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.

Remembering Alexei Navalny and helping Ukraine

by Peter Emerson

In view of Alexei Navalny’s heroic life and tragic death, and the continuing horrors of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it is important to understand our own mistakes in Russia’s recent history. To quote the Russian/Ukrainian philosopher, Vladimir Vernadsky, “everything is connected,” (‘всё связано’).

When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union of 1985, this was the end of the Cold War. In theory, it should have led to demobilisation and huge waves of disarmament. But no; and in fact, since that time, NATO has expanded. Many western ‘experts’ went to Moscow to advise him, not on peace, but on privatisation and democratisation, with a focus on, respectively, the free market and majoritarianism, i.e., majority voting/majority rule. But the original Russian translation of this term was ‘большевизм’ bolshevism; (a replacement has now been concocted, majoritarnost).

Two years later, ethno-religious clashes erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus. The headline in Moscow’s main newspaper Pravda was “Вот наш Ольстер,” (‘Vot nash Olster’), “This is our Northern Ireland.” In effect, the right of self-determination was a cause of conflict. After all, if Ireland can leave the UK, or if Azerbaijan can leave the USSR, then Northern Ireland could leave Ireland, or an enclave like Nagorno-Karabakh could leave Azerbaijan. And the Caucasus was full of enclaves. “Why should I be in the minority in your state when you could be in the minority in mine?” asked one Vladimir Gligorov in Yugoslavia, a land of one language, two scripts, three religions, four …. five republics, and six neighbours. And like the famous Russian dolls, the matrioshki, inside every majority there was yet another minority.

In those days, the Soviet Union was still a one-party state. In their first elections of 1989, therefore, every candidate was a communist… but there were green, red, blue, brown – all sorts of communists. And those who might otherwise have been in a Green Party were members of ‘the ecological union.’ They held a meeting in Moscow, in 1989, and there I met Zurab Zhvania from Georgia. We spoke about consensus and all that, and so, one year later, he invited me to go to Tbilisi to give a press conference (in Russian, my Georgian isn’t) on power-sharing.

Now initially, the West supported the maintenance of the Soviet Union, not least because of the oil in Siberia. We wanted this stuff to be available, which requires inter alia political stability. And we wanted it to be cheap, so we advised firstly, a free market – Friedman economics. But no country should ever adopt a free market at a time of deficits in the basics, like food. The law was passed; lots of unscrupulous went to the supermarket, bought up everything, set up a table outside the metro stations, and sold it all at ten times the price. Hence the oligarchs. Secondly, the West advised a freely convertible currency, i.e., Russia should float the rouble. It sank. And Russian oil was cheap.

But back to self-determination. There soon followed disturbances for independence in Georgia, Azerbaijan – Ukraine initially was relatively quiet – and then, in 1991, in Lithuania, which was different, apparently; it was more ‘European’. At this point, the West made a huge mistake: we ditched the reformer, Gorbachev, in favour of the unprincipled Boris Yeltsin. Like his English namesake, this man had one thing only (apart from a love of the vodka): ambition. Originally, he was Gorbachev’s protégé, but when given the chance, he wanted power. Over what? Oh anything, or even everything. Over the Soviet Union? And when Yeltsin realised his path to power would be better served by supporting the break-away republics, he did so. And he could become not a Soviet, only a Russian tsar.

Now Russia, in a way, was similar to England, in that in their day, both ruled empires, and both thought God was on their side. Russia with its capital of Moscow, was the third Rome. Christianity, it was argued, started in Rome, moved to Constantinople, and the one true faith was now in Moscow. And with God on its side, Russia survived the invasion of Poland during the Times of Troubles, at the turn of the 17th Century; defeated Sweden in 1709, when Peter the Great won the Battle of Poltava (which is in today’s Ukraine); halted Napoléon at the Battle of Borodino in 1812 (and hence Tchaikovsky’s famous overture); and won the Great Patriotic War against Hitler. And today, the same good God was going to save Russia from the advances of NATO.

Now just as many a Moscovite regarded the two adjectives – Russian and Soviet – as very similar, so too (in days not that long gone), many Londoners regarded the words British and English as all but synonymous. When the Soviet Union was established, or concocted, the Bolsheviks decided that every republic should have its ‘own’ communist party; hence the Georgian, the Lithuanian, etc. But there wasn’t a Russian one. Oops. In 1989, the ‘error’ was realised; the Russian Communist Party held its founding congress. Yeltsin, now a rival to Gorbachev, stood for the presidency. But Gorbachev’s man won, and Yeltsin lost. The latter then ripped up his party card and converted to Orthodox Christianity. It was just so obvious that the man was ambitious, and nothing else. Sadly, the western media, including The Irish Times, decided to support him. (Western journalists often shared the same block of flats, and frequently the same interpretation of events.)

(By this time, my co-author and I had written an article in Moscow News on consensus, which had created a huge amount of interest… in Russia! As a result, we published a number of other essays, not least one in Novy Mir (New World), Russia’s leading literary journal with a print run of three million, where we appeared alongside Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. The Irish Times, I’m afraid, was just not interested in these achievements of another Irishman.)

In 1991, then, Yeltsin took over, not as a Soviet imperialist, but as a Russian one. The last thing he wanted was the right of self-determination to be popular among the various peoples in Russia, the Sumi and Komi up near the Arctic, the Tartars and Maris on the western side of the Urals, and all the various folk in the Northern Caucasus, let alone the dozens in Siberia, the Buryats near Lake Baikal or the Chukchis on the Pacific coast, for example. (In fact, the authorities themselves weren’t sure how many different peoples there were; the official figure was between 60 and 120). So Russia opposed any attempt by any people to hold a referendum and break away – matrioshki nationalism, they called it – and hence Yeltsin’s first war in Chechnya in 1994.

The Caucasus was in a mess. There were Georgians (Orthodox) in Chechnya (Muslim), fighting the Russians (Orthodox); Russians and Chechens in Abkhazia (Muslim) fighting the Georgians. And Russia was also supporting another enclave, South Ossetia, where everyone was Orthodox. Violence, as always, was breeding yet more violence. There followed a second war in Chechnya in 1999, and hence too Yeltsin’s own protégé, Vladimir Putin.

The Soviet Union was now dead, all the republics were now independent, including in ’91 Ukraine, a country of mainly Christian Slavs – with just a few minorities like the Crimean Tatars. Unlike Russia, other lands were also mainly Slav: Poland, Czechoslovakia (as was), Bulgaria and, not least, Yugoslavia (the southern Slavs).

Unfortunately, the West again advised majoritarianism – and Ukraine now divided into two: a Russian-speaking Orthodox ‘half’ versus a Ukrainian-speaking Catholic/Uniate ‘half’. That is what often happens when decisions are taken in binary votes, and when elections are conducted in the two-round system. The divisions worsened. In 2004, Viktor Yushchenko won the presidential election, by a whisker, and he was pro-West; in the spontaneous celebrations which followed in Kiev, some were flying confederate flags, others the Georgian flag, and many were sleeping in (spontaneous?) tents supplied from abroad. But Yushchenko was the president and, with the polity of majority rule, he could ensure Ukraine was pro-West. (At the time, I wrote in Fortnight that Ukraine could perhaps join the EU, but not NATO. As happens so often in human history, one side fails to understand how the other lot think.)

Six years later, the other Viktor, Yushchenko’s old rival, Yanukovich won, again by a whisker; oh dear, was the reaction; he was pro-Russia, and it was still majority rule. The protests in Maidan turned violent. Only in 2014 did the West change its mind: democracy was not majority rule after all, apparently; as in Northern Ireland, it was (sort of) decided that it was now power-sharing. An EU (EC as was) delegation rushed over to Kiev but…too late; on the day it arrived, Yanukovich ran into exile.

Meanwhile, the newly independent Georgia had also divided, only to fight two ethno-wars in the enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – (there was very nearly another war in Adjara) – and all over self-determination. There then followed the civil war, after which Eduard Shevardnadze restored some order. Next, in 2004, came the so-called velvet revolution, which wasn’t a revolution at all, really, but the elections did involve a changing of the guard. Shevardnadze, however, was still in his dacha in Tbilisi, not far from the hotel where I and other OSCE election observers were staying. Georgia now had a new prime minister, (my colleague), Zurab Zhvania. In 2005, he died. In a gas leak? That was the official line, but many Georgians thought he’d been murdered on the orders of the then President, Mikhail Saakashvili. They also believed that if Zhvania had still been in office on 1st August 2008, Georgia would not have gone to war with Russia in South Ossetia. But war it was. One week later – with Putin in Beijing for the Olympics – Russia recorded its first casualties. He rushed home. That war was started not only by Putin.

He now saw that referendums could be, er, useful. Russia had opposed the referendum in Kosova – yet more matrioshki nationalism – but he changed his mind (again) to support the 2006 referendum for self-determination in South Ossetia (and ignored the other referendum in Ahalgori, a Georgian enclave in South Ossetia, which voted in the opposite way). It was a repetition of what had happened in Croatia where in 1991 the Catholics had voted for independence while, one week earlier, the Orthodox had voted for the opposite; and where, in the name of democracy, partners in and adult children of mixed relationships were just, well, disenfranchised,

Back to Ukraine where, in 2014, Putin’s man Yanukovich had lost and run away, and Putin doesn’t like losing.  So he wanted Crimea to reverse its 1991 referendum decision in support of Ukraine and instead to declare independence – (from Ukraine); (such a collective vacillation is also catered for in the Belfast Agreement – the seven-year ’never-end-em’). After the shambolic, ‘little green men’ referendum in Crimea, there followed other dubious polls in Donetsk and Luhansk, and 2014, you will recall, was also the year of Scotland’s referendum. A Russian separatist in Luhansk ‘justified’ his call to arms with the word Shotlandiya Шотландия, (Scotland). “Everything is [indeed] connected.”

