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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

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

By Gearóid Ó Dubhthaigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drumcree before ‘Drumcree’

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

by Rob Fairmichael

Introduction – The general situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drumcree and DFJ

The parade down the Garvaghy Road was experienced by most Catholics in the area as treating them as second class citizens and as something imposed on them. In 1986 the local Drumcree Faith and Justice group (DFJ) on the Garvaghy Road, in the Catholic area, organised a ‘tea party’ during the parade coming through the area as they paraded home from Drumcree Church of Ireland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a couple of years of the tea party as a symbol of resistance, the DFJ subsequently took to sit down protests about the parade coming through. See photos from 1989 (and a short general album about DFJ) at

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

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

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

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

INNATE monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Readings in Nonviolence: Resources on nonviolence in Ireland, past and present

This piece is based on a handout which was part of a presentation by INNATE coordinator Rob Fairmichael on Nonviolence in Ireland, past and present to a Pax Christi/Loyola Institute seminar on Advancing nonviolence held in TCD in October.

See the February 2023 issue of Nonviolent News for a different take, listing all of INNATE’s online resources, covering both the main INNATE site and the Flickr photo/documentation one. See

Please get in touch at if you are think INNATE can assist you in exploring any of the INNATE material concerned, you have suggestions for additions, or would like to explore being involved in any projects such as peace trails.


There are many issues regarding definitions of what is ‘nonviolence’ which cannot be fully explored here. This includes differentiating between ‘non-violence’ (action which is not violent) and ‘nonviolence’ (committed either ideologically/philosophically/religiously, or pragmatically as with Gene Sharp – ‘it works’). All of this determines what actions and groups we consider to be non-violent or nonviolent.

The term itself is difficult as it contains a negative (April Carter compared it with the original term for a car as a ‘horseless carriage); there have been suggestions in other languages for different terminology, e.g. ‘relentless persistence’.

We need an analytical but not imperialist (grabbing and labelling) viewpoint as to what is nonviolence/non-violence, and appreciation of different campaigns working non-violently for social change, saving the climate, etc, While we can understand other people’s actions for social or political change as part of non-violence or nonviolence we have to understand that they may not understand it that way and therefore we have to be careful and sensitive in our labelling; however there is nothing to say we cannot understand particular actions in a different way to those involved.

And is nonviolence a) an ideology, b) a spiritual or life imperative, c) a methodology, d) a pragmatic choice, e) all or some of these? f) other?

And where is the greatest imperative to be involved?

What follows are primarily resources from INNATE –

lNonviolence in Irish History pamphlet (Dawn, 1978) – covering O’Connell, Davitt, Quakers, Boycott, US ‘westward’ moving Irish, peace groups; link at

lNonviolence – The Irish Experience Quiz link at This is a short attempt at a ‘prejudice reduction exercise’ to show Irish history, distant and contemporary, consists of a lot more than violence…. It starts off with a mention of the Céide Fields where people lived peaceful, settled lives 5,000 years ago, with no evidence of enemies or violence, and in 15 different examples includes the classic non-violent action of switched allegiance and setting up alternative institutions when republican MPs in 1919 set up the first Dáil rather than attend the Westminster parliament.

lPeace groups in Ireland through the years

With the notable exception of Corrymeela (which predates the Troubles in the North) and possibly Cooperation Ireland, all the Troubles-era peace and reconciliation groups in Northern Ireland are defunct or inactive. However this pamphlet covers all groups from the early 19th century onwards in the whole island. Download from

This draws for some early history on Richard Harrison’s “Irish Anti-War Movements 1824 – 1974”; his Stair na Síochána in Éirinn [le Risteárd Mac Annraoi, as gaeilge] is to be published by Coiscéim and is currently at the printers – 300 pages and illustrated.

lThe Peace People Experience (Dawn Train, 1986), this is a detailed study of the most prominent Northern peace group which began in 1976, link at

lPeace People and other peace groups

INNATE’s photo site is also a documentation site with information and links. Peace groups covered, North and South, include (in alphabetical order) Afri, CND, Corrymeela, Dawn, Drumcree Faith and Justice Group, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Glencree, INNATE, Irish Pacifist Movement, Northern Ireland Peace Forum, Pax Christi, Peace and Reconciliation Group, Witness for Peace, Women Together. Go to and select ‘Albums’.

lNonviolence in Ireland: A study guide

A short study guide for individual learning and reflection or group use. Download at It consists of 16 or 17 short parts with online resources and questions for individual or group reflection.

lMy kind of nonviolence

Fifteen people from different parts of Ireland, and with different takes on the topic, write about what nonviolence means to them, available online at

lINNATE’s photo site has over 2,600 photos or entries, historical and contemporary, and the easiest way to use it is through the albums (groupings of photos on a particular topic or group) of which there are 54.

