Category Archives: Nonviolent News

Only issues of ‘Nonviolent News’ from 2021 onwards are accessible here. For older issues please click on the “Go to our pre-2021 Archive Website’ tag on the right of this page.

Nonviolent News supplement for August 2022

Hiroshima commemoration – Dublin

Irish CND will mark the 77th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, which took place on 6th August 1945, by holding the customary annual commemoration in Merrion Square in Dublin. The ceremony will take place at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square Park, at 1.10 p.m. on Saturday 6th August. There will be short speeches by Deputy Lord Mayor Darcy Lonergan, Japanese ambassador Mr Mitsuru Kitano, and Irish CND president Patrick Comerford. There will also be contributions of music and poetry, and a wreath of flowers will be laid at the tree at the close of the commemoration.

An estimated 80,000 people were directly killed by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, with casualties reaching 140,000 within a year. Approximately 14,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world today. While this is less than the Cold War peak, it is still enough to destroy life on earth as we know it many times over.

Irish CND go on to say “Sadly, the past year has seen the dark shadow of the possibility of nuclear war return to our consciousness in form of explicit threats from both Russia and North Korea – chilling reminders that there is still much to be done before the world is free from the menace of nuclear annihilation. On the positive side, the first meeting of states under the auspices of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons took place just weeks ago in Vienna, and agreed a strong concluding Declaration and Action Plan. We must meet darkness with positive hope and determination.”

They ask that those attending to be familiar with current public health advice on appropriate measures aimed at minimising the risk from Covid-19 .They conclude “Wherever you are, even if you are not in a position to join us in person this year, please do join us in spirit to stand in solidarity with the victims of these horrific weapons of mass destruction, and to affirm our determination to work for their elimination, the only way to ensure that the ghastly events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not be repeated.”

Hiroshima commemoration – Galway

The Hiroshima event organised by GAAW/Galway Alliance Against War takes place on Saturday 6th August, 2pm at Eyre Square, Galway City; the guest speaker is Roger Cole (Peace & Neutrality Alliance) with music, speech and song lasting around an hour. This marks the anniversary of the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki by the USA, the legacy of nuclear weapons, and the very real threat of nuclear warfare today. GAAW asks people to bring along any placards, flags or literature that they wish to display or distribute, or any food/drink that they may wish to share out – “food not bombs!”GAAW goes on to say that this year’s theme is defending Irish neutrality, which is under severe threat from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, and the Greens, with pressure to join an EU army and NATO.

AFRI statement on PESCO and Commission on Defence Forces

Afri issued a statement in early July on PESCO and the Commission on the Defence Forces. They state “The debate on PESCO in Dáil Éireann on 5th July has revealed the undemocratic and damaging approach of the Government to the role and future of our Defence Forces.

For decades now, governments have been entering into ever deeper military engagement with an increasingly NATO-directed EU ‘defence’ structure, while claiming that something they call ‘military neutrality’ allegedly hovers unharmed above the fray.

The decisive majority of the people of Ireland – the ultimate owners of our defence policy – know that neutrality flows from the clear, practical commitments of Article 29 to ‘peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations… the pacific settlement of international disputes… [and] the generally recognised principles of international law.’ “

They go on to say that one of the most alarming aspects of the recent debate is Minister Coveney’s explicit promotion of the new PESCO engagements as choices made not by the Government but by the Defence Forces themselves.

The Government is eager for yet more involvement with PESCO, while An Taoiseach vaguely muses at the NATO summit in Madrid that ‘to change neutrality is something that ultimately the Irish people would have to have a say in’. He seems to forget that under Article 6 of the Constitution the Irish people have not ‘a say in’ but rather the say over such vital matters as defence and security.”

The Report also proposes upgrading the Army Ranger Wing to ‘Ireland’s Special Operations Force (IRL SOF) to align to international norms’ (p. 66). And the Commission know where those ‘norms’ come from: ‘NATO standards have become the accepted standard‐setting benchmarks for modern military forces’ (p. 57).” And Afri asks “what standards of behaviour does NATO’s record from Kosovo to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, uphold?”


l A discussion on Newstalk radio including Afri coordinator Joe Murray on the increase in the spending on the Irish Army can be found at while a look at the history and potential of Irish neutrality by John Maguire can be found on the Afri website at

Mairead Maguire statement on NATO

A statement by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire on ‘NATO – the US dominated global war machine’ can be found at In this she states that NATO’s purpose has been “ to act as an instrument for US world domination and to prevent all challenges to US hegemony”. She goes on to say “Now is the time for dialogue and those western Political leaders who stoke the fire of fear, division, and hate in Ukraine, instead of calling for ceasefire and negotiation, must consider the misery brought upon the poor people that most live with the horrors of war.”


An hour long discussion with INNATE members has been screened on Belfast’s community TV station NVTV (divided into two half hour slots) available at and recorded in June 2022. The topic was ‘Exploring nonviolent approaches to conflict and social change issues’, including discussion of the arms trade, security, and the war in Ukraine. The participants were Stefania Gualberti, who acted as interviewer, along with Mark Chapman and Rob Fairmichael. NVTV’s online content in general is available at

Good Relations Week

Good Relations Week in Northern Ireland, on the theme ‘Change starts with us’, takes place from 19th – 25th September and a guide to possible involvement, a ‘toolkit’, is available on the website at The deadline for submissions is 26th August.

Spirit AeroSystems role in new UK military helicopter

It seemed that no sooner had the news come out that engineering firm Spirit AeroSystems (ex-Bombardier) in Belfast was no longer involved in developing a military drone (‘Loyal Wingman’) for the RAF (see NN 301) than it was announced they are part of a conglomerate in a project to create the H175M military helicopter for the UK Ministry of Defence.

FOE Climate Justice Youth Gathering, Wicklow

As this news supplement goes out, a Climate Camp is starting in Tarbert, Co Kerry, organised by Slí Eile However later in August, Friends of the Earth is hosting a Climate Justice Youth Gathering from 21st to 24th August for people between 18-30. It will feature four days of campaign and action planning, skillshares and capacity building in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. This gathering will help shape the activities that Young Friends of the Earth does over the coming year. Places are limited and applications close on the 5th August. More information and apply at

The next, full, issue of Nonviolent News is for September with a deadline of 1st September. This is a short supplement with mainly time-limited or immediate information, not a full issue



Report on violence against women and girls in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Women’s Policy Group research findings on this topic are published in a 66-page report with a summary at and a link to the full report. There is a powerful case study at the start of the report and the statistic thatin their anonymous online survey, which had 1065 responses, 83% of  women  had been impacted by men’s violence against women and girls but only 21.4% reported this to the police. The three key themes emerging were “1. The importance of education, 2. Our justice system is failing victims, 3. Men’s violence must be directly addressed.“

Bystander’ approach at Stormont to gender violence

The Ending Violence Against Women and Girls directorate at Stormont, which is working on a strategy on the issue, organised a conference on 28th June which heard from USA activist Jackson Katz. The ‘Bystander’ approach (which title might be misconstrued) to gender violence and bullying prevention, advocated by Katz and others, instead of focusing on women as victims and men as perpetrators of harassment, abuse or violence, concentrates on the role of peers, wherever they may be, in challenging violence and sexism. “The goal is to help people move from being passive bystanders to being empowered and active ones, and thus contribute to a change in the social acceptability of harassment, abuse or violence.” NI Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey quoted that “Statistics from 2019 show that during the 18/19 period, 69% of all domestic abuse crime victims were women and 86% of all perpetrators were men.” Wordsearch ‘Bystander approach’ and ‘Jackson Katz’ for more info on the ‘Bystander’ approach.

Stiofán Nutty joins Mediators’ Institute as first CEO

Stiofán Nutty has been appointed and started work as the first CEO of MII/The Mediators’ Institute of Ireland. Welcoming his appointment, President of the MII Ber Barry-Murray outlined his wide ranging and relevant work experience, and said he will support the MII Council in the implementation of its vision and strategy and be responsible for the operational management of the Institute. See photo at The MII website is at

Enda Young as new director of Mediation NI

Enda Young has been appointed as the new managing director of Mediation Northern Ireland/MNI, taking up the appointment in September. Welcoming Enda to MNI, co-chairs of the Board of Trustees Dr Catherine Turner and Rosie Timoney commentedWe are delighted to be able to welcome Enda to the role of Director. Enda represents a bridge between the past and the future of the organisation. He brings not only a wealth of experience but great creative energy to the role, and we look forward to working with him to shape the next chapter of MNI’s story.”

Another trial postponed: Edward Horgan, Dan Dowling

The trial of Edward Horgan and Dan Dowling for a nonviolent action at Shannon Airport in April 2017, due to begin on 15th June, has, disappointingly, been postponed to January 2023. A backlog of cases was cited as the reason. See (written before postponement of the trial).

ICCL launches 5-year plan

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties/ICCL launched its strategic plan for 2022-2026 at its AGM on 30th June; this covers work in the four areas where it feels it can make a real difference in the promotion and protection of human rights: the administration of justice, equality and discrimination, democratic freedoms, and digital rights. See

l ICCL’s report to the UN Human Rights Council, which examines Ireland’s record on 4th and 5th July, can be found at while It is expected the rights body will hold the government to account on issues such as facial recognition technology, trans and intersex rights, and Direct Provision. The session will be available to watch from 3pm on Monday 4th and continuing on 5th July;

CR Week in the North: “Change starts with us”

Co-ordinated by the Community Relations Council, Good Relations Week in Northern Ireland will run from Monday 19th to Sunday 25th September this year with an anticipated programme of up to 300 events from a diverse range of organisations.. It will include a mixture of workshops, lectures, panel discussions, feature talks, podcasts, music and dance performances, storytelling and exhibitions. It aims to focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to highlight the political, social, economic, and environmental challenges we face and how good community relationships are fundamental to enabling work together to promote inclusive and sustainable growth. Info and link for registration at

l The CRC Small Grants Scheme to help community and voluntary groups throughout Northern Ireland engage in Community Relations work is open until 16th December this year. See

Spirit AeroSystems military drone cancelled by British MoD

The project developing the ‘Loyal Wingman’ drone at Spirit Aerosystems in Belfast for the British Ministry of Defence/RAF has been cancelled at design stage, see While not stated it is clear that this is because the design does not work for the purpose intended although the chair of Spirit AeroSytems pronounced that there were “useful results” from the work.