After yet more violence, Putin wanted Donetsk and Luhansk, not to be independent at all, but to be incorporated – (into Russia). He’d changed his mind again, (like the EU). So in 2022 more referendums were held and, supposedly, apparently, and democratically, a majority of the people had also changed their minds, and quite by chance of course, in exactly the same way. This is all democratic nonsense; in many instances, as shown by Napoléon, Hitler and countless others, majority votes in referendums, parliaments and party congresses, identify not the will of the given electorate, but the will of the author(s) of the question. (Brexit, of course, a glaring exception, backfired.)

Can we never question our obsession with the 2,500-year-old binary vote? Even on problems that are obviously multi-optional, must everything be reduced/distorted, either into a dichotomy, as in the 2016 Brexit referendum, or to a number of binary questions, as in Theresa May’s indicative (sic) votes? In a similar fashion, the Good Friday Agreement says that Northern Ireland has to be either British or Irish; that, as in Croatia and South Ossetia, there are these two possibilities, only; that other options, for a compromise and/or peace, or an interregnum, whatever, shall not even exist let alone be on the ballot paper.

And the world blunders on, despite the facts that:

+ “all the wars in the former Yugoslavia started with a referendum,” (Oslobodjenje, 7.2.1999);

+ the same now applies to the conflict in Ukraine;

+ both Milorad Dodik in Republika Srpska want, and Anatoly Bibilov in South Ossetia wanted, yet more binary referendums, as do Sinn Féin and the SNP in their bailiwicks, as well as some Catalans, Taiwanese, Baluchis, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Finally, and, even more importantly,

+ majoritarianism, the majority coalition in the Knesset, is (not the but) a cause of the horrible violence that is now the cause of so much suffering and devastation in the Middle East.

So, what is to be done now? As before but now more urgently than ever, we must support those many Russians who are opposing the war, in particular, Yulia Navalnaya. The British and US ambassadors recently laid flowers at the memorial for her husband. They should do more to help (and, as I suggested earlier) support all forms of non-violent anti-war demonstrations, if only by their presence.

In addition, it would be wise to acknowledge some of our earlier mistakes, and to change those of our political structure which Putin is also using for his military aims: simplistic electoral systems and false-flag binary referendums.

As mentioned above, another complication comes from the war in the Middle East. Here too, we should question the western political structures which, inter alia, allow Netanyahu in the name of democracy to rule with Israel’s most extreme right-wing majority coalition ever! Suffice also to say that the ideal, a one-state solution, could not work if it were to be based on majority voting; if only from that point of view, we should be seeking a more inclusive form of decision-making.

A sense of urgency is required, not least because Putin is now trying to woo the Palestinians (and the ‘global South’), implying that he opposes (Israeli) violence and that his ‘special military operation’ is an act of defence against western militarism as seen, in his eyes, by the expansion of NATO.

It is important, of course – and I wrote as a pacifist who therefore believes in the principle of minimum force – to continue to supply arms and ammunitions. In many horrible instances of violence – when someone attacks a child, for example, or a violent man attacks a woman – the true pacifist will never do nothing: he/she should always intervene, if need be by putting their own body between the attacker and the victim. But we should also emphasise our long-term aspirations for a world without nuclear weapons; for a world where military expenditures are reduced; for a world in which all nations, and all parties/factions, cooperate to confront the existential problems of Climate Change.

Billy King: Rites Again, 317

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Hello again – I have a funny-strange attachment to flowers. I look forward to the arrival of certain flowers, daffodils being a particular example partly because they are so significant in spring, and in a very definite kind of way mourn their passing, sad to see them go when they stop flowering. This makes perfect sense in one way and in another, if I am always looking forward to ‘the next’ flowering, this does not make sense because tempus fugit, fecit. Scientists still don’t understand the nature of time and getting our heads around it for ordinary people is a full time occupation, ho ho. Anyway, here are my musings for this point in time –


I received an anonymous letter there some time back. Enclosed in an A4 sized envelope, the contents were photocopied materials with parts marked, seemingly randomly. The address was computer printed, cut out and adhered with clear sticky tape. There was no name or address of the sender. It was also sent to me at at the address of an organisation I am associated with but not the one I am most identified with; no one else at that organisation received a similar letter.

The contents were not the objectionable political views they first seemed to be at a glance – as the letter was passed to me just before the start of a meeting, I didn’t have a chance to study the material in detail there and then though I did remark on its anonymity and my first impression (stated as such) of the contents. In fact the material, while close to conspiracy theory, were not objectionable to me. What was somewhat objectionable was the manner in which I received this missive as an anonymous letter.

There are reasons some things are anonymous, such as candidate identities in exams. This is to create a level playing field and promote fairness so there is less possibility of bias by the person doing the judging, the examiner or marker in the case of an exam. But there is a clear reason for such a process to be anonymous and it is expected to be such. In this case someone was trying to inform me about certain information, and affect my political views, without identifying themselves, or so it would seem. However the haphazard or even random marking of some points in the photocopied documents makes me wonder about the sender’s logicality. I am deliberately not sharing the content of the letter.

This incident is relatively benign, though strange. It did make me wonder though about more aggressive anonymous communications, of whatever sort, which ‘ordinary’ citizens might receive, or media personalities and politicians, particularly through social media. You would have to adopt a thick skin and an effective psychological coping technique. I am fortunately not in that position – it was not a ‘nasty’ letter. Nevertheless I am left wondering as to why I was singled out and what the sender’s intentions were; while I was the only person to receive such a letter at the organisation concerned, the fact that the address was cut out of a computer printed sheet was presumably not only to avoid giving telltale handwriting but it could have been from a sheet full of other addresses elsewhere, people who also received such anonymous material. And some things never get explained.

The strangest thing is if someone had sent me the material with a covering, signed, note I feel I would actually have taken the matters concerned more seriously, and certainly I would have been much less suspicious of the sender’s motivation.

Buy your winter woollies while stocks last

Atlantic currents are what make this neck of the world woods quite temperate (it is other things that can make us intemperate….), what is often referred to as the Gulf Stream – this is part of it but the more comprehensive name is Amoc (Atlantic meridional overturning circulation), a sophisticated interaction going on in the Atlantic. This is what means we don’t have the freezing winter weather of Newfoundland at the same latitude (the system may be running out of latitude…), see e.g. Amoc is the weakest it has been in a millennium. It is not going to run amock – it is potentially going to shut up shop.

Amoc, which encompasses part of the Gulf Stream and other powerful currents, is a marine conveyer belt that carries heat, carbon and nutrients from the tropics towards the Arctic Circle, where it cools and sinks into the deep ocean. This churning helps to distribute energy around the Earth and modulates the impact of human-caused global heating.”

Arctic and Greenland melt water is seriously affecting Amoc and recent scientific analysis indicates it could collapse in a short period of time and “changes are irreversible on human timescales”. It would have negative effects worldwide and Europe would be colder and less wet. In some parts of the Atlantic the sea level would rise by a metre, flooding many cities.

Like I say, maybe you should stock up on your winter woollies while stocks last. All this is of course brought to you by human action (incompetence?) and the resultant global heating. Oh the irony of that human stupidity, global warming could make us colder in our neck of the freezing woods…..and another thing to worry about as our heating up goes globe-trotting.

Not a Troubles-era loyalist group – but harmful nevertheless

No, it is not a positive entity, a French peace group, the Union Pacifiste de France, or even a Northern loyalist group, the Ulster Protestant Force. ‘UPF’ in this context stands for something dangerous in a different way; Ultra Processed Foods. These are industrially produced fast foods containing lots of additives, emulsifiers, flavourings, saturated fat, sugar and salt.

Research has shown that they are dangerous for human health (if tested on mice, not that I am advocating that, I am sure it would do them harm as well) with 32 negative health effects. See e.g. The findings have been published in the British Medical Journal and are based on pooling research from studies of a massive number of people. One conclusion is that “Greater exposure to ultra-processed food was associated with a higher risk of adverse health outcomes, especially cardiometabolic, common mental disorders and mortality outcomes.”

Still you get totally fatuous and self-interested comments like the CEO of Kellogg’s in the States (earning upwards of $5 million a year) saying poor people could eat packet cereal for their dinner; he certainly isn’t, and analysis showed it wasn’t necessarily a cheap option and certainly not a healthy one.

Removing the health dangers here requires a multi-faceted approach. Indirect state control of what the food industry can produce is only one approach. Education is another necessity including about speedy, healthy and economical food options and food preparation where one prepared ingredient can quickly be turned into another meal, or one dish be used (including being frozen) for several meals. But this is certainly not all. People may choose ultra processed foods for a variety of reasons but poverty and work pressures are certainly a major part of the issue. Dealing with the last requires societal change and greater financial equity. So things are as not simple as telling people their dietary habits are unhealthy.

Down in arms

In these straitened (crooked?) times it is good to see some companies thriving, particularly in a recession-hit country like Britain where Brexit has put a hex on business. Indeed one company has near record profits and its shares have doubled in the last couple of years, since February 2022……..oh wait, what happened then? Oh, yes, the full scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. And what is the company? BAE. Yes, it’s an arms company and international uncertainty after the wars in Ukraine and Gaza is leading to boom times (literally and metaphorically) for such companies – I am not being serious above in welcoming BAE’s thriving. The arms industry projects itself as productive employers but in fact they soak up massive amounts of government money and produce less employment per unit of money than virtually anything else.

