite currently continually say ‘nothing to see here’ when their role has been to slowly whittle neutrality away until it is totally meaningless..

Frank Aiken, former Fianna Fáil Minister for External (i.e. Foreign) Affairs for 15 years in total in the 1950s and 1960s, and a stalwart campaigner for non-alignment and disarmament, would have something rather strong to say about the turncoat government of today and particularly his own party. How are the mighty peacemakers fallen.

Spicing it up

As some of you may remember [How could we forget?- Ed], I jump into matters culinary from time to time and have a wee publication on veggie and vegan cuisine to my name https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/ on this very site. [No one else would have published it? It sounds like you jumping from the frying pan into the oven – Ed] I am returning to this area of life because a request was made from a relation for suggestions about spicing up their cooking. Now I was wary of teaching my granny to boil a kettle (the vegan equivalent of teaching my granny to suck eggs…) and wanted to suggest fairly straightforward and easy ways to make meals more interesting. I thought it might be worth sharing a shorter and simpler version of what I shared with themsome suggestions are lacto-vegetarian and more are vegan. Bon appetit!

Using condiments: Try different pickles and sauces, perhaps from Asian/Chinese supermarkets; and there are some great Irish pickles and chutneys around that are well worth trying – or make your own;.use grated parmesan (or other grated or dried) cheese to put on top of stews and other food; use fried battered onion to add flavour and crunch on top of dishes (may be much cheaper in larger bags in Asian supermarkets); use nooch (nutritional yeast) as a topping (it is vegan), either plain nutritional yeast or mixed.

To make nooch ‘plant based parmesan equivalent’: Take 100 – 150g raw cashews, sunflowers or other nuts/seeds, 30 – 40g of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon garlic powder; salt to taste (needs very little, a sprinkle if you like, or none at all). Grind the mixture quite fine and keep in an airtight container, probably in the fridge. I am not sure I particularly like the US English word ‘nooch’ and think I would prefer something like ‘nuteast’ (a shortened word from ‘nutritional yeast’) but nooch it is.

Toppings

– Use mashed potato as a topping to turn a bean. lentil or other dish/stew into “shepherd’s pie”. You can use flavourings in the mash as well as butter and milk (or olive oil and plant based milk) such as wasabi/horseradish.

– Use a crumble topping to turn a bean or vegetable mix into a vegetable crumble. Mix vegetable oil with wholemeal flour until like breadcrumbs but add whatever herbs, curry, cheese, nutritional yeast to flavour and add umami (richness). Cook in oven for c.20 minutes.

– Use breadcrumbs, again with herb or spice flavourings, cheese or nutritional yeast, as a topping on bean or vegetable mixes. Cook in oven for c.15 minutes.

– For a cheap highly nutritious addition to crumble or breadcrumb toppings, add ground linseed (I use a coffee grinder); grinding makes the linseed more digestible. Golden linseed look better than brown but the latter are much cheaper and equally nutritious and look little different when mixed. Whole linseeds are much cheaper to buy than ground.

Accompaniments

– Roasted nuts or toasted seeds make an easy way to add a contrast, different taste (and protein). Lightly cover nuts in oil (a teaspoon or two and mix by hand) and lightly salt as desired; you can use a mixture of cashews and peanuts but cashews in particular can burn very easily so keep an eye on them, 15 minutes is probably plenty in the oven.

– Sunflower seeds can be dry toasted on a heavy pan over a low to medium heat, stirring and shaking frequently to see they don’t burn. When golden brown slope than pan so they bunch up and cover lightly with soya sauce and stir; the soya sauce will dry fast and as the salt is on the outside you get more taste for less sodium.

– Easy ‘sweet and sour’ sauce’; mix together tomato ketchup and half that volume of cider vinegar and less again of soya sauce; add water to double the volume and a small amount of sugar. Heat and add cornflour in water to thicken, stirring well, it will darken as it thickens, add more water if too thick.

And some fairly easy dishes:

Colcannon

Sauté onion and kale (or cabbage) in oil until cooked (you can use uncooked scallions instead of the onion) and mix with mashed potato which has plenty of butter or oil and milk (plant based if desired) added, and seasoning such as black pepper. It’s as Irish as champ.

Vegetable crumble

Sauté chopped veg until nearly cooked. Add parsley sauce or a tin of condensed soup. Top with crumble mix and cook in oven for 20 – 25 minutes.

Sesame fried cabbage

Sauté chopped cabbage or kale in toasted sesame oil and add sesame seeds, add more oil or a little bit of water if starting to burn – cook on medium heat, covered most of the time.

Nan bread pizza

Lightly sauté whatever ingredients you would like for the topping – onion, garlic, chilli, finely cut other veg such as broccoli, peppers etc. Cover nan bread with tomato puree and add sautéed veg on top. Cover with cheese or nutritional yeast/nooch and grill as desired.

Pasta

Add a jar of pesto to cooked pasta along with olives and/or dried tomatoes chopped, possibly tofu cubes, and/or anything else you fancy.