CAJ, Human Rights Consortium oppose ‘Removal of Rights’ Bill

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Consortium, which has the involvement of almost 170 civil society organisations, has strongly opposed the UK’s attempt to remove the Human Rights Act. Kevin Hanratty, director of the Consortium, said “The proposed legislation is a power grab on an epic scale which will limit the rights of individuals to hold the government to account for its actions………The UK Governments proposals, if enacted, would represent a substantial weakening of rights and a violation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement by effectively scrapping the Human Rights Act (HRA)……The proposals are clearly at odds with the views of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland and across the UK who value the role that this legislation has played in protecting us.”

lCAJ, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, has strongly opposed the UK’s ‘Bill of Rights Bill’ stating that it could more aptly be called a ‘Removal of Rights Bill’ since it will weaken existing protections and destroy rights instead of protecting them. They state “Amongst other things, this law is a direct attack on the Good Friday Agreement. Full incorporation of the European Convention in domestic law was a key aspect of the Agreement. Since then, the Human Rights Act has become part of the fabric of good governance in Northern Ireland, not least by underpinning the police reform process. “ See

CCI helping traumatised children in Ukraine

Chernobyl Children International (CCI) is providing children on the frontline with vital rest and recuperation in their homeland. Children in the Chernobyl zone (Ivankiv region) are facing a double tragedy; firstly, from the physical war in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and then upon liberation by the Ukrainian Army, the subsequent exposure to a detrimental elevation in radiation levels from what is being called the second but “invisible war” of radiation. CCI have partnered with humanitarian organisation, Caritas Ukraine, to provide a safe ‘haven’ in the Carpathians in Western Ukraine, for children to travel to for a much-needed break from the hostile environments that they are currently living in. See and you can donate through the website.

Videos from GAAW and StoP: War, EU militarisation

The video of the recent Galway Alliance Against War and Free Assange Ireland webinar “If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth” can be found at including Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, and Harry Browne. The video of the StoP/Swords to Ploughshares webinar “EU militarisation, Irish neutrality and the war in Ukraine: the case for peace” with contributors including Miriam Ryan, Niamh Ní Bhriain, Jan Oberg and Eamon Rafter is at

Corrymeela: Courage to lament

A video of an ecumenical service organised by Corrymeela on 21st June, and others, to reflect on the conflict in and about Northern Ireland and the future is available at using the biblical practice of lament.

Museum of Peace

The virtual Museum of Peace put together at St Andrew’s University in Scotland is worth a visit:


See for next steps in eliminating nuclear weapons.

War on West Papua

A new and informative website on West Papua is online at  – it has been put together by WagePeace, War Resisters’ International, and Make West Papua Safe. As well as background information it lists the countries and companies arming Indonesia and thereby assisting its occupation of West Papua (which has no democratic mandate). There will be a launch webinar on 6thJuly at 10am Irish time: see

Editorials: Irish neutrality under attack, Not following Protocol, Ukraine war of attrition

Irish neutrality under sustained direct attack

Naomi Klein in her book “The Shock Doctrine” details how capitalism can use economic and political crises, of whatever cause, as a means to extend its grip on society and overcome democratic norms and control. In the same way the exponents of ditching Irish neutrality have been using the war in Ukraine as a means to leverage Ireland (the Republic) towards NATO and a fully fledged EU army, and attempting to circumvent Irish popular opinion.

This is despite the fact that there is no threat to Ireland from anyone and that some Irish policies associated with neutrality have been an important contribution to peace in Europe and the world. The idea that because Ireland is a ‘good’ member of the EU that it should contribute militarily is a non sequitur; it can be strongly argued that the EU surge to militarism is precisely a reason why Ireland should resist, stand back, and make a very different and peaceful contribution rather than adding a few cents worth of militarism (metaphorically speaking – PESCO entails a massive increase in Irish military spending at a time when the climate crisis demands immediate action and massive expenditure, and domestic issues like housing in the Dublin area need considerable resources to fix). But issues of ‘human security’ tend to lose out to perceived ‘military security’ which is a chimera.

The move to ditch Irish neutrality is nothing new. It has been going on before and since Ireland joined what was then the EEC in 1972. It has gradually built momentum through Nice and Lisbon treaties, through involvement in NATO’s ‘Partnership for Peace’ (sic or sick?), and joining PESCO. At each stage the government and Irish political elite have said ‘Nothing to see here – Irish neutrality is safe’ as they lied through their teeth.

Now, however, with the war on Ukraine there has been the perceived opportunity to come out openly to speak about joining NATO or being fully integrated in EU militarism – and since the EU is increasingly becoming the European arm of NATO, there is very little distinction. There is the usually unexpressed feeling or impression that EU military power would be used ‘constructively’. There is no evidence for this and much evidence against it if you look at the history of the larger military powers involved (or, in the case of Britain, who have been involved and still very much part of NATO). European state backing for the USA’s military escapades, and the ‘Fortress Europe’ approach to borders now adopted by the EU, do not augur well; nor does the ‘European Defence Fund’ or other moves to back the arms industry and develop a unified EU military structure (army).

Once a military empire is established then that power will be used for its own interests. We have spoken before about how the EU will, on current projections, become a player in resource wars later in the 21st century. Of course it will all be wrapped up in verbiage about humanitarian intervention and “we have to intervene” but it will be a revamped empire (including the former imperial powers) flexing its military muscle.

There is also the unspoken idea that EU military developments is part of internationalism. It is not. It is supranationalism, the creation of a new supranational unit which is likely to act as an empire just as much as the USA has in the past or may in the future. Internationalism is a concern for, and engagement with, the whole world and its institutions such as the United Nations. Many EU developments, economically and militarily, are the antithesis of internationalism.

The moves away from Irish neutrality have been spearheaded (sic) by Fine Gael and fully backed by Fianna Fáil. Parties such as the Greens have not stood up for what they might supposedly have believed in. Whether a Sinn Féin led government, presuming such comes to pass after the next election in the Republic, fully stands up for neutrality remains to be seen but it is to be hoped that it would. Some other influential parts of civil society and the military have also been keen on developing EU/NATO militarism.

Seán and Seánín Citizen, however, have had other views. Polls have consistently shown popular support for neutrality has been strong, and maintained even after the Russian war on Ukraine. The citizens have, however, been taken in by protestations by the political elite that each step taken away from meaningful neutrality and in step with EU militarism has not affected Irish neutrality. Clearly it has. And now that Ireland has moved closer to EU and NATO militarism the question of NATO membership is openly raised.

Micheál Martin spoke recently about a ‘constitutional assembly’ which may be a much more limited and circumscribed affair which will be designed to give the nod to joining an EU army in full; this term, ‘constitutional assembly’, is a new one to emerge which may indicate an attempt to fix the debate. See

Martin subsequently said that a referendum would not be necessary before joining NATO: “We need to reflect on military non-alignment in Ireland and our military neutrality. We are not politically neutral. We don’t need a referendum to join Nato. That’s a policy decision of government.” This view or eventuality is a very worrying one,

He went on that “We would need a referendum to join a European Union defence pact, if one was formally developed and declared, because there are provisions in our constitution that would demand such a referendum.”

Can the Irish public finally make a stand against the encroachment of NATO and EU militarism on Irish neutrality? Can the final ‘neutralising’ (annihilation) of Irish neutrality be avoided? Will the Irish government succeed in its mission (and it is seen as a mission by them) to become a full part of western militarism? We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of conscientisation to engage in. Don’t just watch this space – engage.

If there is a level playing field and opportunity to put forward the arguments for peace and a meaningful neutrality then there is a lot of hope that the argument could be won by the forces for peace, and that the drift to militarism could finally be halted and reversed. But the government and forces working for militarism are not keen to give the people a meaningful say, or, if they have to, they will obfuscate the issues as much as possible. Navigating the dangers ahead is perilous but if we don’t then we face far greater dangers in the future – to which we will be making a negative contribution.

Not following Protocol

We may be repeating ourselves here somewhat, but who would have believed that a century and a half after ‘the Irish question’ came to dominate British politics that ‘the Irish question (post-Brexit)’ would still be a prominent theme in Westminster and the parliament there. The British government negotiating with itself in its proposals for dealing with the Northern Ireland Protocol, an internationally agreed treaty, is a fascinating spectacle of the ruling elite in a country not only losing their marbles but blowing up the drain to find them (cf “Wee Willie’s lost his marley” ). The British government’s contempt for Northern Ireland is clearly shown in its legacy proposals which are supported by no substantial bodies of any kind in Ireland., North or South.

The British government protests that it is doing what it is doing in relation to the Protocol is to protect the Good Friday Agreement and restore power sharing. The DUP meanwhile, having pragmatically shifted to full on opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol for which they were partly responsible, gives no guarantees for when they will engage at Stormont and never formally backed the Good Friday Agreement anyway which they vehemently opposed in 1998. The fact that an arithmetic majority of MLAs in the NI Assembly back the Protocol, as it can and should be amended by agreement, does not seem to have impinged on the British government who again – having previously done a deal with the DUP to stay in power – are acting in the interests of one particular section in the North. But, of course, the most reprehensible and irresponsible aspect of all this is the British government using Northern Ireland for its own political purposes.

In addition, it is clear that an increasing majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want the Protocol ditched but do want it amended, and do not support opposition to the Protocol as a reason for opposing powersharing at Stormont.

There are important issues to be dealt with regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol. There may also be the possibility to involve Northern politicians in the UK-EU structures dealing with the Protocol, to resolve the question of a ‘democratic deficit’ on the issue. Of course unionists have every right to be concerned. The EU could also be more flexible but the British government has positively discouraged this by its intransigence. The British government does not seem to have read any negotiation manuals which state clearly that trust is an important part of fair and principled negotiation. In unprincipled negotiation however you can negotiate with yourself and lie through your teeth.

Ways need to be found to assuage the anxiety of unionists but some unionist leaders act as if they still ‘own’ Northern Ireland. It was ‘their’ British government which signed a binding international agreement with the EU. British rule still exists in Northern Ireland, it remains part of the United Kingdom and the alternatives to a limited ‘Irish Sea border’ have even less to recommend them. A ‘hard border’ between the Six and Twenty-Six counties would be dangerous and even more inconvenient to ordinary people and a border between the Republic and the EU is not going to be acceptable to the Republic which had no hand in deciding that the UK would leave the EU.

The Northern Ireland Protocol has problems and opportunities; negotiation and full cooperation is the way to minimise the problems and maximise the opportunities. In what is partly an argument between unionist-leaning and nationalist-leaning economists and analysts about the effects of the Protocol on the Northern economy it is still too early to be certain but the pudding will be well cooked in a year or three and it can be properly tasted and tested then. As with most changes, some people win and some people lose. The continuation of the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol debacle in its current form means everyone loses except Boris Johnson and his band of blustering Brexiteers, and unionists and loyalists in the North who thrive on strife.