Meanwhile, and shamefully, the Irish arms industry is actively encouraged by the Irish government to develop, and said industry are also adept at lobbying And moving a bit north, British Ministry of Defence spending in Northern Ireland increased by 20% in 2023 to £190m, most of that being for the NLAW missile system which is manufactured by Thales in Belfast. INNATE has a new poster available on the arms race

That’s your just desserts for now (just deserts are what we get with global heating), and I will see you again in another month, at Easter time, Billy. l

News, No.316

Féile Bríde: The light of peace amidst the clouds of war

Afri’s Féile Bríde 2024 takes place at Solas Bhríde, Kildare on Saturday 10th February. The programme includes Senator Frances Black speaking about Palestine, John Maguire on “Peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace”, Sunny Jacobs on “Peace is the answer; Love is the way”, Catherine Cleary on “Pocket forests; Bringing biodiversity to your doorstep”, Ruby Cowdell on “There is no Planet B”, and Niamh Brennan on “The universe story”; music will be by Emer Lynam. The event is organised by Afri in partnership with St Patrick’s Kiltegan and Cairde Bríde. Conference fee is €35 including lunch, €25 concessions. More information and booking details at

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition, Linen Hall, Belfast

The vertical gallery at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, has a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition running until 28th February, admission free. This informative exhibition, well worth visiting, is produced by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum including photos in 30 information panels and artefacts – some eliciting emotion such as paper cranes made by Sadako Sasaki Further info at

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report

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

St Brigid’s Day at the DFA

As Nonviolent News goes to press, for the third year in succession, at noon, on 1st February, ‘Brigid of Kildare’, accompanied by members of Afri (Action from Ireland) and StoP (Swords to Ploughshares) is delivering a St. Brigid Peace Cross, a copy of the Downpatrick Declaration, and a letter to Tánaiste Micheál Martin at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. The press release from StoP goes on to say “This action, which represents an urgent call for peace and a firm rejection of war, on the feast Day of Brigid the Peacemaker, will take place as we watch the horror of war in Palestine, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Sudan and many, many places around the world. The action will be a compelling call for our Government, in line with Article 29 of our Constitution, to seriously promote disarmament, demilitarization and de-escalation rather than mindlessly jumping on board the juggernaut of war. It is a protest at our Government’s moving ever closer to NATO, shredding our neutrality, abandoning peacekeeping with the UN, unpicking the ‘Triple Lock’, and building a weapons industry in the Republic of Ireland; while claiming that all this is compatible with ‘Pausing for Peace’ in Kildare on the feast of Brigid the peacemaker.”

ICCL Rochtain: Increasing advocacy capacity

ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties, with supporting funding from the St. Stephen’s Green Trust, is to offer training, seminars and support through its new programme Rochtain to enhance the advocacy capacity of community and voluntary organisations. The first online training session will happen shortly – a seminar on the legislative process in the Oireachtas and it will focus on the critical junctures to intervene effectively on policy matters. More info is available at and you can register your interest in participating there.

Rochtain is the Irish word for “access” or “attainment”. Over the last number of years, ICCL has observed a worrying gap in the advocacy landscape in the non-profit sector in Ireland. “While our allies are engaging in critical and groundbreaking work in their areas of expertise, they often find it difficult to bring this work to the attention of legislators. While large non-profits can employ full- or part-time advocacy staff or engage the work of consultants, this isn’t an option for many in the sector. As a result, many organisations struggle to understand where, when and how best to intervene with elected representatives to best advance their causes in a strategic manner. This initiative seeks to work to address this imbalance.”

CAJ welcomes inter-state legacy case, focus on budget cuts

CAJ, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, has welcomed the inter-state case taken by the Irish government at the European Court of Human Rights concerning the Northern Ireland Legacy (Troubles and Reconciliation) Act 2023. CAJ director Daniel Holder said “This is the right decision and a necessary one. CAJ and academic colleagues first raised the remedy that could be provided by an inter-state case straight after the legacy bill was introduced in May 2022. We addressed the issue before an Oireachtas Committee in July 2022, noting that there was a real onus on the Irish government to act, both as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and also in the context of the precedent and contempt for the international rule of law that the legislation has set. An inter-state case is the best way to challenge the whole legacy act and the quickest way to get this legislation before an international court, that is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Meanwhile the always valuable and informative CAJ publication Just News for January 2024 has a focus on the severe effects of budget cuts in Northern Ireland While the restoration of the Stormont Assembly gives some hope for increased funding for social provision, this shows just how dire the situation is in Northern Ireland.

Triple Lock posters on neutrality (and many others)

Produced by INNATE, two mini-posters (A4) for home printing on the importance of the ‘Triple Lock’ (government, Dáil, UN) on the deployment of Irish troops overseas, which the Minister for Foreign Affairs intends to remove, are available at along with well over a hundred others on peace, green and human rights issues.

Cultivate: NonViolent Communication, Feeding Ourselves

Forthcoming events organised by Cultivate include a foundation weekend on NonViolent Communication (NVC) at Cloughjordan, Tipperary, the weekend of 24th and 25th February, run by Mel White and Aaron Bailey. This “provides tools and skills to navigate some of the challenges involved in making and maintaining meaningful connections”; details and booking at

Then the annual ‘Feeding Ourselves’ gathering “is a transformative weekend of events that underscores the urgent need to strengthen local food economies, shorten supply chains, and foster synergy and cohesion among local food stakeholders” and takes place from Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th March, also at Cloughjordan Ecovillage; see for details.

82% want Big Tech’s toxic algorithms switched off

Research commissioned by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Uplift has found that almost three-quarters (74%) of the Irish population believe that social media algorithms, which select content and insert it into users’ online feeds, should be regulated more strictly. And 82% of people are in favour of social media companies being forced to stop building up specific data about users’ sexual desires, political and religious views, health conditions and or ethnicity, and using that data to pick what videos are shown to people. The findings come in the wake of a major step taken by Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s new online regulator. Its new draft rules say that recommender systems based on intimately profiling people are turned off by default on social media video platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok. ICCL states “These “recommender system” algorithms promote suicide and self-loathing among teens, drive our children in to online addictions, and feed us each personalised diets of hate and disinformation for profit.” And 62 civil society organisations have written supporting strong action on ‘recommender system’ algorithms, coordinated by ICCL and Uplift.

Tools for Solidarity: Tanzanian developments

Tools For Solidarity is a not-for-profit organisation based in Belfast. It is fully run by international, local and supported volunteers with the main focus to support artisans in the poorest parts of the world. TFS collects, refurbishes and ships out hand tools, sewing machines, machinery and accessories to communities, women’s groups, people with disabilities and vocational training colleges primarily in sub Sahara Africa. It works in Tanzania in solidarity with a local governmental organisation named SIDO (Small Industries Development Organisation). In 2022 the SIDO office in the Iringa Region expressed the wish of having a centre similar to the one TFS had opened two years before in Njombe. This was the starting point of the Iringa Artisan Support and Training Centre (IASTC), officially inaugurated during a field visit by two TFS staff last May. More news about TFS associated work in Tanzania, and other aspects of TFS work, can be found in their latest newsletter, see This info also appeared in the January news supplement.

Editorials: Northern Ireland – SAD – and a fight at the end of the tunnel

The expected return to Stormont following the DUP decision to come back into the fold is indeed welcome news. However there is so much to sort out in Northern Ireland that even with a fair wind at their back it will not be plain sailing for the NI Assembly and Executive. Analysts have said that dealing with the pollution problem in Lough Neagh, that is with a proper plan in place, could still take a couple of decades. Getting Northern Ireland and its public services into reasonable shape could be looking at a similar time frame, at least a decade – and that is with all going well.

Most of the details of the deal done have emerged but how it will work out in practice is another question too as there seem to be various possible incompatibilities. The extent to which it mirrors the deal Theresa May offered, keeping the UK in alignment with EU regulations, is not yet clear; it would be highly ironic to end up with that, supported by the DUP, years after the DUP helped plunge Northern Ireland and the whole UK into chaos in rejecting it. Some of the changes are window dressing and simple renaming but the fact of the matter is that there was very little room for manoeuvre given previous decisions made through the Good Friday Agreement and Brexit. However the exclusion of other parties from DUP negotiations with the British government is not a good model of democracy. Nevertheless the DUP can argue that it has got a good deal, though the extent to which it meets their much vaunted ”seven tests” is highly debatable, or indeed whether it has changed anything in the Windsor Framework.

And a huge number of problems arise. The biggest underlying problem is of course the start-stop nature of the Northern Ireland Assembly itself. If the two largest parties retain their veto power over whether the Assembly is ‘up’ or ‘down’ then the last two years are unlikely to be the last hiatus. Each ‘Fresh Start’ is not necessarily that, and another stumbling block could cause more ‘down time’. Persuading the DUP and Sinn Féin to drop their veto power and allow the Assembly to continue without one of them in the Executive is a major move and not an easy one to achieve. All the other old issues of division remain in place.