Go to and select ‘Albums’ from the toolbar, scroll down to see the ones that interest you. It includes albums on individual peace groups, and subject albums such as monitoring and accompaniment, Troubles and peace in Northern Ireland, disarmament and particular campaigns in this area.

lPeace trails – telling local stories of work for peace, justice and inclusion – plans got derailed by Covid but will take off again.

lVideo of seminars on recent peace movement history from seminars organised by INNATE, 2021.


Larry Speight’s column in Nonviolent News (since 2004) has been an important part of INNATE’s insistence on ‘nonviolence towards the earth’.

Issues more generally include local and global justice, climate justice, peace and neutrality, social and cultural inclusion, interpersonal and ’domestic’ violence issues.

Current groups: Just some include Afri, Alternatives to Violence Project/AVP; CND/Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Corrymeela: Glencree: PANA/Peace and Neutrality Alliance; Pax Christi, StoP/Swords to Ploughshares; Financial Justice Ireland, Green groups (nonviolence towards the earth and thus humanity) including FOE, Feasta, Stop Climate Chaos, Friends of the Irish Environment, Eco Congregation; civil liberties groups inc, ICCL, CAJ.

Readings in Nonviolence: Where are the peace proposals on Ukraine?


If at first you don’t succeed…….then you haven’t been quite doing it right, and failing better may be necessary before finally, we may hope, breaking through to the goal. Various people have made peace proposals regarding the war in Ukraine but not, as this article writes, the EU – so much for the EU being a peacebuilding organisation, it is more concerned these days with building its own army and promoting its arms production (an act the Irish government is keen to get in on).

The war in Ukraine is the biggest military confrontation in Europe since the Second World War, so all the more reason that Europe in general and European countries that proclaim themselves to be peace-loving should be continuously exploring ways to bring the war in Ukraine to an end.

This article, from Transcend Media Service, looks at some of what has been happening and not happening and points a way forward including a proposal from some prominent German figures. Ukraine, Russia, Europe in general, indeed the world has a sword of Damocles hanging over its head, not just from the war in Ukraine but from nuclear weapons, global heating and other factors. Removing this ‘sword’ or indeed many swords hanging by a thread is not easy but if you don’t try you certainly won’t succeed – and some people (EU, Irish government etc) are certainly not trying.

A groundbreaking German peace proposal for Ukraine

Michael von der Schulenburg

It Could Save Us from an All-Out War

18 Sep 2023 – At the end of August this year, four highly respected German personalities (*1) presented a peace proposal for ending the war in Ukraine through a ceasefire and subsequent peace negotiations: It is arguably the most comprehensive and groundbreaking peace proposal made by any government, international organization or, as in this case, any private party since the war began 18 months ago.

This peace proposal comes at an extremely critical time in the Ukraine war. With a possible failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and the resulting weakening of the Ukrainian armed forces, NATO could be faced with the decision in the next few months, perhaps even in the next few weeks, to either further escalate the war against Russia or to go down the path of negotiations. A decision to continue the war, however, carries the enormous risk that it could increasingly develop into a direct NATO-Russia confrontation. This would not only result in further suffering of the Ukrainian population, but it would also bring the world one step closer to nuclear war. It is only to be hoped that reason will prevail, and NATO, Ukraine and Russia will opt for a ceasefire with immediate peace negotiations. The detailed German peace proposal has now shown the way to this end. It is therefore of utmost urgency to draw the attention of political decision-makers around the world to this peace proposal and to win public support for it.

The African Union, China, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia have made peace proposals and a peace proposal was earlier developed at the invitation of the Vatican. In addition, Turkey and Israel have undertaken laudable peace initiatives. However, the European Union, that should be most concerned about peace in Europe and that itself is deeply involved in this war, has not yet made any proposal on how to end this war through a political solution. Moreover, except for a proposal for peace negotiations by former Italian Prime Minister Draghi a year ago, none of the EU member states has undertaken any form of peace initiative of its own either. Sadly, this is also true for the German government.

At a time, the Ukraine war presents Europe with a supreme peril, the European Union seems to have lapsed into political rigidity. Neither does it have an obvious strategy of its own for what it wants to achieve with its military support for dragging on the Ukraine war, nor has it developed any ideas of what a peaceful Europe might look like after this war. As if this old continent had learned nothing from the terrible experiences of the two World Wars, which, like the Ukrainian war now, were fought mainly on European soil, it still clings to increasingly unrealistic maximum demands and the shocking idea that these can be achieved on the battlefield. That in the process Ukraine is being bled dry in the truest sense of the word is apparently being accepted. EU policy also seems to be deaf to the political, social and economic consequences the continuation of the war will have for the people of Europe and around the world, and the enormous dangers that would emanate for humankind from its continuous escalation.