A war of attrition

The war in or on Ukraine continues unabated. It is now a war of attrition in the east of the country with Russia slowly gaining ground, at vast human and financial cost to all concerned. Both sides carefully guard information about what is actually happening, and we mainly get pro-Ukrainian views in Ireland but Ukraine could be losing up to 200 soldiers a day, that is 200 soldiers killed and many more wounded. Whether Russia will open up new military fronts elsewhere in Ukraine remains uncertain though it looks like they will continue to hit civilian targets anywhere.

Russia’s losses, meanwhile, in a few months have well overtaken those in their decade long occupation of Afghanistan (15,000 plus), and will also overtake the USA’s military losses in Vietnam at around 50,000 deaths (the Vietnam war was very asymmetric in terms of losses with millions of lives lost in Vietnam itself and neighbouring countries due to US carpet bombing).

Wars are easy to start and difficult to end, certainly to get ‘wrapped up’, as was discovered in the western military debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq. The hopelessness of a war of attrition is a pitiful thing. The trauma and lasting effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine will, whatever the outcome, last for generations. And if Russia succeeds in annexing much of the east of the country then it will be a lasting grievance for Ukraine; if Ukraine manages to retake some or all of their territory, thanks to western armaments, the human cost will still be catastrophic.

We have previously spoken about nonviolent civilian resistance or defence in relation to Ukraine (and Ireland) – see and editorials. This would entail a struggle with a different trajectory and time frame; it would mean the struggle continuing but without the current loss of life and destruction of infrastructure. People often accuse those believing in nonviolence or pacifism of being simplistic and defeatist; when we see the human cost and trauma of the war in Ukraine, we wonder if it is the believers in militarism who are being simplistic. There is no end to the war in sight. Putin, having made a monumental mistake in invading Ukraine, dare not admit he was totally mistaken by settling for less than what he can proclaim as ‘victory’. And NATO will fight to the last drop of Ukrainian blood.

Eco-Awareness: The choices we make about food

by Larry Speight

Imagine going to the market, leaving with three full bags of groceries and coming home. Before you step through your door, you stop and throw one of the bags into a trash bin, which is later hauled away to a landfill. What a waste. Collectively, that is exactly what we are doing today. Globally, 30 to 40 percent of food intended for human consumption is not eaten.”

(Chad Frischmann and Mamta Mehra, Scientific America, Spring/Summer 2022)

This statement succinctly sums up the cause of many of the ecological problems that are overwhelming the life-support systems of the planet which in turn undermine the ability of global society to meet the basic needs of all of its members.

Food waste is a crying shame in a world where an estimated 800 million people are perpetually hungry, which is one in eight people. Aside from this unnecessary suffering food waste is a major contributor to deforestation and by extension loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, soil depletion, the demise in the number of insects and insect species, air pollution and global warming. In regards to the latter food waste accounts for 8 percent of global warming gases. Such is the extent of the food industry’s dependency on fossil fuels there is probably not a single item of food in your kitchen that would not be there but for fossil fuels.

Thankfully the scourge of food waste is something we are able to immediately do something about. The means is valuing food more than the money we paid for it. If we saw food for what it is, which is one of the essentials of life, we might, as has long being the case, regard it as sacred. As we don’t throw what we regard as sacred, as having emotional value, into a rubbish bin, this would be the case with food if it were held in this regard.

To see food as having a value that transcends money, we need to appreciate all that it embodies. There is the accumulated knowledge of our ancestors, passed by word of mouth over thousands of years about which plants are edible, how they should be grown, harvested, stored and prepared for eating. Likewise with animals destined to be eaten. There were the cultural exchanges and trade that allowed the food of one culture to become the stable of another far distant one. There is also the physiology and biology of the plants and animals themselves as well as the ecosystem that sustains them. Not to be forgotten is the skill and care of the people who prepare our food, the time and effort it takes to earn the money to buy it, bring it home and pay for the gas or electricity that enables it to be cooked.

In our culture much of the food sold in shops is the outcome of intense processing and obscure packaging which has resulted in it no longer resembling food as we have known it through millennia. Walk along any supermarket aisle and we will find food marketed as cartoon-type entertainment, this is particularly the case with many breakfast cereals aimed at children. Food often comes in packaging whose images of happiness and wellbeing can never be realised. The marketing of foods as something which they are not, along with their fabricated colour and texture, makes it easy to throw them into the bin long before their sell-by date.

Aside from reducing the multitude of negative effects food waste has on the biosphere there is a further reason for households, and the whole food industry, to abolish food waste which is the sharp rise in inflation. In Northern Ireland it is 9.1% and expected to reach 11% this autumn. In the Irish Republic it is expected to rise to something close to the North within the same time period.

One simple way to curtail food waste and save money is to cook at home rather than buy take-away meals. Sandwiches made in your kitchen can be just as tasty as those bought in a shop, with the added benefit that they don’t have throw-away packaging.

A change that most people can make, with ever higher returns, is to grow as much of their own food as possible. This will not only save money on an ongoing basis but do wonders for one’s physical health and sense of wellbeing as well as benefit the planet. If you don’t have a garden, you could ask a neighbour if you could use theirs in return for a share of the food you grow. You could also ask your local council to provide you and your neighbours with an allotment. Reducing your intake of meat and diary will not only save money but improve your health as well as that of the Earth.

In a world dominated by conglomerates, powerful financial institutions and incompetent governments, all of whom believe in the myth of continual economic growth and that they are entitled to do with the biosphere as they wish, we still have the power to enhance our own lives and improve the health of the biosphere. Much of this power lies the choices we make about food.

Readings in Nonviolence: It doesn’t say in the papers

by Rob Fairmichael

All media have a bias – Nonviolent News certainly does, and saying you are ‘unbiased’ is a bit like saying you don’t have an accent; as Oscar Wilde said, ‘Vulgarity is the conduct of other people’. Of course you can be unbiased between particular options but that is also a position. In the same way, Irish neutrality is a position, at its best a strong stand against militarism and for peaceful approaches to conflict.

In putting together these letters sent to The Irish Times, mainly from the INNATE email account as coordinator of INNATE (except where marked as from a personal account) this collection serves as a commentary not just on what appeared in said paper but also on issues in relation to Ukraine, militarism and neutrality. It can be seen as a reflection on what countercultural views can make it into mainstream media; letters were unpublished except as noted.

Most of the points made in these unpublished letters were not made by anyone else, and in some cases no critical comments were published in relation to editorial content referred to. Anyone interested can follow up with searches on The Irish Times website (which permits a limited number of reads before going behind a paywall).

The Irish Times is regarded as the nearest thing to an Irish ‘paper of record’. There can of course be hundreds of reasons why letters are not published; irrelevance, incoherence, repetition, being considered ‘off the wall’ (though one person’s ‘wall’ can be part of another person’s ‘home’), and practical reasons concerning lack of space. Being perceived to be ‘self serving’ (having a narrow personal or vested interest) can also be a factor though arguably all ‘letters to the editor’ are ‘self serving’ in some way.

There are a number of ‘regular correspondents’ published and it cannot be said that the newspaper in question does not publish letters from this correspondent – four were published in the time frame represented here. However, whatever editorial or sub-editorial policies are in place, publication or non-publication can make a difference as to whether letters and accepted (or commissioned) articles are seen as as being definitive or controversial.

Peace movements (e.g. in the USA) and their viewpoints can be invisible to the general public not because they don’t exist but because their work and positions are not easily accessible in the mass media – and this invisibility can be true even in this era of social media where you can’t see the wood for the trees unless you make a conscious effort. However coverage in ‘social media’, as with the publication of these letters, can be a slight antidote to the lack of representation of alternative views in the mainstream. But it also represents the struggle which alternative views have to go through to get their voice heard.

The layout of letters published may vary from what was sent.

l13/12/21 from personal email a/c

Helen Haughton asks is anyone interested in Ireland being an Island of Peace. Yes is the answer but you would not know it from the political parties or media.

On 7th December there was the start of a major peace initiative relating to both sides of the border, the Downpatrick Declaration, with the launch including Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. There was a stunning lack of coverage in the national media. Meanwhile when two men forcefully stop a bus in Newtownards, threaten the driver and burn the bus, it receives blanket coverage.

Some contradiction here?

[No responses to Helen Haughton’s letter were published]

l10/2/22 Published 12/2/22 [with last sentence/question omitted]

We have now had the report from the Commission on the Defence Forces. It is to be hoped we will soon have a Commission on Peacemaking to examine how Ireland can contribute, and in what meaningful ways, to peace in the world given Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann which commits Ireland to peace and the pacific resolution of international disputes. And if not, why not?


There is an anti-war movement in Ireland (Owen Jones, 2nd March) consisting of a wide variety of different groups. The fact that this is not very visible is not the fault of said groups, and, like the anti-war movement in the USA, tends to be ignored by the media.


Nonviolent resistance to invasion and repression is also possible. Military action and NATO are not the only game in town. If we don’t realise this and learn about it then we do the people of Ukraine – and ourselves – a great disservice, especially as Russia tries to bomb Ukraine and its people out of existence.

l7/3/22 Published 8/4/22

Seamus Murphy is quite right (7th March) that Irish neutrality, as practised by Irish governments in recent times, has been immoral. To back the USA’s warmaking in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the massive loss of life and destruction involved, through the US military use of Shannon Airport is unforgivable. Ireland should be much more active in developing a positive neutrality and, perhaps, if a guarantee of neutrality by Ukraine had been made then Putin would not have felt he had enough of an excuse to launch his murderous invasion of that country.

While many are rushing in a militarist direction, there is a need for cool heads and work to head off violent conflict in the future. That is a positive role for Irish neutrality which polls have consistently shown as by far the preferred option by citizens; it needs developed considerably, not cast aside.


Fintan O’Toole (15th March) is simply wrong to state that “There is no viable immediate response to the violence unleashed by Putin that does not include the counter-violence of Ukrainians resisting the annihilation of their country.” The longer this war goes on the more of the country’s people and infrastructure will be annihilated by Putin’s orders. Nonviolent resistance to invasion and oppression is not easy but it is possible, in such circumstances, in many different ways including disguised disobedience. That is a lesson that Ireland, in looking at its strategic defence, should also consider.

Nonviolent resistance tends to happen spontaneously, and has been taking place in areas already taken by Russian forces. How much more effective might it be if prepared for? Yes, the Russians could take the territory but Ukrainians could remain unbowed and live to struggle for their freedom. Military forces and their commanders, including macho militarist Putin, do not know how to deal with nonviolent resistance which research has shown to be more effective than violence in resistance campaigns.


Elizabeth Cullen’s suggestion of an Irish centre for the non-violent resolution of conflict (16th March) is an excellent suggestion which would be fully in accord with the constitution and its spirit. However I would suggest that such a centre could go further, beyond anything stipulated in Bunreacht na hÉireann, to explore the possibilities of nonviolent resistance.