Having a Sinn Féin First Minister in Michelle O’Neill is a new departure, and although the Deputy First Minister is equally powerful, it is deeply symbolic of the demographic shift in Northern Ireland. It does also seem a good illustration of unionist commitment to cooperation and democracy at this point. However decision making in the Assembly has often been very poor and inclusive voting systems, such as those espoused by the de Borda Institute, could make a big difference. Sinn Féin could also do with reining back triumphalist statements which could inflame matters; Mary Lou McDonald indicating that a united Ireland was within “touching distance” was unwise as it gives succour to loyalist opposition to a deal. Her statement was more qualified than this reference might indicate; she was speaking, she said, “in historic terms” (which could conceivably refer to time periods of centuries) and while she was talking about “a new Ireland” it is clear that this is a euphemism for ‘a united Ireland’ of some sort.

SAD can be an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a depressive condition brought about by seasonal factors and associated by many with lack of light in winter, and the start of the year can be very dreary. SAD could also be an appropriate acronym for Sectarian Affective Disorder whereby the situation in Northern Ireland is continually held hostage by sectarian approaches to politics. By ‘sectarian’ in this context we are not meaning it in its full brutal and vindictive form but more in a sociological sense that people’s, and political parties’, approaches tend to be conditioned and imprisoned to a considerable extent by the main background of their supporters, cultural Catholic or cultural Protestant, political nationalist or political unionist. By this measurement, Northern Ireland is just as ‘SAD’ now as it was before the DUP agreed to go back into the Assembly.

We don’t want to rehash the history of Ireland, plantation, partition or Brexit here. But there are numerous problems which have proved to make thorough and lasting solutions impossible. While most unionists will now be backing Stormont, many unionists feel the nature of their British citizenship has been changed by the Northern Ireland Protocol and then the Windsor Framework. To some extent they are right. A slight economic barrier in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland has been erected which was not there during EU membership. The fact of easier access to the EU market from the North does not for them trump the fact that they felt ‘trapped’ by the EU regulations in still being in the ‘single market’ and thus ruled by ‘foreign laws’ (laws which are evolving but by which the whole of the UK was bound during its EU membership).

Being treated differently to the rest of the UK is considered anathema to many unionists – at least when it is not to their liking. But Ireland before partition and Northern Ireland since 1921 have usually had trade barriers or differentiations with Britain so that is actually nothing new.

Most analysts feel that the DUP, having backed a hard Brexit, were only persuaded to oppose the Northern Ireland Protocol, and subsequently the Windsor Framework, by practical politics – losing support to the harder line TUV. This is correct. But principles and practicalities can go together and there are principles involved for most unionists. However the practical result of DUP opposition to the settlement in withdrawing from Stormont meant that the ship of state in the North has been virtually rudderless for two years with very considerable effects for workers, planning, poverty, communities and so on. This was not in the interest of anyone in the North.

Nationalists also feel aggrieved in that Brexit took place when an arithmetic majority in the North supported staying in the EU. For them this may not have adversely affected their view of the constitutional situation but it certainly was detrimental, in their view, to the status quo agreed in the Good Friday Agreement where common EU membership was assumed for Britain and Ireland. Their feeling is that Brexit has been used to emphasise ‘Britishness’ and get one up on them; the DUP is perceived as having held the whole of society hostage in a situation where they do not realise the compromises which nationalists face every day in a British state.

The British approach to all this was not very helpful with Chris Heaton-Harris seeming, or even being, somewhat ineffectual in the role of Secretary of State. Holding out the prospect of the much needed money but it being dependent on a return to Stormont by the DUP was regarded as insulting by those in need, and by the DUP, for different reasons. To withhold cash from those in need is reprehensible. And the DUP regarded it as moral blackmail. The money could and should have been made available irrespective of decisions by the DUP holding the North to ransom. Whether the hard ball played by Heaton-Harris made any difference to the DUP’s decision to return is a debatable question.

The extent to which there will be defections from the DUP over the return to Stormont remains to be seen. Jeffrey Donaldson himself was a defector from the Ulster Unionist Party after the Good Friday Agreement. However a further division in unionism is not in the interest of peace and stability in the North. The TUV, while ably represented by Jim Allister, has remained a one man band because it is not transfer friendly in the PR-STV system; any defectors there from the DUP would face an uncertain future electorally, and it is difficult to see the likes of Ian Paisley jeopardising his cosy position.

Things may settle down further under a Labour government in Britain if it builds closer relations with the EU. But that is some time away.

The situation in Northern Ireland remains SAD, and while spring is just around a couple of corners, and there is lots of light at the end of this particular tunnel, there are also likely to be lots of fights at the end of the tunnel. Devolved power in Northern Ireland is a very partial success, and even when it is meeting the Assembly and Executive have not been very effective decision makers.

To change the metaphor away from tunnels, Northern Ireland may be exiting one particular cul de sac. However there is no clear direction set and the vehicle it is travelling in is liable to break down, and it is creaky at the best of times. There isn’t even a map available or an agreed destination. This is certainly not the end of history and the ride ahead will continue to be bumpy.

War: Rooting out ‘Rooting out the men of violence’

The concept of ‘rooting out the men of violence’ is an appealing one to those of a militarist mindset. It projects a simple solution to problems by ‘going in’ and killing or arresting those who are military opponents. There is one major problem; it doesn’t work. Of course it may achieve something like success in the short term, in ‘pacifying’ a group or an area, but in the longer term it is disastrous because it creates martyrs, hatred, and thereby increased resistance as time goes by.

There were those in Northern Ireland who advocated ‘rooting out the men of violence’, and internment in 1971 was one botched early attempt at this which backfired spectacularly. In the recent Troubles it also took the British state perhaps a decade and a half to realise that killing people in circumstances where they didn’t need to (within the logic of military fighting) did create martyrs and was counterproductive to building peace.

The ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland was a relatively small guerrilla war with a few thousand people dying over a period of thirty years. It was often bloody, ugly and dirty, and has had lasting effects, but it was also limited by a variety of factors including public opinion (not least by those supporting paramilitary groups) and international pressure. The pain and hatred involved is still incalculable.

The war in Gaza is of a different order entirely with a vicious assault by Hamas on both Israeli military and civilians in southern Israel on 7th October 2023 with around 1,200 deaths and a couple of hundred hostages taken. This was followed by an all out assault by the Israeli state on Gaza resulting in around 25,000 deaths to date, many of them children. The Israeli government committed itself to total victory over Hamas and its complete destruction. Gaza has been turned into a wasteland of destruction and death. The couple of million people in Gaza are now mainly homeless and hospital-less with nowhere safe to shelter and that shelter may be a makeshift tent, and malnutrition and disease waiting outside it.

The magnitude of the war in Gaza is totally different to Northern Ireland. Comparisons can seem crass. But there is certainly one commonality; the concept of rooting out the men of violence is a gross mistake and failure. This leads to the increased production of enemies, and, aside from genocidal destruction, the only way to get rid of enemies is to turn them into friends. Even after, specially after, the assault by Hamas on 7th October that is the only lasting solution to the issues of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, creating a viable Palestinian state which can build the future for the Palestinian people that they deserve. It is that, and only that, which will create real peace and security for Israel and the people of Israel. It is the denial of that right of statehood for the Palestinian people which has created the current catastrophe.

The extent to which the peace process in Northern Ireland is replicable elsewhere is open to debate, and it is possible that particular accounts, important as they may be, see e.g. may effectively overstate the importance of one integral factor because it does not cover others. Nevertheless it is possible to draw some conclusions from the Northern Ireland experience about the importance of an equal playing field, inclusion, and a process over a considerable period of time with support from governments internationally which builds on common interests to create a momentum for peace which can build up towards the climax of a peace agreement. Though, as we know in Northern Ireland, that a peace agreement is not an end but only a beginning. Ironically, the USA which was a major supporter of the peace process in Northern Ireland is a major player in backing and supporting Israel and its war efforts, financially, diplomatically and militarily, and it also bears responsibility for the deaths in Gaza.

There are common interests for the people of Israel and Palestine but they are almost totally obscured or even obliterated in the craziness and obscenity of war, and more generally by Israel’s colonial project on Palestinian land.

Eco-Awareness: Locked-in poverty syndrome

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

I normally write my column in the cool wet climate of County Fermanagh assured that at this time of the year the day time temperature won’t rise about 8 or 9 Celsius. On this occasion I write from Juba in South Sudan where I can be assured that it won’t rain and the day time temperature won’t fall below 38 Celsius.

Living here one cannot avoid noticing the negative impact that the economic imperative to survive, underpinned by cultural practices, has resulted in the near complete negative transformation of a biome.

Outside the sprawl of Juba, the country’s capital with a population of 460,000, are the lands of the Bari Tribe. Over the last few decades, the land has morphed from being a verdant rainforest into a bio-impoverished expanse of savannah. This has been due to the felling of the forest to make charcoal for use in the villages, in Juba and for export to Saudi Arabia. The cultural practice of regularly setting fire to the grass and small bushes prevents the forest regenerating.

The transformation of rainforest to dry savannah is a classic case of what happens when a society lives beyond its eco-regenerative capacities through opting for short-term financial gain at the expense of persistent if not permanent economic hardship.

The loss of the rainforest has led to the loss of the produce and services it provided the Bari people and neighbouring tribes. These include a cooler climate, shade from the sun, a reliable supply of fresh water, medicines, fiber, food, wood, as well as materials for a range of useful implements and decorative accessories. It also meant the loss of agroforestry, which is the practice of growing crops and keeping a small number of economically useful animals among the trees. In addition, the loss of the forest has meant the loss of an important sequester of carbon and has had an impact on the local weather system. When the rainy season arrives, it will inevitably lead to severe flooding as it has done in the past.