Against this background, it becomes clear why such a detailed German peace proposal is of such great importance right now. It breaks with the fatal belief that military victories could bring peace and, in contrast, outlines ways to achieve a peaceful solution to this war through political negotiations. In the present prevailing highly belligerent atmosphere in European politics, media and think tanks, this requires considerable personal courage on the part of the initiators to stand up for peace.

Their peace proposal is also based on the Western view that Russia has started an illegal war of aggression and that thus Ukraine has every right to defend itself militarily and to accept foreign military support to do so. However, they go a decisive step further by emphasizing that this “does not absolve the government in Kiev and its supporting states … from politically promoting the achievement of a just and lasting peace“. Now that this war has entered a highly destructive stage, in that there can be no more victors, their call on all warring parties and their supporting states that it is time to seek a political solution for peace has become even more urgent.

Thus, the initiators not only call for an immediate ceasefire along the existing frontlines, but also demand the simultaneous start of peace negotiations to prevent a ‘freezing’ of this ceasefire line and thus of the entire conflict. To avoid any delays through political rankling, they propose that these peace negotiations go straight to the core controversial issues of the conflict: a neutral Ukraine, security guarantees for Ukraine, the future status of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions as well as Crimea. For each of these controversial issues, they outline possible solutions that are based on the outcomes of the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in March 2022 and on Ukraine’s negotiating position at the Istanbul peace summit on March 29, 2022.

This peace proposal originating from Germany complements the peace proposals already being made by countries or regional organizations from outside Europe. Like those, it assumes that Russian security interests as outlined in Russia’s letter to NATO and the U.S. of December 17, 2021, must be considered. But in contrast to the views prevailing in the EU, the initiators of the German peace proposal share the assessment of non-Western countries that Russian President Putin is very much willing to negotiate peace. This does not yet mean that the negotiating positions have converged. As in all other peace negotiations, also in the case of the Ukrainian war, one will have to painstakingly negotiate over conflicting interests of the warring parties and their supporting states. This will, no doubt, be extremely difficult because there is no trust between the warring parties – peace negotiations take place between war enemies and not between friends. Nevertheless, the path now charted by Germany’s peace proposal for a negotiated peace represents a major advantage over any further attempt to achieve a militarily enforced solution.

Therefore, it should be in the self-interest of the EU and its member states to embrace this peace proposal wholeheartedly. For it will be the EU that loses in this war. Not only would the EU find itself at the frontline should this war escalate into a direct NATO-Russian confrontation, but it will also be left with all other adverse aspects of the fall-out of the war. This will not only include the present costs of the war but more importantly, the long-term costs of having to support a destroyed, impoverished, and depopulating Ukraine. While the U.S. has the option to withdraw back across the Atlantic, the EU, however, will continue to face many of the world’s crisis regions in its immediate neighborhood. It will also be the EU’s economy that will suffer most not only from its homemade sanctions but also from an increase in the cost of raw materials, from the loss of sales markets and the disruption of direct trade routes to the growth regions of Asia. And if one correctly reads the signs of the BRICS+ summit, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and now also the G-20 summit, one may conclude that it is not Russia that is internationally isolated, but rather that it is the EU that loses international influence over its Ukraine policies, its failure to have prevented the Ukraine war and now its unwillingness to end it. It is the EU that now desperately needs peace, and the German peace proposal should be accepted as a one-time chance that would allow it to switch its policies towards achieving this peace while moving away from supporting a continued war.

The German peace proposal relies heavily on a decisive role for the United Nations in its implementation. According to the proposal, the framework for a comprehensive cease-fire is to be decided in the UN Security Council while the monitoring of the demilitarization of the now Russian-occupied territories and the military separation of forces along the cease-fire line is to be guaranteed by UN peacekeepers. Subsequent peace negotiations should take place under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, or a High Commissioner appointed by him. Since the United Nations, the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General have played rather disappointing roles in this conflict, these proposals will certainly be questioned by many observers.

And yet these proposals in particular could be of far-reaching significance for global peace. It would lead to the rehabilitation of this world organization that is so indispensable and central to the maintenance of world peace. It would mean that within the confines of the UN, the various peace proposals and peace initiatives of the member states could come together, not as competing but as mutually reinforcing forces for peace. Such a strengthening of the United Nations and the associated affirmation of the universality of the UN Charter would certainly be welcomed by the vast majority of member states. The German peace proposal could make a decisive contribution to this end.