There are a myriad of possibilities for the latter, including for the purposes of resistance to invasion, and this would also add to the chances of the ‘pacific settlement of international disputes’. Research shows that nonviolent resistance in campaigns is more effective that violent.


At last someone has uttered the word ‘non-violence’ (or nonviolence) in your pages (Breda O’Brien, 19th March). All that those who believe in nonviolence and nonviolent resistance ask is that it is judged equally with violent resistance and the Stephan and Chenoweth study that Breda O’Brien refers to does that. There are others beyond the late Gene Sharp who have been developing both the study of concrete historical examples and the outlining of possibilities for the future. Gene Sharp came up with a listing of 198 varieties of nonviolent tactics; it could be 19,800.

In the case of Ireland there is much that we can learn from all this in terms of our security. While I would personally go for a totally nonviolent defence, if we collectively continue to believe in ‘non-offensive defence’ then we could actually combine major elements of nonviolent defence in the mix.


Ronan McGreevy (2nd April) points to the danger of nuclear war but makes the hoary old ‘popular wisdom’ statement that nuclear weapons and the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction “have done more to keep the peace” since WW2. Than what? And what about the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the Iran-Iraq war, and in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or now Ukraine? A balance of terror does not, and did not, make for ‘peace’ or prevent wars.

Furthermore nuclear weapons are illegal in international law since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into effect early in 2021 – although this has been ignored by nuclear-armed states (including our neighbours Britain and France) and their fellow travellers, not least in NATO.


Pat Leahy (9th April) speaks of the Government being likely to argue for an “evolution” of neutrality. “Evolution” in this context might be understood as the same kind of thing as when the asteroid hit earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, i.e. annihilation. And Pat Leahy does not do justice to the possibilities of a fearless and positive neutrality as a force for peace on the world stage; we need an exploration of this to put alongside cosying up to NATO and its divisiveness.

l20/4/22 Published 23/4/22

While public opinion remains steadfastly in favour of Irish neutrality, we have not even begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities of a positive neutrality policy in relation to peace in the world. NATO is in the business of military confrontation, including the nuclear option (now illegal in international law), whereas Ireland could, and should, be doing so much more for peace internationally.

Government policy for decades has been to whittle away at neutrality in the hope that it could finally be ditched. What is needed is rapid progress in the opposite direction. A citizens’ assembly on the issue might be the opportunity to explore all these possibilities but it can be expected that, given current public opinion, even at a time of such belligerence in Europe, the government will now shy away from that option because it knows it would not get the result it wants.


Edward Horgan is quite right (22nd April) to make a strong connection between the EU and NATO and it can be argued that the EU is becoming the European wing of NATO. But what is a shocking new departure for the EU is its active support for the violent and corrupt arms trade – a field in which the government supports Irish firms getting involved. Ireland is a case study in a recent report Fanning the Flames: How the European Union is fuelling a new arms race” through its European Defence Fund.

Thales arms company in Belfast proudly proclaims its equipment being used by Ukraine; it is less keen to publicise that its equipment is also used in Russian war planes and tanks, illustrating that the arms trade will make profits wherever it can. Meanwhile Ireland has not even begun to explore the peacemaking possibilities of active neutrality.


There are many practical as well as ethical issues about the arms trade; just one is that it is an extremely poor producer of jobs for the investment involved (compared to other sectors). But to take a contemporary issue, the big French owned arms company Thales, which has a major arms production plant in Belfast, is fighting on both sides in the Ukraine war. Thales has components in Russian war planes and tanks as well as equipping Ukraine with anti-tank weapons but perhaps that is the arms trade definition of success, making ‘a killing’ from both sides. And a purchaser is not necessarily the end point for arms; it is notoriously difficult to control where arms go once sold.

Conor Gallagher (25th April) mentioned the existence of an arms trade industry body, IDSA, but he did not mention the existence of an all-island network opposing the involvement of Ireland in the arms trade, StoP/Swords to Ploughshares. And in the light of the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the pain and suffering involved, surely it is evident that Ireland needs the arms trade like it needs a hole in the head.


There is more than one way to stop a tank despite Rebecca Crowley stating (27th April) that “the only thing which can stop an advancing tank is an anti-tank missile”. How about not producing them to begin with (and Russian tanks have western components including from Thales which has an arms production plant in Belfast), or ensuring demilitarisation on the part of our perceived ‘enemies’ through arms reduction? And if that doesn’t work then nonviolent resistance, of many kinds, including the likes of Prague in 1968.

Nazi generals interrogated after the Second World War were clearly at a loss as to how they could deal with nonviolent resistance, as British officer Basil Liddell Hart attested. It is wholly understandable that Ukraine chose to resist Russian aggression militarily. But while those believing in nonviolent resistance are sometimes categorised as naive or simplistic, as the war goes on perhaps it is those who believe in violent resistance against superior (if in the case of Russia, poorly organised) forces that are being simplistic as the horrifying human cost of the war continues to mount.


Derek Scally (18th May) is highly insulting to the majority of the population of this island in saying that “those in Ireland who oppose investment in defence are peace squanderers.” It happens that those who want to develop Irish neutrality in a positive direction have a very different vision of what peace should entail and how we should achieve it. Nonviolent civilian defence is ideally suited to the Irish situation while billions could (will?) be spent on the Irish military and not make Ireland one jot safer.

What Russia is doing in Ukraine is beyond reprehensible. But the idea that Ireland is under military threat from Russia, or anyone else, is ludicrous and the Russians cannot even inflict defeat on their neighbours in Ukraine let alone think about military escapades elsewhere in Europe. Ireland can play a very different and extremely constructive role on the European and world stages but only if it avoids both NATO and EU militarisation – it is the latter which is stealthily gaining ground. And Ireland’s role just became more important as Finland and Sweden join NATO.


Again correspondents that you publish (23rd May) assume that the only international security protection Ireland can have is military. This is quite false. Adopting a fearless policy of proper neutrality and standing up for justice and against repression will make many friends and it would establish Ireland as a country which does not adhere to misguided doctrines of peace through military strength.

A competent and sophisticated policy of nonviolent civilian defence is possible which would mean that an erstwhile invader would know that any invasion would be a pyrrhic victory. It would make any possible invader (and who might that be?) think twice. The Nazi generals interrogated at the end of World War II did not know how to deal with nonviolent resistance. Ireland is ideally placed geographically to undertake such a policy and avoid the trap of military escalation which contributes to an international armed insecurity race.

l25/522 From personal email a/c

It is perhaps ironic that Tom Hogan (25th May) should accuse proponents of Irish military non-alignment of a lack of imagination. Surely it is those who would support joining NATO or favour EU military developments who are entering an imagination straitjacket and accepting military confrontation and the severe curtailing of a positive role for Ireland in contributing to peace. And regarding Irish security the lack of exploration of nonviolent civilian defence portrays a lack of imagination and vision.

Irish neutrality could be developed in so many imaginative and positive ways. This could include: Monitoring teams for conflict hotspots and ‘early warning’ purposes, support for or promotion of accompaniment organisations such as Peace Brigades International and other ‘early intervention’ organisations, building up international mediation teams, education work nationally and internationally on nonviolent organising and struggle (which Stephan and Chenoweth found so effective compared to violent resistance), the development of facilitation and dialogue at a diplomatic level, work on causes of injustice and violence, and so on.

All such possibilities are effectively dependent on Ireland being neutral. And everything mentioned above could be done for a small fraction of the cost it looks like will go on military developments.


Stephen Collins is quite right in stating (27th May) that there is an issue about what role Ireland should play in EU defence. However his assumption that this should necessarily be military is a non sequitur as Ireland could play an important role in mediation and facilitation in the cause of peace as a non-aligned country (and many other tasks for peace as well). Of course something like protecting against cyber attacks comes in to this. However defence can be non-military, including nonviolent civilian defence, and ‘human security’ is more important than military security (we were not prepared for Covid, we are not prepared to deal with global warming).

Unfortunately Stephen Collins could not resist an attack on the defenders of Irish neutrality which was unfair and unjust. To try to tar those who believe in neutrality as supporters of Putin is far from the truth, even if he only accuses “some of the most vociferous defenders” of neutrality. Also, the injustice and brutality of the Russian attack on Ukraine should not blind us to the fact that while NATO and ‘the West’ have invaded no one (at least not in this particular case and time) they contributed to Russian insecurity and isolation.

l30/6/22 Published 1/7/22

We do need a new vocabulary about security, as David O’Sullivan envisages (Opinion, 30th June). The most effective term in relation to this is the concept of ‘human security’ – what do we need to be secure in our lives? O’Sullivan refers to many different factors but none – including the Russian invasion of Ukraine – necessitate a more militarist approach by Ireland; of course we should offer appropriate support to Ukraine but the idea that Russia is a military threat here is risible, and the contribution we can make to peace in Europe could best be done in non-violent ways.

Runaway climate change is the greatest threat we face and after the effects of Covid-19 we cannot consider pandemics to be something to be ignored. Militarism contributes considerably to global warming and medical rather than military bodies are the most appropriate for dealing with pandemics.

In relation to NATO and EU militarisation, why is geographical security only thought about in military terms? There are other ways to ensure security and nonviolent civilian defence is one which is eminently suitable for Ireland but has not been explored at all. We should be looking to build structures for peace not military confrontation.

Billy King: Rites Again, 301

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Ah, ‘summer’ in Norn Iron, and the fifth season of the year, the Marching Season (as Colum Sands so admirably marked in song). A few days ago I was passing along a small back street in East Belfast, now it is a modern back street, with loyalist flags. And I saw a sight which made me think “No, they wouldn’t, they couldn’t be……” and they weren’t. A workman was placing a ladder against a lamp post which had on it an illegal paramilitary flag….was it just, incredibly, possible he had been delegated – and been willing to risk his safety – to take down this illegal flag? Two out of the three flags there were paramilitary ones. But of course he and his workmate weren’t taking the flags down, they were fixing the lights or replacing the bulbs. It is nobody’s responsibility, you see, to deal with such violent and sectarian branding which can be (and probably is) against the wishes of most residents.


The population of the island of Ireland is now 7 million – 5.1 million in the Republic and 1.9 million in Northern Ireland with both showing increases, though at a higher rate in the Republic. At the current rate of increase it will take another couple of decades to reach the 8 million that was the pre-Famine/An Gorta Mór population, a particularly symbolic total given that the population of area of the Republic continued to decline from that time until the 1960s – it reached a minimum of only 2.8 million in 1961. Emigration was, of course, the main scourge. If trends continue the Republic’s 1961 population will have doubled by 2040 or not long after that. If the population of the 1840s had continued to grow, to be half the population of Britain (as it stood then) it would be over 30 million now.