There is nothing to replace these losses as given the lack of paved roads, electricity, piped water and the ever-present threat of tribal animosities resulting in widespread violence, economic development, whether indigenous or from an international company, would be difficult or unlikely. Thus, we have a locked-in syndrome of poverty.”

The removal of the threat of widespread violence could see a major company wanting to buy or rent Bari land and use it to produce plantation crops for both domestic consumption and export. Plantations, however, do not aid biodiversity, rely on expensive imported hazardous chemicals, employ relatively few people who are usually underpaid with the economic profits going abroad rather than circulating in the local economy.

This tragic scenario of ecological degradation leading to the locked-in syndrome of poverty is not particular to this part of South Sudan. It is the case in many parts of the world including Ireland as illustrated by the ecological degradation of Lough Neagh, other bodies of water, and the steep loss of biodiversity due to the Forestry Department’s over-reliance on coniferous trees and the farming community’s over-reliance on diary, beef and poultry. Northern Ireland in fact ranks 12th in the world for biodiversity loss.

Many of the businesses that relied on Lough Neagh are in decline as a result of the blue-green algae that has blighted the lough in recent years. Among them are eel fishing and leisure boating. Other bodies of water that were once replete with fish no longer provide suitable habitat for them due to agricultural run-off and the disposal of untreated sewage.

This takes us to the nub of the issue, which is how do we meet our needs, essential and relative, whilst not at the same time undermining and eventually eradicating the bounty of the Earth without which our needs cannot be met.? Is it wise, and do we think it is ethical, to meet the needs of the present at the expense of experiencing chronic need in a few years or decades time? Do we take our ecological legacy into account in the decisions we make?

As a society it seems we have opted, perhaps contrary to our avowed moral code, to live by the credo “I’m all right Jack”.

As a result of the imperative to meet pressing needs, as well as prepare for a rainy day, we by default largely rely on patterns of thought, dispositions and beliefs that are not fit for purpose. We behave in a way that a family business would not which is to use up all of our capitol in the form of the intact ecosystems left to us by passed generations.

Although it is said that we learn from our mistakes we often don’t. In regard to the harms we cause to nonhuman nature, which includes the over-heating of the planet and loss of biodiversity, we have not acted with the urgency, imagination and doggedness necessary to address them.

Like the Bari Tribe, who were unable to modify their long-established land-management practices in regards to felling trees for charcoal, communities the world over are finding that as a result of being unable to live within the regenerative capacities of their ecosystem that they are marooned in a locked-in poverty syndrome. Ecological destruction increases poverty which exasperates ecological destruction which in turn deepens the level of poverty.

It does not have to be this way. The move in the Republic of Ireland to recognize the rights of nonhuman nature in their constitution offers some hope. Many countries already recognize that nonhuman nature has rights comparable to those of people. Imagine the positive transformative impact across society if the rights of nonhuman nature were respected.

Like human rights in many a political jurisdiction, enshrining the rights of nonhuman nature in a country’s constitution does not mean they will be protected but it sets an important moral standard and wrongdoers can be held to account.

Readings in Nonviolence: Aesop’s Fable – The Wolf and the Lamb

l See for Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s pictorial take on ‘The wolf and the lamb’

Story and analysis by Gearóid Ó Dubhthaigh

There are many versions of this disturbing fable; here is my presentation of it.

One morning a hungry wolf, who was out hunting stopped to drinking at a brook. A short distance downstream he caught sight of a young unsuspecting, vulnerable lamb – a farm animal – that had become separated from his flock.

The wolf set his eyes upon the lamb and thought to himself: “There’s my dinner, delivered to me on a plate!”

Because the lamb looked particularly helpless and innocent, the wolf felt he ought to pick some quarrel to excuse his intention to seize the lamb.

So, drawing near he accused the lamb, saying: “How dare you muddy the water I’m drinking?”

The lamb, frightened at this threatening charge, said, in a tone as mild as possible, and trying to not exacerbate the wolf’s feelings: “Don’t get angry with me! It couldn’t possibly be me who is muddying the water you are drinking as the stream flows from you towards me.”

Very well,” said the wolf; “but I know you spoke ill of me a year ago.” “I couldn’t have done so; I wasn’t born until this year.” bleated the trembling lamb.

Well, then it must have been your brother,” growled the wolf.

It cannot have been so, for I never had any,” answered the Lamb.

The wolf, finding it impossible to come up with a plausible pretext, rejoined “’Tis all the same to me, if it wasn’t you, it was one of your lot. Fortune has conveniently brought us together so I can avenge the wrong done to me.”

At this he leaped upon the distraught lamb, and ate him on the spot.


Let us begin by looking at the story itself.

Who is involved?

Do animals speak to each other like they do in this story? No.

And we all know that in real life wolves must eat other animals to survive.

So, this story is not about animals, it is about people. Aesop used animals and birds as characters through whom he could gently and memorably present moral lessons, about people: human nature, us, what we see around us – we may see ourselves in the characters.

In this fable we have one who is very powerful and is intent upon depriving a weaker one of something that is his by right (his life). There is a clash between what a powerful one wants (having his way, his will, his desire), and (doing) what is just.

Let’s examine the story of the Wolf and the Lamb, and see what lessons we can gain from it. You may draw many other thoughts from it

1. “The wolf set his eyes upon the lamb and thought to himself”, and we might say that he thought only of himself.

(i) Somebody who is hungry or full of fear will find it difficult or impossible to hear the concerns of another. People who are dying of hunger are known to become like mad men, doing things that they could never otherwise conceive of doing.

(ii) The same can be true of those deprived of sleep or are under the influence of mind-altering substances such as alcohol and drugs; their judgement and self-control is impaired.

(iii) Similarly, emotions can blot out reason. Someone who over a period of time – in a similar manner to how we Adore and Worship God – can become fixated (obsessed, full of lust, infatuated, terrified, paranoid, full of vengeance, envy, etc.). In this state they can become overpowered by their emotions concerning wanting this very thing that they don’t have, and merge the importance of having it with their ego. They become blind to reality and will not be open to listening to reason, nor will they be capable of giving consideration of what is Just; they will pursue their objective regardless.

2. Why might the wolf want to vindicate, to justify, to excuse his intention to seize the lamb?

(i) Perhaps other wolves might think less of him for seizing such an easy prey – they might hold a wolf who hunted for his food in much higher regard.

(ii) More importantly there could be repercussions for this wolf if it became known to the farmer that a wolf was lurking in the vicinity of his flock liable to attack any one of them.

(iii) Furthermore, as the wolf was too lazy to go out and hunt for his food, rather than poaching lambs, there could be repercussions for other wolves; as the farmer would not know which wolf had done this, and so he might kill any or all of them. The other wolves in his pack might feel their lives were unnecessarily endangered and force this deviant, careless wolf out of the district.

3. … he accused the lamb …

– What do you think of the wolf’s excuses; were they based upon reality or were they exactly that, excuses; the skin of a lie?

– Did he use them to distract from reality?

– Can we learn anything about the wolf by looking at the accusations he makes?

(i) The wolf had seen that the lamb looked particularly helpless and innocent. By making an allegation, he placed an emotional barrier between him and the lamb; in effect he was labelling the lamb a deviant, an enemy. He was refocusing the encounter with the lamb, making it less likely that his intentions would become stymied by empathy.

(ii) Often, we will present ourselves as victims of injustice – some hurt inflicted by another – in order to justify an attack upon somebody.

Much of Scripture can be summarised by saying:

Do not use the sins of another to justify your own wrong-doing.

(iii) Often the accusations we make concerning others are more applicable to ourselves; they tell our own story.

The wolf’s allegation that the lamb was muddying the water maybe a subconscious recognition of his ploy to muddying the situation, so that the thinking become “muddied”, in other words we are distracted from the truth of the situation, reality.

The allegation that someone spoke ill of him, may reveal his true fears; he may be looking for an excuse so as to prevent others from speaking ill of him, for doing such a cruel and imprudent thing.

4. Those who are intent upon doing something wrong will come up with any excuse, no matter how improbable. Even so those with overwhelming power seems to have a need to justify their disregard for right order, with a fake appeal to reason and conscience. Yet their cover for their arbitrary cruelty and tyrannical use of power, can be an extraordinary flimsy excuse, having little connection with reality. It may merely serve as a distraction from reality. Perhaps we perceive ourselves as in some way dependent upon the compliance and even complicity of those around us (our reference group) so that we must justify our actions, less they become alarmed and think we might do the same to them, and so if they have the means and the audacity, they may turn upon us.

The first accusations were easily disproven as the details were evidently not true. The final justification presented by the wolf was guilt by association, where it was not almost impossible to prove or disprove the validity of the injury the wolf claimed he suffered. In any case the alleged offences were clearly irrelevant; the wolf was determined to make a meal of the lamb.

They say that the first casualty of war is the truth.

Violence cannot (continue to) exist without lies, and lies can’t exist without (being backed up by) violence (or the threat of violence).

Jesus Christ said to His Disciples:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. (Mt.10:16)

Nonviolent News note: We are happy to publish relevant material with a religious ethos or background whether it is Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jain or whatever (material from these faith backgrounds, for example, can be found on our website). We are equally happy to publish material with a secular, atheist or agnostic ethos.

Nuclear power is a regrets industry – Some facts

by Caroline Hurley

1. Esteemed international climate solutions organisation Project Drawdown cautions against relying on nuclear power compared to other solutions because “At Project Drawdown, we consider Nuclear Power a “regrets” solution. It has potential to avoid emissions, but carries many concerns as well” –

The five hundred odd nuclear power plants currently producing about 10 per cent of the world’s energy should be wound down for the serious and enduring liabilities they represent.