The United Nations and the UN Charter once came into being in response to Germany’s awful war crimes and atrocities it committed during World War II. Germany should hence feel a special responsibility to upholding the UN-Charter’s obligation for all member states to seek peaceful solutions of conflicts and the prevention of wars. This groundbreaking peace proposal now presented by four imminent German personalities is a step towards Germany fulfilling its special responsibility. If the EU, and indeed the international community want to end the war in Ukraine peacefully and preserve global peace, there will be no alternatives to this peace proposal!


(1) Peter Brandt, son of the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, initiator of the Ostpolitik, formerly history professor and strong voice of the German peace movement, German trade Unions and the Social Democratic Party

Hajo Funke, formerly professor on antisemitism/rightwing populism and international conflicts at the Otto-Suhr-Institute, Germany’s leading political university think tank

Harald Kujat, highest ranking German General (rtd.), served as German Chief of Defense (Generalinspekteur der Bundeswehr) from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005 as Chairman NATO-Military Committee, Chairman NATO-Russia Council and NATO-Ukraine Commission of Chiefs of General Staff

Horst Teltschik, formerly chief foreign affairs adviser to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl during the end of the Cold War and the negotiations with the four powers leading up to the reunification of Germany in 1991.

– Article taken from Transcend Media Service, 25th September 2023,

Readings in Nonviolence: Humanity needs a completely different peace and security system in the future


The world looks like it is going to hell in a handcart whether you look at conflict, ecology, migration and responses to migration, inequality and world justice, whatever. Potential sources of extremely violent hot conflict, such as between the USA and China, are waiting in the wings. Learning lessons does not seem to be on the curriculum as evidenced by NATO’s goading of Russia in advancing membership towards Russia’s borders.

Peace activists are often accused of being unrealistic, a totally unsustainable jibe given that research shows nonviolent struggle to be more likely to achieve its ends than violent, and with better outcomes. But it is the followers of militarism and confrontational approaches who are unrealistic, always taking the same approach ending in disaster and then blaming the other for the resultant mess and carnage.

The following piece by Jan Oberg offers short, practical advice on a global scale for dealing with conflict. You might say it is too simple but the crux of the matter is that, in Tommy Sands’ words, the answer is not blowing in the wind, the answer stares you in the face.

By Jan Oberg

The world’s taxpayers give US$ 2,240 billion annually to their national military defenses. That is the highest ever, more than 600 times the regular budget of the United Nations, and three times the total trade between China and the US. Such are the perverse priorities of our governments; the five largest spenders are the US 39% of the total, China 13%, Russia 3,9%, India 3,6% and Saudi Arabia 3,1%.

Worldwide, governments maintain that they need that much to secure their people’s survival, national defense, security and stability – and that global peace will come.

With the exception of the elites of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes (MIMAC), we all know this is a huge fallacy. Today’s world is at a higher risk of war–including nuclear–, more unstable and militaristic than at any time since 1945.

At the end of the West’s Cold War a good 30 years ago, peace became a manifest possibility, NATO could have been dismantled since its raison d’être, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, fell apart. A new transatlantic common security and peace system could have replaced NATO.

Tragically, ’defensive’ NATO did everything not only to cheat Russia with its promise to not expand ‘one inch,’ but also to expand up to the border of Russia, “not one inch off limit for the alliance,” to quote Marie Sarotte’s brilliant 550-page book, Not One Inch.

The NATO world now postulates that both Russia and China are threats to be met with even higher, de facto limitless, military expenditures.

But wait! How would you think and act if you witnessed a team of doctors do one surgery after the other on a patient who, for each, came closer to death?

You’d probably say that they are quack doctors. Their diagnosis and treatment lead to a devastating prognosis. Instead of health, they produce more of the problem they claim to solve!

Given that the highest investment on peace and security in history has caused the highest risk to humanity’s survival, why don’t we have a vibrant global debate? What is fundamentally wrong with the entire paradigm of security through arms? Where are the critical analyses of the world’s most enigmatic and dangerous logical short circuit?

The dominant security paradigm builds on factors like these:

  • deterrence – we shall harm them if they do something we won’t accept or don’t do as we say;

  • offensiveness – our defense is directed at them even thousands of kilometers away, not on our own territory;

  • military means are all-dominant;

  • civil means – like minimizing society’s vulnerability; civil defense, nonviolent people’s defense, cooperation refusal, boycott – are hardly discussed;

  • our intentions are noble and peaceful, but theirs are not;

  • our defense is not a threat to them, but they threaten us with theirs;

  • ignoring the underlying conflicts that cause violence and war, the keys to conflict-resolution, and prepare instead for war to achieve peace.