Northern Ireland has moved from a population of around 1.25 million in 1921 to 1.9 million now. Because Northern Ireland’s population grew more steadily, if variably, since partition compared to the Republic’s more recent rapid increase, the proportion of the population of the whole island living in Northern Ireland has only declined from around 29% to around 27% in a century, so it stands at slightly over a quarter.

Is there such a thing as an ‘optimum’ population? That is very debatable and can be used (e.g. Britain) as a poor excuse for throwing people out who are seeking refuge and a new life. Ireland is relatively underpopulated by many international standards. Of course there are questions about sustainability and food sovereignty which are important but these are much more questions of policy – as is the provision of reasonably priced housing in Dublin which is a total disgrace and indictment of Irish government policies. Net immigration has been a major factor in population increases, particularly in the Republic, and that, as we have oft stated, has been a positive factor in Irish life in numerous ways over the last few decades.

Deaths in the family

It may not actually be true in a very meaningful sense but I tend to think of peace movement people around the world as ‘family’ – hopefully not in the manner of the mafia!. I have been to enough international peace events, and worked with others in other ways, to have made some great friends and learnt many things from them – not least that, through learning about their work and coming to highly respect them, even or particularly where there approach is different to my own, that ‘different strokes for different folks’ is important. I try to carry that through to work at home; obviously I believe in my own approach but one size doesn’t fit all, and what someone else does or says may communicate to others in a way that my own work does not. And peace is a jigsaw, made up of many different shaped bits.

So I am sad when I learn of an activist’s death that I know or know by name. Most have never been in the media spotlight, certainly outside the peace movement, but have been people of stature and impact – I think of someone like Tess Ramiro of the Philippines. Some are known widely internationally in peace circles, someone like Richard Deats from the USA who died in April 2021 (a web search will give you details of his life). Tess Ramiro and Richard Deats actually appear in the one photo on the INNATE photo site at even if it is not a particularly brilliant photo of either of them as they are in the background. Others are known internationally and in different circles, someone like Thich Nhat Hanh who died in January 2022; a profound peace activist, he was a ‘founder’ of ‘Engaged Buddhism’ and of mindfulness, and again there is plenty available on his life and teaching.

A more recent death, on 8th June 2022,was Bruce Kent, perhaps the best known peace activist on the island of Britain, and no stranger to Ireland, visiting and speaking a number of times at CND events both in the North and the Republic For his life see e.g. Bruce Kent is of course most associated with CND but had strong involvements with other organisations such as Pax Christi and the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW).

I am not into nonviolent sainthood. Few of any of us are saints and we all have our failings and faults which we may or may not know about ourselves. But family is family and I mourn all their deaths and am thankful for their lives and the dedication of peace and nonviolent activists around the world, many of who have difficulty to survive because of repression, ridicule, or basic questions of survival, and in all cases face difficult questions of direction.

The Midas militarist touch

Midas got more than he bargained for in everything that he touched turning to gold; you can’t eat gold (and with modern dentistry having moved beyond using it, gold is not a particularly useful metal). If you are involved in the arms trade, well, maybe everything you touch does turn to gold in your pocket. But as someone into peace and nonviolence I am amazed at what militarism touches and makes totally unpalatable for me.

I am not into royalty and that whole scene but if you take the recent Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, a whole day seemed to be devoted to military pageantry – and the members of the British royal family were groaning under their chestfuls (double meaning intended) of military medals. The Orange Order, and other loyal orders in Northern Ireland plus the bands that accompany them, are into military style marching, symbolism and regalia, and as I have already stated now is the Marching Season in Norn Iron. A fairly recent innovation is an ‘Armed Forces Day’ in the UK which is also celebrated in the North, which attempts to portray militarism as simply kind-hearted, family-friendly culture.

The standard welcome for a foreign dignitary is a military ‘guard of honour’ (what I would usually consider a guard of dishonour). The Republic has a commission on the future of the defence forces but not one of peace and neutrality. And who represented the President of Ireland at the funeral of Ciaran McKeown of the Peace People in Belfast in September 2019 – why, a military aide-de-camp in uniform….how appropriate was that for the funeral of a well known believer in nonviolence but it was certainly a fascinating juxtaposition.

And if you scratch the Christian churches, particularly the Protestant ones in Northern Ireland but the Catholic Church in Ireland a different way, well, militarism is part of the whole ideology. Some Protestant churches have got rid of military or military related flags in some of their buildings but the likes of St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Belfast has a military chapel. Has no one told them, these professed and sometimes professional Christians, that in the first couple of centuries after Jesus it was considered impossible to be a Christian and a soldier???????? [You are going to add to a world shortage of question marks – Ed] The lack of connection there is absolutely stunning.

Of course the decline and fall of Christianity as a default belief system in Ireland opens up new possibilities, and there have always been some Christians who stood against militarism but they have tended to be a small minority ever since the time of Constantine turning the Christian church into an adjunct of the state.

We have a huge task to liberate whole cultures from the militarist death wish. And unfortunately the Russian war on Ukraine seems to be reinforcing the view of many that militarism is the only way to go when it is the path to armageddon.

Peaceful Ireland

The Republic came in as third most peaceful country in the Global Peace Index (GPI) for 2022. See for summary and link to full report. Overall peacefulness was judged to have declined considerably. “Iceland remains the most peaceful country, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the Index by New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark and Austria. For the fifth consecutive year, Afghanistan is the least peaceful country, followed by Yemen, Syria, Russia and South Sudan. Seven of the ten countries at the top of the GPI are in Europe, and Turkey is the only country in this region to be ranked outside the top half of the Index. “

Of course it all depends on what your criteria are. They say the GPI “uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources to compile the index. These indicators are grouped into three key domains: Ongoing Conflict, Safety and Security, and Militarisation.” And while there might be some correlation between peacefulness and happiness there can be other factors not included which impinge on quality of life.

The cost of violence to the global economy was $16.5 trillion, or 10.9% of global GDP, which is the equivalent to $2,117 per person. For the ten countries most affected by violence, the average economic impact was equivalent to 34% of GDP, compared to 3.6% in the countries least affected.” This is only the economic effect that they measure and you cannot put a cost on trauma and injury. Not all the news was bad (war in Ukraine etc): “There were substantial improvements for several indicators, including terrorism impact, nuclear and heavy weapons, deaths from internal conflict, military expenditure, incarceration rates and perceptions of criminality. Terrorism impact is at its lowest level since the inception of the GPI. “

However it looks like the Irish government is trying its damnedest to join NATO and EU militarism to the full – and that would be sad in so many different ways. One of the things which Ireland (Republic of) can be proud of historically as an independent state is some of its international dealings, from de Valera and the League of Nations through work on nuclear issues, landmines and cluster munitions, and being previously somewhat non-aligned. That risks all going down the drain. The Irish government believes in cutting peacefulness into pieces.

Well’, as the water sprite said spritely, summer is here and I hope you are able to get a break in the routine and some holliers to enjoy. I often quote Christy Moore here and his definition of holidays (in ‘Lisdoonvarna’) – “When summer comes around each year / They come here and we go there”, though with Covid over the last couple of years there wasn’t too much of people going here or there. Make hay while the sun shines cos September will be here in a flash, and I’ll see you again then, meanwhile take care of yourself and some others, Billy.


UK Legacy Bill does not fit ECHR – CAJ

The Committee on the Administration of Justice has stated quite clearly that British proposals on legacy issues, as introduced to the UK parliament on 17th May in the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, do not meet the UK’s obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Brian Gormally, director of CAJ, said: “The first problem with this Bill comes right at the beginning in the Secretary of State’s declaration that it is compatible with European Convention rights. It is not – the Bill drives a coach and horses through the obligation for a proper, independent, investigation into suspicious deaths, especially where the state may be involved. This is the law of the land, enshrined in the Human Rights Act, itself a product of the Good Friday Agreement. The Bill only speaks of ‘reviews’ – not investigations. The new body will have limited powers and will only effectively get information that the various agencies want it to have. Civil actions and inquests that have not reached an ‘advanced stage’ will be discontinued, thus depriving victims of the information that these routes can bring. The much-criticised blanket amnesty has been dropped but only to be replaced by a theoretically conditional amnesty, but one which is still deliberately skewed to favour state agents…..” CAJ has called for it to be scrapped in favour of the prior proposals in the Stormont House Agreement.

lMeanwhile academic and human rights experts from QUB and CAJ have found the Bill “unworkable”, in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and international human rights law and state it would not deliver for victims and survivors.

Large fine for Shannon peace activists

At the start of May, Ken Mayers (85) and Tarak Kauff (80) were fined €5,000 each for an action at Shannon Airport in March 2019 for which they pleaded not guilty. They faced three charges: criminal damage, trespass, and interfering with airport operations and safety. They were cleared of the first two charges but found guilty on the last charge which is one which the state is now using to try to criminalise peace protesters.

The €5,000 fine was substantial for people of their age and especially so given they had originally been imprisoned for 13 days before being allowed out on bail, and had been denied the right to return home, to the USA, for 9 months while their passports were held. Ridiculously the money for the fine had to be handed in – in cash – within just over an hour of the verdict or they faced possible imprisonment until it was paid; peace activist groups and individuals did a substantial whip around.

Those attending spoke of them as very inspirational and impressive witnesses and even the prosecution witnesses spoke highly of their behaviour. While they had their enforced 9 months in Ireland they travelled and spoke widely and that and their original action, to inspect USA war planes or planes used for war, has been a significant service to the cause of peace in Ireland.

Shannonwatch spokesperson Edward Horgan said “This exceptionally punitive sentence is a move clearly aimed at discouraging peaceful objection to Ireland’s complicity in war. By imposing such a heavy fine at the sentencing hearing on Wednesday 4th May, Judge Patricia Ryan has effectively disregarded the lawful excuse Tarak Kauff and Ken Mayers had for entering the airport in March 2019, and sent a strong message that opposition to the war industry will not be tolerated. The Veterans for Peace sole aim was to end the cycles of killing that Ireland is complicit in, despite its claims to be neutral.”

Edward Horgan continued: “No senior US political or military US leaders have ever been held accountable for war crimes committed in these Middle East wars, and no Irish officials have been held accountable for active complicity in these war crimes. Yet over 38 peace activists, including Mayers and Kauff, have been prosecuted for carrying out fully justified nonviolent peace actions at Shannon Airport in order to expose and try to prevent Irish complicity in these war crimes.” See and other media.