In 2023, the first nuclear power project in the U.S. featuring a small modular reactor was cancelled after a 53% surge in costs –

The cost of Hinkley Point C, Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in decades, was originally priced at £16 billion. That made it the most expensive building in the world, and that was before costs began to spiral upwards. The latest estimate is that it will cost £32 billion. Promising lower bills with nuclear power makes no sense. Nuclear energy is the only type of energy whose production costs have been steadily soaring year after year.

2. Plant operations routinely release by-products: long-lived fission elements including radioactive plutonium-239, isotopes of iodine, caesium, radon and selenium, mixed in with minor actinides like curium and americium. Huge volumes of water are depleted. Safe nuclear waste storage methods have not yet been invented. Vitrification comes closest, where chemicals are extracted from high-level waste, folded into glass rods, put in sealed steel containers and then buried, in salt preferably, to delay melting, with fingers crossed. Deep geological disposal is proposed for long-term management but remains controversial, having to withstand up to millions of years of half-live releases, and entailing transport and other hazards. Lower-level waste is sealed in cement or recycled. This dooms future generations. If any kind of nuclear reactors had been constructed as part of the Stonehenge or Newgrange complexes, 21st century people would still have to manage the radioactive waste. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, about the size of County Kerry, will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of years, maybe more. It has expanded in recent years.

3. In a country where neutrality is still cherished, Ireland should oppose civilian nuclear facilities which elsewhere are repeatedly adopted for military purposes. Anything from 15,000 to 25,000 nuclear weapons and counting now burden the planet, from a cumulative production tally of about 130,000 bombs, most made in either America or Russia, and smaller numbers in up to thirty other countries. The US alone ran over a thousand nuclear bomb tests between 1945 and 1992, each more lethal than the last. Another thousand were carried out elsewhere. At least two hundred nuclear reactor accidents occurred, many non-reported, as Soviet authorities had hoped for Chernobyl. A 2019 Sellafield leak did not make the news.

4. Some sources directly attribute over two million human deaths to atmospheric nuclear testing. Negligence during tests in the 1950s, when milk was contaminated, earned the US government a guilty verdict by a judge in 1984. Record volumes of radiation released raised health risks for millions of people. The United Nations announced in 2000 that nuclear radioactivity has spread across the entire earth. Nature everywhere now bears the tattoo. The Anthropocene was born with detonation of the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico Desert on July 16th, 1945, copper-fastening the Great Acceleration, of human progress and associated earth degradation. The revised standard to minimise dangerous releases is zero yield from sub-critical tests.

5. Joshua Frank, author of Atomic Days (2022), recalls the single largest anti-nuclear protest ever, which took place in New York City in September 1979 when an estimated 200,000 people rallied in Battery Park, calling for an immediate shut-down of Three Mile Island and an end to nuclear power proliferation globally. The global environmental movement sprang in large part from this era, which involved a very lively Irish element (Carnsore Point).

These invigorating actions, along with the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, put a halt to the construction of new nuclear plants in the United States. Since the accident, up to eighty per cent of Belarus children present with somatic pathologies, including deformities, cellular irregularities and age-inappropriate conditions like stroke, cardiac arrest, and neonatal cardiac cavities known as Chernobyl heart. Countless bodies of workers and patients absorbed isotopes sufficiently to classify them as walking radioactive waste. Plans for dozens of plants were shelved. By the mid-1980s the remarkably successful anti-nuclear power movement shifted its focus, joining the rapidly growing nuclear freeze movement, which was working to put the brakes on the global nuclear arms race.

6. How shameful that in the name of climate action, some are trying to undo this monumental success by prescribing nukes as a remedy? Of many reasons to oppose nuclear power. seven stand out: nuclear energy is not carbon neutral, huge mining impacts, nuclear power’s ties to atomic weapons, extreme waste issues, risks of accidents, and costs. See

Numerous individuals and organisations have emerged in Ireland advocating for nuclear power as a major climate fix for a clean energy transition, particularly since, after a very close vote by lawmakers in July 2022, the European Parliament approved amended EU taxonomy rules labelling investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly. Some regard this as hijacking the EU’s key instrument of green policy, “openly accomplished through a campaign of misinformation conducted by the nuclear lobby.” –

Groups already participating in environmental projects around the country are being especially targeted to become poster-child converts to nuclear energy by industry influencers and Key Opinion Leaders, whose PR profiles are designed to project authority and trustworthiness. Lazarsfield’s milestone 1950s marketing study showed that driving consumer demand involves coaching “the effectiveness of interpersonal relations at each stage of the diffusion process”. It’s about capturing hearts and minds, even perhaps reassuring with convenient untruths, such as the claims made about reliable affordable small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), touted as solutions since the 1950s. The only one under construction in America was cancelled in 2023 due to unaffordability and, not counting just two prototypes under test, one in Russia and one in China, no other SMRs are in commercial use yet in the world.

However, if governments can be persuaded to take a risk on these boondoggles, whose record of breakdown and incidents contradict reliability claims, massive transfers of taxpayers’ money beckon. Governments also fall for other trade tricks, for example in France, the state had to buy electricity from a malfunctioning over-centralised energy sector, and run point heaters in summertime to destroy surplus electricity (for a fee) though produced and purchased, it could not be used anywhere. Intercountry grids will hardly address such warped bloats and glitches.

7. In their book, The Menace of Atomic Energy, published 50 years ago, Ralph Nader and John Abbotts revealed to readers that the person most responsible for developing American nuclear reactors, Dr Alvin Weinberg, admitted he would prefer solar energy if its cost could be brought down to less than 2.5 times the cost of nuclear energy. Solar panels can be installed quickly, with minimal disruption to nature. Methods to reduce the embodied energy used up in panels and improve end-of-life disposal progress steadily.

In 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) declared solar electricity the cheapest in history: at least four times cheaper than nuclear. Rare mention of nuclear energy being the most expensive signals the lobbying power of this massive miasmic industry.

In Germany, plans to open a nuclear reprocessing plant at Wackersdorf in Bavaria were discontinued in 1989 because of major public protests. The experience converted former lead nuclear exponent Dr Franz Alt to the benefits of renewable energy (RE). Alt coined the phrase, “solar panels for peace”, echoing President Eisenhower’s 1950s slogan, “atoms for peace”, referring to using fissile nuclear material for civilian electricity production not weapons. The monstrous consequences of accidents or conflict prove nuclear production poses a persistent security threat.

8. Decentralised energy independence based on 100% clean renewables is the eco alternative because, beyond its attraction as a target in the event of invasion, centralised electricity generation makes the grid unstable, and an unstable grid makes power supply unstable. Ireland with its already very centralised supply has a very high System Average Interruption Duration Index (the indicator of supply reliability), much higher than countries with a decentralised supply like Denmark or Germany. Local photovoltaic power generation means independence from burdensome or mistaken government and market forces.

Chronic above-average prices are predicted in the UK due to its large nuclear power plants and a lack of onshore Renewable Energy power plants. Power monopolies reinforcing their own dominance pose major threats to economies. Since Ireland’s electricity supply is linked to the UK grid, power price increases there are felt here.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) warned that crises such as the Ukraine war “makes it positively clear that we must invest in a secure, reliable, resilient, decentralized, democratic, and 100% clean and renewable energy system. Energy independence and climate change are both issues of national security”. Ending this dependency is urgent both on environmental and peace-and-justice grounds.

9. In her 2019 book, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, Kate Brown shows that the US and other countries censored and destroyed evidence of radiation’s long-term biological toxicity, especially following low to moderate doses, which delay symptoms, meaning millions of impaired people are excluded from casualty counts. She hardly needed to mention the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ignominious but still extant 1959 agreement to desist from investigating and reporting the human health risks of nuclear radiation, made with US-sponsored nuclear advocate, the extremely powerful interest group, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those who tried to probe atomic poisoning could find themselves fired, arrested or worse. The 2023 film La Syndicaliste gives a feel for what inquirers are up against. Such obstacles stymie the demand for proper wide-ranging studies into the actual consequences of massive lasting contamination of living beings. Brown’s retrieval of scattered reports by citizens, public servants and independent scientists whose perspectives clash with authority’s accounts of limited harm, sets the record straight.

In mid-sixties America, Dr John Gofman, cholesterol pioneer and inventor of the Linear Non-Threshold model, wondered about radiation’s impact on the human body, and initiated large-scale research. He and his colleague Dr Tamplin reviewed data from Japan’s Life-Span Study of atomic bomb victims. Observing how cancer and genetic injury so often succeeded radiation poisoning, Gofman and Tamplin concluded in1969 that safety guidelines for low-level exposure were way too high and recommended their reduction by ninety per cent. The US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) disputed the findings, and General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, promptly ordered confiscation of the exhaustive medical documentation used, depriving humanity of this unique trove.

As Brown recounts, result reports were destroyed in 1973, and another independent researcher, Thomas Mancuso, fired in 1977. In the 1990s, Joseph Lyon encountered insider obstruction when gathering statistics for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on elevated sickness after Nevada tests: a further example of the high-level sabotage Brown repeatedly detected. Experts finally agreed in 1996 they were wrong, some might say criminally, to doubt the severity and prevalence of radioactive diseases in Chernobyl. Rather than safety guidelines being lowered, however, the trend is to raise them farther after each big nuclear event affecting populations and their homes, foods and workplaces, as if the logistics of sane response otherwise is too overwhelming. 2023 research confirms the disproportionately high and cumulative persistence of radioactive contamination –

Acknowledging Gofman’s work, the National Academy of Science carried out an enormous study on the biological effects of ionising radiation, or BEIR, for short. Findings confirmed warnings sounded by Gofman, yet even his advice to at least locate nuclear plants away from built-up areas was ignored.