This is, by and large, how everybody ’thinks’ and then they blame others for the fact that this type of thinking can not produce disarmament or peace.

Even worse, when that peace doesn’t come, everybody concludes that they need more and better weapons. In reality, this system is the perpetual mobile of the world’s tragic militarism and squandering of resources desperately needed to solve humanity’s problems.

There must be better ways to think. But there is far too little research and debate and the MIMAC elites thrive on war. Thus, decision-makers lack political will.

What would be the criteria for good peace and security?

Conflicts are to be addressed and solved intelligently by mediation, international law, and creative visions that address the parties’ fears and wishes. Violent means should be absolutely the last resort as is stated by the UN. Peace is about reducing all kinds of violence (there are many kinds) and creating security for all at the lowest military level, like the doctor who shall never incur more pain than necessary to heal a patient.

Here some alternative ideas and thinking to promote discussion:
instead of deterrence, seek cooperation and common security; the latter means that we feel secure when they do;

  • go for being invincible in defense but unable to attack anybody else; have weapons with limited destruction capacity and range;

  • make control/occupation impossible by our country’s non-cooperation with any occupier;

  • balance defensive military and civilian means;

  • prevent violence but not conflicts;

  • never do tit-for-tat escalation; do something creative to de-escalate;

  • show that your intentions are non-threatening and take small steps to invite Graduated Reduction in Tension (GRIT) without risking your own security;

  • handle conflicts early; build peace first and then secure it;

  • address underlying conflicts, traumas, fears and interests;

  • educate and use professionals in civilian conflict-resolution and mediation, not only military expertise;

  • develop and nurture a peace culture through education at all levels, ministries for peace, emphasis on conflict transformation instead of confrontation and rearmament;

  • replace outdated neighborhood ethics with a global ethics of care.
    The possibilities are limitless. Conflict and peace illiteracy have brought us to where we are today. It is not whether human beings are evil, good, or both. It is a
    systemic paradigmatic malfunctioning that must change in name of civilization.

We can learn to peace.

Masters of war are hated worldwide. Countries that take concrete leadership in developing new principles and policies for true global peace and human security will save humanity and will be loved forever.

Let a thousand peace ideas bloom!

Prof. Jan Oberg, Ph.D., is director of the independent Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research-TFF in Sweden.

This piece, edited by the author himself, was originally written for ‘China Investment’ and is taken here from Transcend Media Service which has an introduction about it origin.

Jan Oberg spoke at an online seminar organised by StoP (Swords to Ploughshares Ireland) in 2022 on ‘EU militarisation, Irish neutrality and the war in Ukraine; The case for peace’. The video of this seminar can be found at

Readings in (Non)violence: Review of ‘Terrorism’ book by Louise Richardson


What terrorists want: Understanding the enemy, containing the threat” by Louise Richardson, Random House, 2006, 213 pages. Page numbers refer to the 2007 paperback edition.

Reviewed by Rob Fairmichael


Louise Richardson may be the chair of the Irish government’s current (2023) Consultative Forum on International Security but in this piece I try to restrict myself to a review of the book concerned which helped ‘make her name’. Already a lecturer and academic in the field of international security (the book was published in 2006), she recalls how terrorism was more of a personal interest (page xi) until she started teaching a course on it in response to student interest; then 9/11 made her in widespread demand as a speaker. She has been a high flyer on both sides of the Atlantic (there is plenty about her online) and the subject of some controversies.

This is a competent and comprehensive book within her terms of reference. I am structuring this review to first of all give a brief summary of the book – sensible and informed on many aspects of the topic – before then giving a critique pointing out where I feel she is neither sensible nor informed. This is to allow her analysis and arguments to be digested first. But even in a fairly lengthy review I cannot cover many points she makes.


The book is written from a sometimes guardedly critical US American viewpoint (she is a US citizen of Irish origin), post 9/11. She begins at the very beginning by asking “What is terrorism?” She comes to a precise definition: “Terrorism simply means deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political purposes” (page 4) and goes on to state clearly “Terrorism is indeed a weapon of the weak”. (page 5).

However she also states emphatically, while noting it is controversial, that “terrorism is the act of sub-state groups, not states”. She goes on to give instances of states using terror or terrorism but says “if we want to have any analytical clarity in understanding the behaviour of terrorist groups, we must understand them as substate actors rather than states.” However she does mention the term ‘terror’ coming from the French Revolution when it was terror “from above, imposed by the state” (page 29). She goes on to detail the fact that terrorism has been used by many different kinds of groups, on all ends of the political spectrum, with both secular and religious backgrounds.