ICCL strongly opposes Garda use of facial recognition technology

ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties has come out strongly against the use of facial recognition technology by An Garda Síochána “given their poor record on data protection. Additionally, neither An Garda Síochána or the Department of Justice have shown any demonstration that using FRT is either necessary or proportionate – a legal requirement under human rights law.” They go on to say “FRT and other biometric surveillance tools enable mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance. They have the capacity to identify and track people everywhere they go, undermining the right to privacy and data protection, the right to free assembly and association, and the right to equality and non-discrimination. FRT systems are known for their inability to correctly identify faces that are not white and male, due to inherent biases.” This is in relation to The Garda Digital Recordings Bill (currently going through the Oireachtas) which proposes to authorise Garda access to third party CCTV through a live feed. See and petition on the issue there.

l Meanwhile ICCL, among many other issues, is continuing to work on the restriction to the funding of civic groups involved in campaigning. Despite a cross-party Oireachtas group proposing change, and criticism from the UN, there have been no proposed changes made to this in the Electoral Reform Bill; ICCL state “A poorly drafted law has led to unintended consequences where the rights of community organisations to engage in public policy has been frustrated.“ See also
Galway Alliance Against War: Irish peace webinar 

This is organised by Galway Alliance Against War/GAAW and Free Assange Ireland on Saturday, 4th June at 2pm. The event includes contributions from Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Irish journalists Harry Browne and Eoin Ó Murchú. The title of the webinar is taken from a quotation by the imprisoned journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, “If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth.”  See or go directly to Zoom link at

Getting out the vote

Particularly relevant given the contentiousness of voting and voting results in Northern Ireland, the de Borda Institute has issued a statement on electoral practice in the recent elections and how it deviates from OSCE standards. 

Water Protectors: From Standing Rock to the Sperrins

21 indigenous water protectors are coming to Ireland from 14th to 30th July in solidarity with communities protecting air, land and water. The main sites of visit will be communities on the frontlines of resisting extractivism – particularly mining, and protecting air, land and water in Co. Leitrim, the Sperrins, Co. Tyrone and Inishowen, Co. Donegal. There will be a ceremonial water walk along the River Foyle and many moments of celebration, exchange and theatre. The visit is organised by Making Relatives, a collective of community groups and activists involved in environmental and social justice work on the island of Ireland. ‘Making Relatives’ refers to the Lakota value of kinship – and making relatives is also a verb, creating networks of care. See and there is a linked crowdfunding site to meet transport and hosting costs Source: FOE-NI, see

FOE proposes Government plan to prepare for winter

Friends of the Earth Ireland has published a “Five-point plan for Government to cut bills, save energy and reduce pollution”. As households have now received the last Fuel Allowance payment for this season and with the Russian invasion of Ukraine entering its fourth month, the environmental justice organisation has called for “a concerted emergency response from the whole of Government to do five things” before next winter sees the energy crisis hit home even more. The plan contains 48 specific recommendations from inflation-proofing social welfare to free school buses to a moratorium on new data centres. See with link to full report.

Afri Famine Walk video: Tackling global warming and warring

Afri’s Doolough Famine Walk was back on the road, literally, on 21st May after two years online and a powerful 13 minute video can be seen at See also

Ukraine war and militarism round up

lYou can find World Beyond War’s ‘Mapping Militarism’ resource at

lResistance to war continues in Russia despite the difficulties, and difficulties in reporting chapter and verse because of repercussions: “many people are turning picketing into provocative performances with the purpose to test whether such an action would be considered illegal by the police. The officials of a country that claims to have conquered Nazism ban the most harmless slogans: ‘Fascism will not pass’, ‘No to fascism’, ‘No to Nazism’, and ‘I am pro-peace’. The same applies to the most popular slogan, ‘No to war’ (Нет войне), which was chanted by protesters, and even posters in which the two words, constituting the Russian phrase for ‘No to war’, are replaced by rows of asterisks, a taunting remark on the fact that the government bans the use of the word ‘war’ because it is officially called a ‘special military operation.’ “

l Former combatants from the Lebanon have written an open letter to fighters and soldiers in Ukraine and Russia

l A statement by Russian COs/conscientious objectors can be found on the WRI website at

l Calls for ceasefires include and

l Statements by the US Peace Council on the war in Ukraine can be found at

l A statement by Church and Peace is available at


Feasta (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability) is an ecological economics think tank, based in Ireland and with international membership. ‘Feasta’ is the Irish word for ‘in the future’. The aims are to identify the characteristics (economic, cultural and environmental) of a truly sustainable society, articulate how the necessary transition can be effected and promote the implementation of the measures required for this purpose. See the website at – the 2021 annual report shows the breadth of work done – and if you might be interested in being involved, contact

Climate Justice candles from Eco-Congregation Ireland

Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) has four climate justice candles, one for each of the four provinces in Ireland, to be used to raise awareness of the issue. If you are a member of a church or faith community which would like to host the candle all you have to do is contact If you would like to learn more about this project visit the ECI website at and if you keep scrolling down you can read stories of faith communities from various traditions and how they used a candle.

Editorials: Elect-shuns in Northern Ireland, Justice denied, The war in Ukraine continues

Northern Ireland


It is fascinating how Northern Ireland has – and has not – moved in the period from Terence to Michelle – both O’Neills. Terence O’Neill was the second last last prime minister (not that there were many as there were then no challenges to Ulster Unionist Party hegemony) of the old Northern Ireland parliament at Stormont; he was at least slightly reforming and forced out in 1969 by hardliners. In the period since then the old unionist certainties have evaporated and while the two blocs of unionist and nationalist are now both on around 40%, there is a new kid ‘on the bloc’, the ‘ cross-community’ Alliance Party on 13.5% of the vote.

But Michelle O’Neill is the person to become First Minister as an Executive government is achieved at Stormont if and when the DUP decide that enough has been done regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol – though as yet how that can come about is unclear. There has been a lot of turbulent and polluted water under the bridge in the period from Terence to Michelle and the flood is far from done yet.

But politics in Northern Ireland remains deeply divided and the 13.5% and 17 out of the 90 seats up for grabs coming to Alliance represents some slight progress for the middle ground (but partly at the expense of others in the middle) it is not, and cannot be of itself, a breakthrough. The Alliance Party still polls relatively poorly west of the Bann. Both unionism and nationalism need to be strong enough and feeling confident enough to make the deals that will deliver any settlements – whether temporary or permanent for the North. The two larger blocs are not going to go away, you know, and while demographic changes may mean nationalism is increasingly on the up, though the nationalist vote is not necessarily increasing, there is a lot of hard talking and hard bargaining to be done in the future; however the fact that there is more of a ‘middle ground’ than there was augurs better for helping to mediate the future.

But, as always, different people can head in different directions at the same time. More unionists went with the hardline TUV which got 7.6% of the first preference vote but not being transfer-friendly remained with one MLA, the redoubtable (and intransigent) Jim Allister. The two Green Party MLAs lost their seats due to the Alliance surge and more of the ‘middle ground’ coalescing around Alliance. The SDLP and Ulster Unionist party lost slightly in terms of percentage votes and seats. Sinn Féin only gained 1.1% in first preference votes and held their own in terms of number of seats while the DUP lost 3 seats and 6.7% of the vote, mainly to the TUV.

However in terms of underlying trends, while nationalism in the shape of Sinn Féin has come in as the largest party, the total ‘nationalist’ vote has been static for decades, very slightly below the total ‘unionist’ vote, despite demographic increases in the number of Catholics to around parity with Protestants (census information in the autumn should tell us more on this). Catholics increasingly voting for Alliance may be part of an explanation here but while Alliance may proclaim itself agnostic on the question of a United Ireland/Kingdom, Alliance is probably less seen as simply a ‘liberal unionist’ party than in the past. Former MLA Anna Lo proclaiming herself in favour of a united Ireland quite some time ago did surprise but it did not open the floodgates of Alliance representatives going for an all-island solution; agnostics on the question, it may be more accurate to say that most individual supporters would favour the constitutional choice which gave them and the people of the North the best deal – and despite all the health and economic questions at this stage about a united Ireland it cannot be assumed that if it came to the crunch sometime in the medium term future a majority would stay with the status quo, or indeed depart from it.

The positive aspect of all this is that there is a ‘middle ground’ who are not beholden to a particular ideology but can make a decision based on their judgement of what will work out best. And that can no longer be automatically assumed to be staying in the UK though republicans would have to do a lot of work to show that a united Ireland is in everyone’s interests. The existence of a middle ground may also act to persuade some – but certainly not all and probably only a small number – unionists/loyalists and nationalist/republicans to be on their best behaviour in order to encourage those more in the middle to shift their direction. Yet others will ignore the centre ground and go on as before.

But the DUP says no to the operation of the Assembly until the Northern Ireland Protocol is ‘fixed’ to its liking or at least changed enough to allow it to claim ‘victory’. Both the DUP and the British government have sought to hide their role in the current crisis. The DUP, in supporting and pushing for a hard Brexit, were instrumental in defeating Theresa May’s compromise proposal of the whole area of the UK staying in alignment with the EU. The DUP backed Boris Johnson, an inveterate liar, helping him to become prime minister. An arithmetic majority in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU.

The DUP only changed to out and out opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol when they saw support slipping away to the TUV; the DUP were not too careful in what they had wished for. They are now demanding their mandate be listened to before allowing business to proceed whereas previously various leadership figures have supported voluntary coalition. The majority of MLAs elected in the Stormont election in May back reform of the Protocol by negotiation but also forming an Executive government straight away to deal with the various crises affecting the North.

In addition, it is clear that while there are problems with some imports to Northern Ireland and the associated red rope (which is rather larger than red tape), business is generally happy to have easy access to the EU market as well as the UK. Originally Tories and DUP trumpeted this – somewhat ironically as the whole Brexit project was about leaving the EU. And if it leads to greater prosperity in Northern Ireland – which is, without British transfers, poorer than the Republic – that may mean that people would be less likely to want to rock the boat and join a united Ireland in which case the North would automatically become part of the EU. So once again it looks like unionists are going with a gut political reaction which is adverse to their longer term interests in securing the continuation of the union with Britain.

However the DUP is entitled, by current regulations, to take the stand it has and to oppose the Protocol. It has a very substantial vote and that needs listened to. The British government’s negotiating tactics are appalling; instead of showing good faith and willingness to implement an agreement they signed, while pushing hard for change and positively exploring how those changes could give the EU what it requires, even as a tactic it is absurd to suggest it can alter an international treaty unilaterally.

But what should unionism be doing with regard to its own interests? Unionism needs to be trying to kill a united Ireland with kindness (cf ‘killing Home rule by kindness’) so it should be accepting Irish language legislation, promoting a Northern Ireland human rights bill (also in its own interests as it ceases to be a majority in the North) and generally thinking of the needs of Catholics and nationalists. This also requires a recognition that, while they may feel or indeed be as British as anyone on the island of Britain, ‘Northern Ireland’ is different and always has been, and unionists are not, and never have been, ‘Northern Ireland’.