10. The radiation that can cause severe burns, systemic sickness and death makes up fifteen per cent of a nuclear bomb’s output. Just fifty of today’s bombs could kill two hundred million people. In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences invented the Doomsday Clock. Sixty years later, in 2007, the minute hand moved forward two minutes, from seven to five minutes to midnight. Ten years later, in 2017, it advanced another two and a half minutes due to extra risks from nuclear terrorism, rogue state arms acceleration and general nuclear renewal. Since 2023, it’s closer again, at 90 seconds to midnight. The taxonomy listing nuclear energy as green is emboldening for greenwashing companies. Who wouldn’t love a hazard-free clean energy? It’s like magic – until a closer look is taken. State services should ensure adequate and independent expertise is in place to compel transparency, corporate governance, and public awareness and safety. Instead, opinion formers flourish as they exhort people to be optimistic about a future presented as high-tech, nature-blind, urban and ever more prosperous. Realistically though, since the nuclear industry inhabits the same business spaces as fossil fuel companies, simply choose nuclear to increase humanity’s chance of soonest going broke, economically, environmentally and morally, on the way to midnight and extinction.

Finally, an important reference is the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2023

Conflicts in the Middle East, NI and elsewhere

by Peter Emerson

We start with a theoretical solution to the problem; next, we examine its most recent causes; and then propose possible steps for a less violent future.

The problem

The ideal would be a one-state solution, a country where peoples of different ethno-religious backgrounds share a territory where religion is not regarded as a distinction of nationhood. This has often been the case, not only in Israel and throughout the Middle East. Suffice for the moment to say that a single state of Israel/Palestine combined could not work, at all, if its governance were based on majority voting and majority rule.

Other jurisdictions have also been based on a religious affiliation: they include Northern Ireland, Pakistan and India, Libya, Croatia and Timor Leste. Unfortunately, in western democratic practice, problems are invariably reduced to dichotomies or series of dichotomies, and even though more sophisticated decision-making procedures have long since been devised, as often as not, decisions are still taken by a (simple, weighted or consociational) majority vote.

An alternative solution would involve the two states, Israel and Palestine, as neighbours: the former as is, contiguous, the latter split between Gaza and the West Bank. At the moment, there’s only one properly constituted nation-state, Israel, a country with a population of about 20% Arab. Therefore, in a democracy, (for as long as ethno-religious origins are considered to be so important) its parliament should also be about 20% Arab; Israel uses a closed-list form of PR, and currently, there are about 10% Arab elected representatives.

Secondly – or so it could be argued if democracy was for everybody and not just a majority – any government of ten or more ministers should include at least one or two Arabs; today’s cabinet in the Knesset consists of 28 ministers, so the number of Arabs should be three (on 10%) or six (on 20%). There are none. There were some in the previous administration, but Netanyahu now presides over the most extreme right-wing government of its history. Apparently, in current democratic practice, you can go to bed with the devil, as long as your cabinet is at least 50% + 1 of the parliament, it shall be regarded (by most) as democratic.

In a similar fashion, in 2017, Britain’s Tories teamed up with a bunch whose policies (but not necessarily the persons) were extremist, the DUP; the Labour Party did something similar in 1978; (so both of the UK’s big parties have and have always had a vested interest in keeping NI in the UK, so its majoritarian – and sometimes hung – parliament would always include a small number of malleable outsiders). Meanwhile, elsewhere, other extremist parties have also prospered. Austria’s coalition of 1999 included its Freedom Party on 52 seats but excluded the Socialists on 65. A similar party was in government (with no ministers) in the Netherlands in 2010, and in the wake of their 2023 election, the Dutch may soon be ruled by a coalition led by this party. Meanwhile, with its Alternative für Deutschland the right in Germany and elsewhere is also on the rise.

Majority coalitions, they say, lead to stable government… yet in some instances, as in Israel in 2015, the government has had a majority of just one MP: a tail which then wags the dog.

Israel often claims it is the only democracy in the Middle East. So part of the problem there is the fact that democracy here, as practised, is so adversarial; that some electoral systems are not preferential and proportional; that most cabinets are not all-party power-sharing administrations – indeed, the only one currently in existence but not in a conflict zone is in Switzerland; and thirdly, that decision-making almost everywhere is based on majority votes.

Recent causes

The most immediate cause of the current war was the horrific violence of October last year. The situation has been exacerbated by Israel’s excessive use of force since those events. Apart from outsiders like the USA, the UK and Russia, other players in the conflict include Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and of course Iran; their histories in this problem go back a little further.


In 1943, Beirut benefited from the fact that there were no ‘western experts’ (because the latter were all fighting WWII), so the Lebanese devised their own political structure. They now have an almost brilliant electoral system, albeit based on Britain’s useless first-past-the-post. In any constituency of, say, 50:25:25 Sunni:Maronite:Shi’a, parties may nominate candidates, but only if they too are in the same ratio of 2:1:1; accordingly, there shall be 4 or a multiple of 4 elected representatives, always in the same 2:1:1 ratio. Voters may vote for only one party, which means in this instance they also vote for four people in that same religious ratio of 2:1:1; if they don’t want a particular candidate, they can cross him/her out and put in another one… of the same religion! In effect, then, the election takes religion out of politics. Well, not quite; but it was a nice idea.

If NI also had that rule, if standing two candidates in North Belfast, for example, the DUP would have to include a Catholic! 

Their elections, then, are pretty good. Their religiously most diverse constituency elected 17 representatives, so there were lots and lots of candidates! And a typical result for a 128-member parliament included Shi’a, Sunni, Maronite, Greek and Armenian Orthodox and Catholic, Druze, Alawite and Protestant MPs… as well as, just in case, one more for the minorities!

The Taif Agreement also catered for a form of power-sharing, with appointments to various important posts – the likes of the president, premier, and speaker – subject to religious affiliation: a Maronite, a Sunni and a Shi’a, respectively. Sadly, therefore, their power-sharing arrangement perpetuated the very problem it was supposed to overcome.

In like manner, the designations used in Stormont in consociational votes enforce the sectarianism they were designed to obviate. 

In all, the authors of the Taif Agreement accepted the fact that, in every election, the voters should have a good choice. But, they continued, in decision-making, both the MPs in parliament and the voters in any referendum would have choices which were only binary.

Similarly, the authors of the Belfast Agreement agreed that, when choosing their local representatives, the voters in any council or Assembly election should be offered a choice of more than two candidates; and we still have PR-STV. When making decisions, however – ah, that’s different, apparently – the MLAs in Stormont or the voters in a referendum are to be given choices that are only binary. 

This tendency is universal. In 1949 in Germany, which had caused so many to suffer in, and/or as a consequence of, the Weimar Republic – which had a polity based on PR elections but majority voting in the parliament – the new post-Hitler settlement was to include a different form of PR in elections, but decision-making in the Bundestag still had to be binary, apparently. It’s in the Basic Law: “The fact that members of the Bundestag take decisions on behalf of the whole German people is a requirement for majority decision-making.” This oxymoron is pure gobbledegook! There is however one good proviso: all future elections of the chancellor are to be so-called constructive votes, so nobody is to vote ‘no’; rather, if they didn’t like option A, they could propose option B. In the USA, where two of the founding fathers actually invented a form of PR, decision-making in Congress has to be dichotomous. Trump is only the denouement of a binary polity.

And so it goes on, in Moscow, Beijing and Tehran, decision-making on all sorts of disputes – and nearly all of them are multi-optional – is invariably binary! Even in Pyongyang, the North Korean constitution, article 97, stipulates majority voting, (not that it’s used very often).

Lebanon today is a multi-multi society, with a very fragile form of power-sharing in Beirut, while the mainly Shi’a sect of Hezbollah is concentrated in the South, close to the Israeli border.


The Golan Heights were taken by Israel, by force, during the six-day war of 1967.

In the wake of the Arab Spring in Tunisia in 2010, democracy was on the move. Whereupon a Sunni majority in Syria decided to oppose the rule of Bashar al-Assad, a member of a Shi’a sect called the Alawites; therefore, he belonged to a minority of a minority. The protest started in 2011, peacefully, but it turned violent within a year; the rest is yet more bloody history.


Yemen has long since been split, with a mainly Sunni population in the eastern ‘half’ opposing the Shi’as in what had been the British colony of Aden, where today’s Houthis are based. Yet again, the country is divided in a majority-versus-minority conflict, as if being a majority (no matter how defined) gives them the right to rule.

A civil war started in 2014, with the Houthis trying to take over the whole country. Saudi Arabia intervened, militarily, on the side of the Sunnis (of course), while Iran supported and armed the Houthis (again of course). In 2022, the UN brokered a cease-fire, but the events in Gaza have prompted the Houthis to attack ships in the Red Sea, supposedly in support of their fellow religionists in Gaza in Palestine.