She also quickly seeks to establish that terrorists are normal people, not deranged: “Their primary shared characteristics is their normalcy, insofar as we understand the term”. And she continue that “Terrorists are substate actors who violently target noncombatants to communicate a political message to a third party”.

She gives a number of Irish illustrations in the book, from reputable sources, for example referring to the Fenian bombing of Clerkenwell Prison in London in 1967 to emphasise it is not a new phenomenon – and she goes back rather further in history to look at ‘Zealots’, ‘Thugs’, ‘Assassins’ etc. She also refers a number of times to aspects of the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland.

As to the causes of terrorism, she states “The emergence of terrorism requires a lethal cocktail with three ingredients: a disaffected individual, an enabling group, and a legitimizing ideology.” (page 40) “Terrorists see the world in Manichean, black-and-white terms; they identify with others; and they desire revenge.” But leaders in terrorist groups are often from higher socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. (page 45) Ethnonationalist terrorist groups tend to last the longest because they have close ties to their communities. (page 48) State sponsorship can strengthen terrorist movements but it is not a cause of terrorism (page 64) while poverty and inequality increase the likelihood of terrorism emerging. (page 67)

She depicts terrorists as having three aims: revenge, renown and reaction. (page 71) As to whether terrorism works, she certainly details how it can have effects, includes pushing the state to further repression. She argues correctly that those who say the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland ”has rewarded the terrorism of the IRA are quite wrong. The IRA did not wage a terrorist campaign to share power with Protestants in Northern Ireland. Quite the contrary…” (page 75)

She rightly points out that the USA’s invasion of Afghanistan provided (terrorists with) “a great many more actions to be avenged”, (page 92) and elsewhere criticises the false linking of Iraq and Saddam Hussein to 9/11. In terms of ‘knowing your enemy” she points out that US leaders did not realise the enmity between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. (page 168) She spends a chapter on suicide terrorism, and discusses different forms of weapons (and difficulties with using chemical or biological weapons, for example).

Regarding 9/11 itself, she quotes George W Bush saying 9/11 changed the world but says that it was “our reaction to September 11 that changed the world” (“our” here meaning, as its does elsewhere in the book, the USA). (page 167) She also states quite clearly that the USA declaring a ‘war on terror’ was declaring war on a tactic, not on those who committed the crime (9/11) and was a war that could not be won. US reaction led to rapidly making most people in the world have more negative views about the USA; “By declaring war yet refusing to be bound by the agreed constraints on warfare and refusing to conduct the war through existing international institutions, the United States alienated its allies and confirmed the worst views of neutrals and adversaries.” (page 179)

Missed opportunities “were the opportunities to educate the American public to the realities of terrorism and to the costs of our sole superpower status and the opportunity to mobilize the international community behind us…” (page 170).

She quotes the British “Thompson Principles” (page 185) for counterinsurgency warfare: “1. The primacy of the political 2. Coordination of government machinery 3. Obtaining intelligence 4. Separating the insurgent from his base of support 5. Neutralizing the insurgent 6. Postinsurgency planning”. I would point out that it is debateable the extent to which the British followed these rules in relation to Northern Ireland, particularly rules 1, 4 and 6.

Her own guidance for counterinsurgency or containing the threats of terrorists (page 203+) has the following headings: Rule 1: Have a defensible and achievable goal Rule 2: Live by your principles Rule 3: Know your enemy Rule 4: Separate the terrorists from their communities Rule 5: Engage others in countering terrorists with you Rule 6: Have patience and keep your perspective.

She is right in stating that (page 219) “The fact that someone who has committed heinous crimes makes allegations against us does not mean that those allegations are without foundation and should be dismissed out of hand” and takes the example of bin Laden’s criticisms of US sanctions on Iraq (which may have killed half a million children because of lack of medicines and so on).

She also criticises the tactic of supporting one group using violence against another (page 229) with the example of the USA supporting the mujahedin in Afghanistan against the USSR: “This tactic inevitably backfires.”

The language of warfare connotes action and immediate results. We need to replace this language with the language of development and construction and the patience that goes along with it.” (page 232)


This book is a thorough treatment of the subject written from a fairly pro-state point of view, and, despite many criticisms of the USA, still from a US viewpoint (it is ‘we’ throughout). It is a pro-state view because she opines that terrorism is a substate action despite referring to some state terrorist actions (see earlier in this review and more examples in the book). She makes many sensible judgements about the nature of ‘terrorism’.