What should nationalism be doing with regard to its own interests? It should be exploring in a realistic manner what a United Ireland might entail and building in to its proposals as many safeguards as possible for the Protestant and unionist population. Patience is also required, not pushing for a referendum on the future of Northern Ireland at the first available opportunity that might give a ‘yes’ to a united Ireland but looking to see what would be the most constructive way to move, and when. In particular, in relation to any transition, this should also be seen as an inclusive process and not something to be done in a rush. In the mean time they should be doing the best for the entity that is Northern Ireland.

Reforming Stormont so that no one party can crash the structure is an immediate step to progress and dealing with the many crises which face the North. The easiest way is simply that the two largest parties have the right to form the OFMDFM (Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister) but if they decline to do so then other parties can step in. In a consociational system how the middle ground of Alliance can be fairly treated also requires action seeing as how they designate as neither unionist nor nationalist and therefore don’t ‘count’. But the (lack of) availability of cash from the British Exchequer under the Tory regime also militates against dealing with the major crises such as the health service, education, poverty and specifically the crisis in the cost of energy and food.

Justice denied

Justice delayed is justice denied’ is an old truism. Justice has certainly been denied in this manner for many victims in Northern Ireland. But British government moves on dealing with the past, and effectively wiping out the possibility of prosecution for Troubles crimes, however remote at this stage, is a stab in the back for victims and a deliberate closing down of possibilities, undertaken for English nationalist reasons to protect British soldiers – and the British state. The possibility of families getting information about the death of their loved ones will also suffer.

To unite all parties in Northern Ireland requires some doing – but the British government has achieved this in relation to its legacy proposals with universal opposition. Of course different parties come at this from different angles but the British Conservative line that there is no alternative to their proposals beggars belief. The Stormont House Agreement of 2014 was not perfect but it had a panoply of structures to cover different aspects of dealing with the recent past, including independent information retrieval, and it was accepted almost across the board; it has been the most recognisable compromise agreement between unionists and nationalists in dealing with the past. The fact that it was not implemented has been a major failure of government and governance, and all the while the possibility of justice was being further delayed. How well it would have succeeded in its aims may be debatable but not to have tried is reprehensible.

For the British government to go it alone at this late stage, and not even to have consulted the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, is absolutely astounding and shows them acting in an arrogant, and dare we say it, colonial style manner. While they are now tacking on a condition about amnesty it is generally considered that the threshold for this is very low and therefore this proviso has no teeth and would have no effect; their proposals are in fact still an almost unconditional amnesty.

As referred to in the news section of this issue, experts question whether the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill introduced into the London House of Commons is compatible with the Good Friday Agreement in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights. But the greatest wrong is to act in opposition to the views of victims across the board, on all sides, effectively ignoring their standpoint. Victims and survivors live on hope; hope for recognition, hope for justice, hope for a better future, for themselves and everyone. The British government is taking away much of that hope and show themselves to be totally hope-less.

Heaping further injustice on victims is beyond cruel.

The Russian war on Ukraine continues

The ‘logic’ of war is becoming somewhat strained after a few months of the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

Whether Vladimir Putin will settle for conquering the east of Ukraine or whether he will again look to take part of the North, or even Kyiv, who knows, and he may not know himself. Having backed himself into a military fight of a kind he certainly did not expect, he will look to whatever he feels he can salvage from the deadly and atrocious mess which is what the war has become. It is likely to continue for months, and Russia is slowly gaining ground in the east using its trademark tactic of obliteration by artillery.

Russia may get its propaganda retaliation in by holding trials for some of the captured Ukrainian soldiers from Mariupol, some of whom are indeed far right or even fascist. However trying to justify the invasion on the pretext of the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine was, is, an atrocious lie; Ukraine was not in any way perfect – and nor is Zelensky who has had some dodgy financial dealings – but it was certainly not a ‘nazi’ state, and has been much freer than Russia for citizens. With Putin, as an authoritarian ruler himself who has destroyed civil society and free speech in Russia, it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Ukrainian identity and opposition to possible Russian control necessitated staunch resistance to Russian invasion. But the cost of that being military resistance is a massive death toll on both sides, some seven million external refugees and several times that displaced. The trauma of this war will be felt for many decades. Rebuilding Ukraine will also take many decades, even with large scale western financial help when the war ends – that may be forthcoming initially but whether it will last is another question.

Meanwhile we have a proxy war between NATO and Russia, and the former will fight until the last drop of Ukrainian blood. That is why we say the logic of war is becoming strained. NATO and its members are ‘good’ at starting wars and these have not proved any easier to get out of and end.

There was another option and there still is; nonviolent civilian defence and resistance. No, it will/would have a different timescale and way of working but Ukrainians would be able to live to work for freedom another day, and live and plan to overthrow Russian rule without the same death and trauma, though undoubtedly not without struggle and hardship. And, as Stephan and Chenoweth have shown, nonviolent campaigns are much more successful than violent in persuading those on the opposing side to switch support; in other words it would make it easier for both ordinary people and elites in Russia to come out against the war, and in support of Ukrainian resistance and against Putin’s murderous policy and designs on Ukraine.

That many people who should know better do not consider this to have been, or be, a possibility, betrays a fatal lack of imagination. Military resistance seemed to them ‘the obvious’ choice to combat Russian invasion. But wars are easy to start and difficult to end – and meanwhile the victims pile up higher. The human cost grows daily.

Eco-Awareness: There is no nature separate from us

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

The next time you are walking in an elevated place such as Topped Mountain in County Fermanagh or the Cave Hill in Belfast survey the landscape that stretches to the horizon and consider how the land is used. Calculate how much is devoted to urban living, farming and is reserved exclusively for the nonhuman life we share the planet with. From the Cave Hill it is clear that the majority of what you see is urban infrastructure. Prominent landmarks include the M2, Belfast Harbour and the City Hospital, all serving the life of the citizens of the city and beyond. Even Belfast Lough, which looks serene on a sunny day, is a busy thoroughfare.

If you took a notion to walk to the summit of Topped Mountain, which is technically a hill at 277 metres high, you might, as compared to your view from Cave Hill, think that so much acreage is free from urbanisation and therefore available to other life. This would be mistaken for most of what you would see in terms of bogland, fields, forest and woodland has been altered for our supposed benefit. None could be considered pristine.

We have in fact commandeered most of the planet for ourselves, including the rivers, oceans and sky. According to just 5 percent of the Earth’s landscape is untouched, largely because it has been, until now, inaccessible. Even this percentage will be affected by climate breakdown and nano-size plastics that fall with the snow and rain. We are without doubt the dominant species but not, from a survival perspective, the most intelligent.

One of the critical things that has largely escaped our consciousness, that has no place in the prism through which we look at and make sense of the world, is that other species have as much right to exist as us. Perhaps this is the message of the story of Noah’s Ark as told in the Old Testament and the Quran. Fauna, and flora, as research is increasingly showing, is sentient, individuals have emotional bonds with their own kind and live as humans do in a social universe. As far as we can tell many species have the range of emotional experiences humans have such as fear, boredom and a sense of belonging.

The right of other species to live out their essentialness and fulfil their role in the wider ecosystem is something that should be as much a part of planning legislation as the management of motor traffic or the building and maintenance of sewage treatment plants. Jason Hickel in his book Less is More (2020) reminds us that the view that there is no existential difference between humankind and nonhuman nature is commonly held by indigenous peoples. Hickel cites the example of the Achuar, who live on both sides of the border between Ecuador and Peru. They don’t have a word for nature. In their cosmology every living thing in the rainforest where they live is a person with a soul (wakan) similar to the soul humans are widely thought to have.

If we had this view our world would be a very different place. Our meat and dairy consumption would not be based on the ecocide that occurs in order to grow the crops that are used as animal feed for the billions of nonhuman animals that are eaten every year. Nor would we have vast plantations of tropical crops that provide much of the food for sale in our supermarkets.

Many will argue that the needs of the near 8-billion human population could not be met on the basis of the Achuar view that there is no nature separate from us. This is countered by two points. One, is that the predominant international cosmology, which is the cause of climate breakdown, rapid loss of biodiversity and a great many wars is well on its way to causing the total collapse of civilisation. The other point is that more than one third of the food that is produced globally is dumped, which means that if this did not occur the land and water used to produce it could revert to habitat. The food we waste is enough to feed two billion people a year and the financial loss is approximately $1 trillion a year. It is not only the food that is lost but also the energy and other inputs that went into producing it. The latter point is supported by research published in Nature, 1 June 2017, which informs us that the Earth is:

capable of providing healthy diets for 10 billion people in 2060 (whilst) providing viable habitats for the vast majority of its remaining species.”

Adapting the view that we are the nature that is conventionally thought to be outside us would, without doubt, led to us living simpler lives but not necessarily unhappier, less satisfying ones. It is time to have a complete rethink about how we view our place in a world shared with billions of other sentient creatures who like us have a right to a life free from persecution.

One thing the law-making bodies on both sides of our island could do in protecting nonhuman life is follow the example of countries such as Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Panama and confer legal rights to ecosystems similar to those granted to people.

Readings in Nonviolence: Irish neutrality – What path are we on?

By Elizabeth Cullen


This paper will discuss the implications of Ireland’s involvement in EU related military activities and discuss an alternative, namely the adoption of an independent foreign policy. Ireland joined the European Economic Community, or “Common Market” as it was referred to then, in 1973 along with the UK and Denmark. At that stage the EEC was portrayed to Irish voters as a large market and the benefits to Ireland of being a part of it were extolled for both farmers and industrialists, who were expected to benefit from the demands of a large European market. The prospect of high farm prices, increased farm exports and higher employment was a big economic attraction of EEC membership, and the entire country was expected to prosper as a result of joining the EEC. However, the story did not unfold as many had expected. This paper relates to the impact on our military policy

Militarism and the EU

There has been a steady but silent progression to participation in military alliances. The Single European Act of 1987 referred to cooperation in a supra-national foreign policy (*1) and the more recent Lisbon Treaty in 2009 led to the “progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence” and thereby the foundation of a Common Foreign and Security Policy6 (*6) It is of concern that unlike Ireland, Denmark obtained an exclusion from participation in military issues before signing this Treaty. A common defence is an army. Ireland joined the European Defence Agency (EDA) six years later. (*2) This agency, established by the Lisbon Treaty, supports the weapons industry. Total spending by the EDA was 198 billion euros in 2020, “the highest level ever recorded” since the EDA records began in 2006. (*3)

There have been two more recent developments in our military related activities, namely PESCO and EU Battle groups. We joined PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) in 2017. PESCO was established by the EU Commission and arose from the Lisbon Treaty and was developed by a policy group known as the “Group of Personalities” (*4). This group included arms industrialists intent on finding ways for EU Governments to navigate around national sovereignty and neutrality clauses in order to foster greater EU military integration (*12).