Gram (chick pea) flour

Make savoury pancakes with sieved gram flour (sieve or have lots of lumps) with chopped rosemary and other flavourings (e.g. curry, cajun spice, bouillon) and water. You can add bread soda if desired to help make the pancakes rise/be lighter but just adding water makes the batter, and for vegans – and coeliacs – that is obviously a better batter. Gram flour is also the basis of bhajis and pakoras.

Additions to stews etc: Try different flavourings including wasabi (horseradish), cajun spice and Marmite (yeast extract, other brands may be available); add nutritional yeast (flakes) for umami; try different soup stocks and bouillon powder (but go for ‘Reduced salt’ or ‘Low salt ’versions if you can because others can be very very salty); use coconut milk or (it’s cheaper) creamed coconut (blocks) to give things a different ‘east Asian’ flavour and umami; if roasting potatoes, add a mix of paprika and chilli (or other flavourings such as cajun spice) sprinkled over the oiled potatoes. Or do ‘roasted roots’ (e.g. carrot, parsnip, beetroot, onion as well as potato).

Only slaggin’

I can’t remember what it was in but the late Frank Kelly had an audio skit where he was an Irish reporter for the BBC describing the Irish sport of “slaggin’”. While much of slagging is not in strict accord with nonviolent communication, and can be rude and crude, it depends on the spirit it is offered and the spirit it is received, it can be good natured…..and it is obviously easier to be on the issuing end of slagging than the receiving end. It can be difficult, however, requiring considerable skill, to be a nonviolent slagger. And it can indeed be cruel if the slagee (person being slagged, I think I just invented a word….) takes great offence. However in Frank Kelly’s sport report it is dynamic in that the slagee comes back at the original slagger and so it goes on.

In the following thread referred to there are many instances where someone never wore a garment again after a particularly effective jibe, but there are some brilliantly innovative comments made on the spur of the moment. Indeed slagging seems to be an Irish sport, and that has minuses as well as pluses, though as a sport it is preferable to plain hurling abuse.

However you would want to have a stone sense of humour not to laugh at some of the thread about comments made to people about what they wore (and other comments) at https://twitter.com/janky_jane/status/1426981976142123010?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Sometimes people have been marked by a nickname for life after one evening or day’s sartorial incident. Many of these tales are shared by the slagee themselves. There are other major questions about Twitter with its recent elongated musky smell [Now that is really slaggin’ – Ed] – that it is likely to become even more tolerant of intolerance and hate speech, but we are not [the royal ‘we’? – Ed] exploring that here.

Not all comments on this thread are perceived sartorial misdemeanors one was about the son of a guy named Con Kearney who got called Chilli. But on clothing:

– “I wore a suit with a matching tie and pocket square to my first day of work at an advertising company (I thought I was going to be in Mad Men I guess) and the staff sent around and signed a communion card for me with a fiver in it.

– “I once wore a silver jacket to college, turned up late for class, said ‘sorry I’m late’, lecturer said, ‘that’s ok’ then waited til I was halfway across the front of the full class before following up with ‘trouble with the spaceship again was it?’. “

– “Early 90s Omagh, bloke comes into the bar wearing a puffa jacket, 120 notes it cost, everyone is mocking him, barman says ‘not sure why you’re mocking him I’ve one of those at home…’ lad getting mocked “See?” Barman continues ‘aye its round the immersion heater’ uproar

– “Back in Dublin after travelling S. America, decked out in a visually assaulting combo of zebra print leggings and tiger pattern knee high boots. Queuing into well known Dublin nightclub that evening was asked “Did you get let out of Dublin zoo or make a break for it yourself?”

Slagging can consist of severe and cruel put downs which are rather unfair to anyone on the receiving end but that is at its most negative. It’s not about slagging as such but put downs when I once get in trouble with someone well known on the peace scene for accompanying their article on affirmation in school situations with a word bubble cartoon. In that the teacher says “Can you give me an example of a ‘put up’ instead of a ‘put down’?” Reply: “How do I ‘put up’ with you?!”. Fair or unfair satire and humour? You judge. To me it was attempt to make the article lighter and therefore more accessible.

One time I felt justified in a bit of slagging was when someone arrived late for a committee where I was the paid secretary. He was an intelligent and useful but verbose participant who was known to arrive late from and/or leave early for another ‘important engagement’. He had just retired but continued his position on the committee concerned. As he came in rather late I said “I’m glad to see retirement hasn’t changed you….”. I got away with it and they didn’t sack me for it either (the sacking came later for other reasons….)

Well, if you are a soap fan you haven’t needed to look further than UK politics in the last couple of months for on the edge of your seat excitement and ‘follow-uppers’. In politics, boring can be good but with a near-billionaire now in charge in the UK, what could go wrong????? The UK economy on the wane isn’t good news for De Nort but as Larry Speight puts it eloquently in this issue, it’s a fairy tale to think the pie can keep getting bigger, and that’s still a fable that most people in most places believe in, including Ireland. When will the reality kick in that redistribution of wealth, along with a different lifestyle, is part of the answer? For a free printable A4 poster on this see https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ and scroll to “Economic Justice…[EJ]”

In the Northern hemisphere we are now approaching the Real Winter which may not be much fun for many people. So I hope you can stay warm and stay warm-hearted, until we meet again, I know where and I know when (the December issue), I remain, Yours truly, Billy.