However I would say that not to include ‘state terrorism’ in ‘terrorism’ is a colossal mistake. This lets states off the hook. And amazingly (page 5), in her limited coverage of state terrorism, she does not include the USA! Think Vietnam and Cambodia. Think Afghanistan or Iraq. Think Chile, Nicaragua and Cuba. In fact in relation to the last three countries, she states (page 52) “An examination of these cases reveals that the United States had very good reasons to object to the governments of Chile, Cuba and Nicaragua. Their ideological orientation was inimical to its own, so it supported local groups that used whatever means were available to them to try to bring them down.” For the full context of this you need to see the section concerned but, whether this is her own view or a summary of some US views (it is not quite clear), not making further comment is without doubt whitewashing US government state terrorism. Whether this whitewashing Is intentional or unintentional does not matter because it is still a massive misjudgement in the book.

You can argue that she is a) a US citizen, and b) an academic, and therefore her language is measured. But occasionally I feel she lets things slip out such as (page 198) “By pursuing terrorists like the criminals they are….” Having argued that they are rational, she now labels them as ‘criminals’. Of course they may be, according ot the laws of the land they are fighting, but this is a more definite labelling in a derogatory sense.

I would firmly argue that only talking about substate actors in relation to terrorism makes it meaningless. I don’t tend to use the term ‘terrorism’ myself, although I do in certain contexts (e.g where other people do, as in this review), preferring to talk about the level of violence used and the context irrespective of it emanating from state or non-state sources. Using the term ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ immediately introduces many derogatory assumptions though Richardson’s coverage does get behind a lot of that prejudice.

Substate ‘terrorists’, if they are effective and luck is on their side, can kill or murder dozens, or, in the case of 9/11, up to a few thousand. State terrorism can be effective in killing and murdering hundreds of thousands or even millions. And there are no shortage of examples; Stalin’s ‘Terror’ is another example of where the term is a recognised one in relation to state action.

There is no reason you cannot differentiate, as appropriate, between state and substate ‘terrorism’ or does she, at some level, feel state violence can be more legitimised or is qualitatively different? Her argument, mentioned above, to not include state terrorism is weak and not developed (and, I would argue, wrong in any case). Saying that one must reject the concept of state terrorism for “analytical clarity in understanding the behaviour of terrorist groups” is simply not true; all you need to do is say you are talking about ‘substate terrorism’, if that is what is being done.

The extent to which ‘terrorists’ target noncombatants and civilians (quoted earlier, page 20) varies significantly, and this is not necessarily a very valid description. She should have qualified her (quoted) statement. In Northern Ireland at some stages republican paramilitaries, while stating that they were attacking state agents, extended that so far in their range of ‘legitimate targets’ as to include a very considerable section of the population. Obviously they did target uninvolved citizens at times, particularly as part of their campaign to make Northern Ireland look ungovernable and uncontrollable through attacks on public spaces, transport and new infrastructure; but this was attacks on structures more than people Their first aim was to attack army and police, not civilians (I am not trying to go into any detailed analysis here of sectarian aspects of republican violence in Northern Ireland, of which there were plenty).

Loyalists in Northern Ireland, while targeting high profile figures on the republican side, had a more fluid concept of who to target – the ‘any Taig will do’ approach (mirrored in Sunni/Shi’a attacks in Iraq). However the bald statement that terrorists attack civilians for political purposes is simply not accurate. It only makes sense if she had (which she doesn’t) a separate category such as ‘guerrilla fighters’ to cover those who attack state agents.

She is beyond morally and strategically dubious grounds when she says (page 52) that “It’s not only the bad guys who use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. Sometimes the good guys do too.” So this would seem to be supporting ‘good guy’ terrorism – would that by any chance be the US actions in Chile, Nicaragua and Cuba mentioned earlier? This is a downright contradiction of international law, as she should know as a former lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. It is an appalling and unworthy justification. And who should decide what is ‘good guy’ terrorism? The USA? Louise Richardson? She does not qualify her statement by saying “and that is a mistake”.

In relation to her analysis of the aims of terrorism being the 3 ‘R’s – revenge, renown, reaction – this is part of it, but for some groups, certainly in their own estimation, ‘success’ was a larger goal. The chances of the IRA getting the ‘Brits out’ might have been slim in more rational consideration but it was a real goal for a period for them. Similarly the LTTE in Sri Lanka wanted success. People engaged in violence of this sort may be partly blinded by their own ideology but does this make their ultimate goal not an aim? Not in every case but the ‘S’ of ‘Success’ should surely be added to the 3 ‘R’s, although you can distinguish between immediate and ultimate aims.

In addition, ‘terrorists’ are not the only people to see the world in black and white terms, and want revenge. Saying that “Terrorists see the world in Manichean, black-and-white terms; they identify with others; and they desire revenge” could be talking about the US response to 9/11.