In December 2017 after just a 2-hour debate in the Dáil, members voted 75 to 42 in favour of Ireland signing up to PESCO (*5). PESCO aims to establish an EU-wide arms industry, and the EU’s European Defence Agency will tell PESCO members, including Ireland, what weapons to buy (*6). Lobbying by the arms industry is shaping the European Union’s approach to security and defence (*7). We also committed ourselves to spending 20% of our total defence budget on military equipment and research (*12). The commitments made by countries under PESCO are legally binding in nature (*8) and include commitments:

– To regularly increase defence budgets in real terms,

– To increase defence expenditure in order to fill “strategic capability gaps”

– To aim for a “fast-tracked political commitment at national level, including possibly reviewing their national decision-making procedures”

– To simplify and standardise cross border military transport in Europe for enabling rapid deployment of military materiel and personnel

– To ensure that all projects “make the European defence industry more competitive via an appropriate industrial policy which avoids unnecessary overlap

– To commit to “agree on common technical and operational standards of forces acknowledging that they need to ensure interoperability with NATO”

In relation to the last point, regarding “interoperability” with NATO, the EU and NATO signed the second joint declaration on EU-NATO cooperation in July 2018 (*9). After this meeting NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg stated: “We just finished a fruitful meeting on NATO-EU cooperation. Over the past two years we have achieved unprecedented levels of cooperation and we have been working together in 74 concrete areas.” (*10) The summit characterised the EU as a “unique and essential partner for NATO,” and agreed that the capabilities developed under PESCO would be available to NATO and be “complementary and interoperable’(*18). Alongside conventional and missile defence forces, nuclear weapons are a core component of NATO’s overall capabilities for deterrence and defence (*11).

According to our Irish National Development Plan, spending on defence capital projects will increase from €77m in 2018 to €125m in 2022 (*12). Annual assessments will be conducted by the “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy” (a position created by the Lisbon Treaty) (*13) to ensure that Ireland is honouring these commitments. The Lisbon Treaty does not ban weapons of mass destruction and it does not demand that military operations will only be in self-defence or when there is a UN mandate. (*14)

The move to militarism is clear and this is acknowledged by the European Union External Action department, the EU’s diplomatic service (*15),which states that “Collectively, Europe is a very large military spender. But it is far from being a large military power. This is because of inefficiencies in spending and the so far largely untapped potential of working together on planning, procurement or research, to name but a few of the issues” (*16).

This level of ignorance among EU citizens about the EU’s CSDP and PESCO is concerning; only 12% of European citizens claim to be aware of the mutual defence clause and to know what it is. (*14)

An independent foreign policy

The long-standing government definition of so-called “military neutrality” as “non-participation in military alliances” has been described as nonsensical in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty ratification (*17). Can we be reassured by Leo Varadkar’s statement in 2018 that “We are not going to be buying aircraft carriers; we are not going to be buying fighter jets; and we are not going to be shopping around military trade fairs.”? (*20)

Despite Varadkar’s assurance, Ireland’s neutral or independent foreign policy is seriously at risk. Professor John Maguire writes (*18), “let us look at the list of “nothing-to-see-here”: with Irish government acquiescence we have yielded an EU Common Defence Fund; a joint EU military HQ; EU Battle Groups (in which Ireland participates); a centralised EU military budget and research programme, and a European Defence Agency (on whose board Ireland sits) promoting ‘a single market for defence’. And of course everyone signed up to PESCO gets a CARD: Co-ordinated Annual Review of Defence”. In Operation Sophia, which Ireland joined in 2015, 25 EU states combined to return refugees to the hell they have just attempted to escape; Minister Paul Kehoe explained to the Dáil that Ireland was now participating in “a military mission”. (*26)

A further four statements illustrate the intention of the EU to militarize:

– In 2000, Romano Prodi (then president of the European Commission) stated: “When I was talking about the European army, I was not joking. If you don’t want to call it a European army, don’t call it a European army. You can call it “Margaret”. You can call it “Mary Ann”. You can call it any name”.(*19)

– In 2017, Jean Claude Juncker, EU Commission President proclaimed that: “By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.” (*18).

– In 2018, Angela Merkel stated:But I also have to say, seeing the developments of recent years, that we have to work on a vision to establish a real European army one day.”  (*26).

– And more recently, Ursula von der Leyen, the current President of the European Commission, is reported as saying: “The exit of Great Britain from the EU opens up new possibilities for intensifying military cooperation among the member states”. (*27)

While the Schumann declaration declares a desire for peace, Commission President Romano Prodi stated that “The two pillars of the Nation state are the sword and the currency, and we have changed that” (*22).

The characteristics of “active” neutrality have been outlined by Devine and include the primacy of the UN, peace promotion and maintaining Ireland’s independence, identity, and independent foreign policy25. Sovereignty is the ability of a country to make its own laws and to decide its relationship with other countries. This becomes even more critical when one considers that the former German Defence Minister and now President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has called on a number of occasions during the last year for decisions under the EU’s Common Security and Defence (CSDP) to be made by qualified majority voting (QMV) rather than unanimously. “We are thinking about perhaps moving towards a majority vote in diplomacy and foreign affairs so that we can respond rapidly to crises and speak with one voice, one European voice,” she said recently; ‘and so you cannot be blocked by one country”. (*23)

The question has to be asked why we have not gone down the road of using the United Nations as a mean of addressing international conflict issues. The UN Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 members, and Ireland is one such member. The Security Council is mandated to take the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or an act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of settlement. It may resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security (*24) .

We need to strengthen and support the UN. It is of paramount importance that we call a halt to the creeping militarization of the EU, or at least Ireland’s role in it. And there is support for this. An MRBI poll in June 2001 showed 72% of Irish people supported Irish neutrality (*25). While a Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks poll (*26) in March 2022 revealed that 49% of the population agreed with the statement that “the original concept of Irish neutrality was out-of date”, nevertheless, 63% of the same sample agreed with the statement that “Ireland should remain militarily neutral in the war waged by Russia against Ukraine”. More recently still, an Irish times/Ipsos poll (*27) in April 2022 found “overwhelming support” among the Irish population to retain our current model of neutrality, with two thirds of voters not wanting to see any change.

What needs to be done?

Three things need to be done.. Firstly and most importantly, we must stand up for what we believe in. As Devine states, “Neutrality is not for the faint-hearted; rather, it is a courageous non-aggressive stance in a world in which most small states simply “bandwagon” with an aggressor, as opposed to striking an independent path for peace”.25 (*25) It is vital that we incorporate a constitutional provision on neutrality into our constitution and a referendum has been called for to enshrine the Triple Lock (*28) in that; as Farrell states, (*23) Not to do so leaves the way open for a future Irish government to try to dispose of the requirement for a UN mandate, leaving only cabinet and Dáil approval, a foregone conclusion in the current political set-up”.

Secondly, we could reject being part of the military development of the EU and obtain a defence opt-out like Denmark has done i.e. the Danish people support the “opt-out” clause that prevents Denmark being involved in the militarization of the EU. The Irish Government could utilise the simple process, namelynotify its intention to the Council, which shall take note that the Member State in question has ceased to participate.”. (*18). The Danish taxpayer does not pay for EU military projects, and Danish soldiers do not wear EU uniforms or participate in EU military operations (*22). Saying NO to the EU defence policy does not prevent Ireland from being a responsible independent nation that works for peace globally. Ireland can still participate in the UN’s peace missions around the world. We can help to remove land mines in former war zones and we can stop the weapons trade to countries that constantly violate human rights (*22). Bring neutral does not mean being silent.


It is of vital importance that we review the impact that membership of the EU is having on our foreign policy, and our membership of military alliances. Doing nothing about our current situation will allow Ireland to drift into an EU super-state over which it will have no control. In effect, EU membership has fundamentally subverted the national independence of Ireland and is in direct opposition to the proclamation of “unfettered control of Irish destinies” in 1916. Democracy can only exist at the level of the nation state, where there is solidarity and mutual interest.

When we were warned not to let Ireland be in the “slow lane” of Europe, and to vote for several European treaties, we were not told where the fast lane of Europe was leading to. There is no shame in admitting a mistake. These is however, dishonour in knowingly and wilfully bringing Irish people down a path that they do not wish to be brought.

(*1) Summary of the Single European Act Accessed 9th Feb. 2021.

(*2) “The road to the EU army” Accessed 9th Feb. 2021 and Article 5 of the NATO Pact says countries have a defence pact to go to war if one member state of NATO is attached. A more specific mention of the use of nuclear weapons can be read via the NATO Nuclear Policy Directorate.

(*3) Accessed 14/5/2022

(*4) “PESCO, Industry and War!” Thomas Pringle TD in Clare Daly et al, PESCO: Irish Neutrality and the Militarisation of the EU (Dublin 2019). Available from

(*5) PESCO and Militarisation. Mick Wallace TD in Clare Daly et al, PESCO: Irish Neutrality and the Militarisation of the EU (Dublin 2019). Available from

(*6) “PESCO is not about peace, it is about preparing for EU wars”. Accessed 9th Feb.2021

(*7) Accessed 9th Feb.2021

(*8) Accessed 9th Feb.2021

(*9) Accessed 9th Feb.2021

(*10) The Militarisation of the EU! Frank Keoghan. in Clare Daly et al, PESCO: Irish Neutrality and the Militarisation of the EU (Dublin 2019). Available from

(*11) Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*12) “One year on – the price of joining PESCO, Paul Cunningham Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*13) Notifications on PESCO to the council and to the High Representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*14) “Denmark has rejected participation in the militarisation of the EU. Hopefully Ireland will do the same!” Lave K. Broch, in Clare Daly et al, PESCO: Irish Neutrality and the Militarisation of the EU (Dublin 2019). Available from

(*15) Accessed 9th Feb.2021

(*16) Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*17) Dr Karen Devine of Dublin City University, Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*18) “A vivid impression: The repressed potential of Irish neutrality” John Maguire in Clare Daly et al, PESCO: Irish Neutrality and the Militarisation of the EU (Dublin 2019). Available from

(*19) Independent, 4 February 2000 quoted in

(*20) 9th Feb. 2021

(*21) Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*22) “1916 values diverted”, The Village magazine, Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*23) Niall Farrell in Clare Daly et al, PESCO: Irish Neutrality and the Militarisation of the EU (Dublin 2019). Available from

(*24) Accessed 9th Feb. 2021

(*25) Accessed 9th Feb. 2021



(*28) The Triple Lock was to ensure that, where the size of a Defence Forces contribution was more than 12 personnel, Irish soldiers would not serve abroad unless there was a UN Security Council mandate, along with Dáil and government approval. But it has effectively been abolished by the Irish government so as to ensure full participation by the Irish Army in the EU Battlegroups.

– This is an updated version of an article which first appeared in People’s News, the newsletter of the People’s Movement