In 1906, in Iran, Britain discovered oil, which was sort of OK, and then decided that the oil was not Iranian but British. Mossadegh thought that was not OK, so in 1953, he held a referendum to nationalise it all, and he won, massively. That was just not good enough, apparently, so the British organised a coup, installed the Shah, and he had a referendum to reverse that decision… massively. Next, in 1979, the revolutionary Ayatollah had another poll, this one to prove that the people did not want to be socialist (by 99.8%) or capitalist (by 99.9%) and actually preferred to be Islamic (by 99.5%). As usual, a majority identifies, not the will of the people, not the will of the majority, but the will of he – it’s usually a he – who sets the question. The turnout was always high… except in the last plebiscite it was only 65%, as the Shi’a voted ‘yes’, of course, but the mainly Sunni minority of Turkmens in the North abstained, of course.

In like manner, the Catholics boycotted our 1973 border poll, as did the Orthodox in Croatia’s independence plebiscite of 1991, so too the Muslims in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1994, and the Georgians in South Ossetia in 2006, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Yet still there are people in these islands who want binary referendums, and academics in University College London and elsewhere who think of nothing else.

The future

But back to the problem of violence in the Middle East. There are at least two ways we can help:

a) at home, we could practice a form of democracy that, at least in theory, could work in a one-state solution;


b) in the conflict zone, where maybe a few of the great and good – religious leaders of all faiths, politicians, and retired but famous folk from many professions, with Arabic and Hebrew speakers among them – could walk, slowly, from Gaza to Jerusalem.

At Home

If we want all-party power-sharing in the Knesset, we should first practise it ourselves: the British people electing their parliament in a colour-blind, preferential and proportional system (like PR-STV); the British and Irish elected representatives then voting in a procedure which allows every member to choose, in order of preference, both those whom they wish to be in cabinet, and the ministry in which they want each of their nominees to serve – so the ballot paper is tabular. Like PR-STV, this matrix vote entices every party to nominate only as many as it thinks it can get elected; and it’s based on a Modified Borda Count which entices the parliamentarians to complete a full ballot. In effect, therefore, the voting procedure encourages every elected representative to cross the gender gap, the party divide and even the sectarian chasm! In the Knesset, it would mean that the a 28-member cabinet would invariably include about three to six Arabs.

Both Dáil Éireann and the House of Commons should not only preach all-party power-sharing; they should practise it. So too should Stormont, such that every executive would be cross-party; and governance, throughout these islands, could be more inclusive.

In the Dáil, Sinn Féin would also be in cabinet. In Ankara, the Kurds would be sharing power. And in the House of Commons, with only 1.5% of the MPs, the DUP would never be in government, (unless perhaps their number included one individual of exceptional talent). Meanwhile, the AfD would be in government in Berlin, the PVV in The Hague, and so on. And such cabinets would take all decisions in consensus, either verbally, and/or by using an MBC.

In the Middle East

By definition, in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi perhaps, anti-war protests should always be ‘peace-ful’. Those involved – the more famous the better – should best be old: persons like the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, an Imam, a Rabbi, a Buddhist, a Hindu, perhaps a serving or retired president like Mary Robinson, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, along with a few interpreters and some younger persons perhaps to care for the donkeys carrying the tents and so on. They could walk, slowly, meet the victims, discuss the problems with whomsoever, not least the press… and talk peace.

Peter Emerson

The de Borda Institute

Billy King: Rites Again, 316

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Hello again – You may not know that there are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of snowdrops with some rarer ones changing hands for perhaps a hundred quid a bulb. Chacun à son gout. We just have a couple of varieties and one of them, for the first time ever, was in flower before Christmas and new year. That is global warming/warning for you. A few decades ago you could be almost certain, in our neck of the woods, of a hard frost before the end of October while now it could be a couple of months later, and one year our nasturtiums, which go to mush with any hard frost at all, survived through to the spring. In the damp cold of an Irish winter you may not notice it too much but the weather times have been changing. And more damaging storms and floods will be our lot, Isha-n’t that the truth.

Nun better, nun worse

I don’t know if you watched the two programmes on RTE about the ‘last priests’ and ‘last nuns’ in Ireland, presented respectively by Ardal O’Hanlon and Dearbhall McDonald in mid-January. There has been an amazing change in my lifetime, from an ‘oversupply’ and export of people in this form of religious life to very few and most of those being at or past normal retirement age – and retirement age for priests is 75. They may be few and far between in the future but as species (Irish born clerics) they are not going to die out, and if women priests appear (eventually) and celibacy becomes optional in the Catholic church (somewhat sooner) then there will be more who can join.

Of course we are better of without the belt of a crozier being something to fear. All the Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant (with the possible exception of a few churches catering primarily for migrants) are having to downsize and be creative in what they do and don’t do. And no longer being a bastion of the state (choose which state) perhaps they are also free to adopt a more radical mission and even rediscover the nonviolence which was certainly part of the early Christian church – you couldn’t be a Christian and a soldier for the first couple of hundred years of the Christian church. Well, that stipulation certainly vanished, didn’t it; sometimes states said – and say – men had to be a soldier to be a Christian (and this was backed up by subservient churches).

O’Hanlon had it handy in that he had a couple of old school friends who were priests; they came across very well. And to survive as a priest today in what is to some extent an anti-clerical environment, certainly for Catholic priests, you need to be together as a person and sure of your vocation. Meanwhile watching nuns be emotional and very human in relation to things done by their order in the past was moving. Of course atrocious things were done by priests and nuns but brilliant things too, and religious sisters, some not having the same institutional responsibilities as the men, have got up to some amazing projects, and moved with the more secular times, pushing out various boats. Part of O’Hanlon’s feature was about the ultramontanist (not a word used in the programme) movement in the Catholic Church in the mid-19th century under Cardinal Cullen; this elevated and isolated the priesthood and led to many of the evils perpetrated by some in the years following.

I only watched the two programmes once, as they were being screened, and their purpose wasn’t to revisit the evils of the past. But unless I am wrong there was no mention of the slowness of some religious orders to cough up the lolly that they were meant to for the government compensation fund for victims. And an order like the Christian Brothers have made it unnecessarily difficult for victims bringing legal cases. There are still lots of outworkings from the past.

Aotearoa and Norn Iron

As you may know, the Maori word for New Zealand, Aotearoa, is usually translated as Land of the Long White Cloud. This presumably was what impressed most upon Maori people as the characteristic of those islands when they arrived from Polynesia, or was how the Polynesian settlers who became the Maori found it when sailing there. It is a beautiful and evocative name.

The old Northern Irish loyalist slogan in favour of partition was that “We will never forsake the blue skies of freedom for the grey mists of an Irish Republic”. We don’t hear that quoted these days for a variety of reasons. However it struck me recently that, politically speaking, Norn Iron could be known as the Land of the Impenetrable Grey Mists. This is also an evocative name but not exactly beautiful. And no, I don’t know what that would be in Ulster Scots or Irish, maybe someone can enlighten me (before some “tír’s” are shed). And just because Stormont may be returning doesn’t mean those political grey mists will be clearing up either. And you could say the whole people of the North have missed out there.

You can’t vet me, I’m part of the Union

History isn’t always what we think, and is often more complex and nuanced than our preferred take. For example, the anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland by ‘nationalists’ (in inverted commas because there are all sorts, and various forms of resistance) is tempered by the extent to which others in Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, bought in to the British imperialist and colonialist project, and the 19th century British army would have collapsed without Irish soldiers, primarily there for the job.

In the recent past, loyalists in the North have bemoaned the departure from previous norms which the Northern Ireland Protocol and then the Windsor Framework represented. A legal case that the Northern Ireland Protocol was, among other things, incompatible with the 1801 Act of Union between Britain and Ireland, and therefore invalid, failed in London. But some loyalists have continued to bang that drum; in treating Northern Ireland differently in the economic sphere to the rest of the UK, the new arrangements were deemed a traitorous betrayal of solemn agreements in the past. The first point here, perhaps, is that there was very considerable bribery and corruption involved in getting the Act of Union agreed, and the Irish Parliament to vote itself out of existence, and it represented such a small section of people in Ireland, that thinking of the Act of Union as in any way ‘democratic’ is a nonsense.

However an article in the Belfast News Letter made me aware of another salient factor. The Act of Union did not institute free trade between Britain and Ireland. So calling for a return to the ‘equal treatment’ it is supposed to represent does not necessarily entail getting rid of the ‘Irish Sea border’ since there was one in 1801. Henry Patterson in the News Letter of 29th January pointed out that tariffs continued between Britain and Ireland after the Act of Union: “the restoration of Article 6 of the Acts of Union to its pre-Protocol status would be a very bad business indeed. The original Article 6 (the so-called ‘same footing’ clause) actually included a list of significant duties on goods moving between Great Britain and Ireland. In addition to duties on goods like whisky, cider and chocolate, it also entailed that countervailing duties could be imposed by the UK Parliament.”

And Patterson goes on that “The lived experience of “equal treatment” under Article 6 of the Union was nothing of the sort. This was particularly the case after the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 which, in truth, was the real constitutional foundation of Northern Ireland. From that point, there has always been differentiation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Section 21 of the 1920 Act required extensive checks by customs officers on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” He continues with examples of divergence during Unionist rule in Northern Ireland but also towards the end berates the Irish government on legacy issues and its inter-state case against the British government on that matter.

Perhaps it could be said that Britain has always treated Ireland and Northern Ireland differently to its own island, and Northern Ireland, from its foundation at partition, has reciprocated. So the historical case against the Windsor Framework is not a good one. That in no way determines what the future of Norn Iron should be but without its people working together then its future will be a revisiting of aspects of its past.

That’s me for now. When I write again the daffodils will be coming out in our part of the world, yellow harbingers of the slightly warmer weather that we know as ‘spring’ and ‘summer’. Until then, take care of yourself and others, Billy.