The war in Ukraine is, unfortunately, a classic current example of this. ‘The West’ seems incapable of understanding how it has contributed to the unfolding catastrophe, primarily through the expansion of NATO but also not giving Russian speakers in the east of Ukraine their proposed relative autonomy, and possibly also in not supporting Russia in the transition from communism. The failure to push for negotiations in the war, and stymieing what opportunities existed early on, are monumental errors occasioned by that wartime ‘black and white’ illusion. I am not saying that Putin is not the main person to blame for the bloodshed (with his own illusions or delusions); I am saying ‘the West’ contributed significantly in the lead up to the debacle, and has continued to add fuel to the flames.

Some final comments relate to the accuracy of her facts. I noticed errors in relation to her coverage of Ireland which, given her Irish origin, I find astonishing and makes me wonder about the accuracy of other facts given in the book. She refers to coming as a 17 year old to Trinity College Dublin, presumably 1975, and joining “the student branch of the IRA.” (page xv) She may have been writing primarily for a US audience but this is incredibly sloppy and misleading language; she may indeed have joined the student branch of Sinn Féin which was in alliance with the IRA, the latter even being the senior partner at the time in what participants referred to as the ‘republican movement’ – but joining the IRA at a freshers fair she did not.

She also refers (in footnote 4 to the Introduction) to the IRA before the split into Provisionals and Officials as being the “Old” IRA. No it wasn’t. “Old IRA” refers back to the War of Independence. And while quoting approvingly Denis Halliday’s insights on UN sanctions on Iraq (p.220) she inexplicably refers to him as ‘Fred’ Halliday (the footnote link has his correct name). If she gets these Irish details wrong, what other mistakes are there that should have been weeded out in a proper proofing?

There is much that is sensible in this book in trying to understand the phenomenon of ‘terrorism’. However while she can be very critical of US actions post-9/11, there is no indication that she is, per se, opposed to US state power and superpower status, nor indeed to NATO – reading between the lines it would seem she feels that post-9/11 action should have been coordinated through NATO. NATO is not solely a ‘defensive’ body; as well as being committed to first use of nuclear weapons (illegal) there are interventions like the disastrous one in Libya in 2011. Nor does she mention the possibility that the Taliban in Afghanistan, if the USA played its cards right, might even have ‘given up’ bin Laden and al-Qaeda to international justice without any war anywhere. And, as analysed above, some of her definitions of terrorism are simply inadequate, even within her own parameters.

Part of the subtitle of the book is ‘Understanding the enemy”. That subtitle might have been added by the publishers rather than Louise Richardson herself, but what do you do to enemies? Defeat them/kill them militarily or turn them into friends? She deals with the failure of the USA post-9/11 to take the globe with them and despite detailing how US funding could win friends and influence people (she gives the example of US funding to Indonesia after natural disasters) still seems to fall into some of the traps of tending to see security in military rather than broader human terms.

There is a downloadable INNATE poster (available at and go to ‘Terrorism….’) which states “‘Terrorism’ – The big terrorists get away with it”. The illustration or cartoon accompanying this from Len Munnik shows a large figure with a sizeable bomb under his arm giving out to a very much smaller figure who is lighting the fuse on a small stick of explosive. That is the situation we have in relation to ‘terrorism’ and unfortunately Louise Richardson does not deal with that.

Readings in Nonviolence: Nonviolent civilian defence and extending Irish neutrality

As stated elsewhere in this issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, under general instructions from the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, rejected INNATE making an oral presentation on nonviolent civilian defence and possibilities for extending Irish neutrality. While this was included in INNATE’s written submission to the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security’ it is quite clear that if you were not involved in presenting at the four days of oral hearings then your thoughts were unlikely to get attention.

But INNATE was in good company in being excluded. Dr Karen Devine, an academic and expert on modern Irish neutrality including the non-aligned, anti-imperialist and pro-disarmament policy of Fianna Fáil under Minister for External Affairs Frank Aiken in the 1950s and 1960s, was, incredibly, omitted from the speaking roster. A ‘forum’ is defined as ‘a public space for open discussion’ so it was clear it was not a ‘forum’ in any meaningful sense – it was a long conference with all the content decided by the Minister and his civil servants who he would obviously have instructed as to what he wanted.

Anyway, below is the link for the 11-page INNATE submission, containing later on the sections on nonviolent civilian defence and extending Irish neutrality in a positive way. We used the term ‘nonviolent civilian defence’ in this context rather than the related term ‘social defence’ to be more comprehensible in the context of discussing geographical state security. We would prefer the term ‘social defence’ in general as a more progressive and less state-oriented term but we stand over everything in the submission.

The submission can be downloaded at