The ‘Triple Lock’ on deployment of Irish soldiers overseas is a key feature of Irish neutrality – and a key restraint on them being committed to involvement in fighting wars as opposed to peacekeeping. Two new downloadable, printable (A4) mini-posters are available from INNATE on the Triple Lock and the attempt by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to get rid of them – whatever people want. See https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Triple-Lock-Neutrality-2.pdf and https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Warlock.pdf December 2023
War and the rules of war in an era of perpetual armed strife
There is no such thing as a civilised war. But having ‘laws’ that govern the conduct of warfare is useful in at least helping to avoid some of the worst atrocities, even if these laws are breached almost as much as they are observed, and we have seen terrible examples from both Hamas and Israel, not to mention what is happening elsewhere in the world such as Sudan or Ukraine. The development of such laws, like the banning of landmines and cluster munitions, is again a progressive move even if some of the ‘great powers’ of the military variety refuse to be bound by them. Warring parties may not adhere to the standards but these laws may set a means for the conduct of the war concerned to be judged, and, hopefully perpetrators face some reckoning with justice subsequently. This includes ongoing issues about the British army’s SAS executing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan around 2011.
Attempts to limit warfare are nothing new with many examples coming from antiquity around the world. Our own Adomnán (or Adamnán) was a brilliant example of this with the Synod of Birr which he called in 697 CE and which in the ‘Law of the Innocents’ sought to offer protection to women, children and non-combatants. It is told that when he was in a position to do something about the effects of warfare, which he was as Abbot of Iona, he responded to a promise made to his mother, Ronnat, to do what he could when as a young person accompanying his mother they stumbled across the pitiful aftermath of a battle.
Unfortunately today warfare has continued currency as a means of behaviour found acceptable to many, at least for those who are ‘on our side’. Mediation and conciliation has a long road to travel to be the only accepted methods for dealing with conflict – along of course with nonviolent action.
None of this, of course, mean that those of us who reject war as a methodology need to be complicit in such war-making, though depending on where we live our taxes may be contributing financially to such warfare. Avoiding this complicity is extremely difficult but is also an aim worth striving for. We can still see the value of laws or rules which curtail atrocities in war even if we reject the concept of war as a legitimate methodology of struggle. Further extending those rules, and getting existing ones respected and implemented, is an important area of peace work.
As to what the laws or rules of war state, plenty of information can be found online including about their historical evolution. One short cartoon video from the International Committee of the Red Cross offers a simple overview, available at https://www.icrc.org/en/document/what-are-rules-of-war-Geneva-Conventions However we would dispute their unproven assumption at the start that humankind has always been violent as a way to settle disagreements; maybe they haven’t visited the Céide Fields, regarding which the jury would be very much out on such an assertion.
The main aspects of the laws of war includes international treaty law as well as established customs. It is evolving as the outlawing of landmines and cluster weapons in recent decades show. But there are still many uncertainties, as for example with current bombing of Gaza by Israel, and while most people might come to the same conclusion in relation to a particular incident, others on a partisan basis may dispute an action or actions being contrary to the laws of warfare. So greater clarity is needed.
Those of a nonviolent persuasion, who reject the use of warfare as a tool of policy, have much work to do. We do have research in our favour such as the work of Chenoweth and Stephan on violent and nonviolent campaigning within states where the nonviolent approach comes out much stronger in terms of success. However while some international conflicts, particularly ones between close neighbours, can have similar characteristics to intra-state conflict, others do not. Making even detailed judgements in this area is not easy. And the mechanisation and autonomisation (drones and military robots etc) of war removes any human element ‘at point of contact’.
We also have aspects of humanity in our favour which the military seek to breed (bleed?) out in their soldiers. Rutger Bregman in his book ‘Humankind’ points out many of the ways in which humanity intervenes even for soldiers on opposing sides looking to avoid killing the other.
But we do need to develop new tactics including possibly mass civilian intervention or intervention by symbolic leaders to ‘stand between’ warring parties as well more dynamic approaches to mediation and making mediation available and acceptable. Of course there are risks involved. But as Martin Luther King said “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” We have avoided nuclear war by the skin of our teeth in the past, we may not be so lucky in the future, with another nightmare scenario being numerous wars in different locations making whole regions intolerable to live in (if global warming does not do that first). The Irish constitution supports the pacific resolution of international conflicts – though you would not know this from the behaviour of recent governments.
The failure to overcome violence and avoid war is partly a failure of imagination. War and violence are regarded as a ‘realistic’ option in many circumstances by most states, very much including the ‘western democracies’ of which Ireland is a part. However the likely outcome is that war will lead to a pyrrhic victory with extreme human costs and ongoing problems, not to mention economic and environmental costs. And still states expect to do the same thing and get different results the next time.
In Dublin’s fair(ly violent) city…..
The recent night of violent rioting in Dublin has been well analysed in all the media so that it is difficult not to be making points which have not already been made elsewhere. For this reason we will keep our comments fairly short.
The rioting was organised by far right individuals or groups who sought to create trouble around the fact that a very emotive stabbing of young children and an adult had been perpetrated by an immigrant, albeit one living in Ireland for a couple of decades and a naturalised Irish citizen. While the motivation of the attacker is unknown it is fair to assume that an attack of this nature is likely to be due to mental health issues. As well as a few injured children, one very seriously, an Irish born woman was badly injured trying to defend the children; men of Brazilian and French origin were involved in disabling further attacks by the man, and an Irish woman was involved in preventing retaliatory attacks on the assailant. The disgust held for the incident was shown by online funding for the Brazilian man who helped to disarm the assailant reaching hundreds of thousands of Euros.
Having to date failed at the ballot box, far right anti-immigrant campaigners sought – and succeeded by their speedy assembly from around greater Dublin through using social media – to make their point through violence. No one could have foreseen the situation getting out of hand so speedily with perhaps five hundred people involved in rioting, property destruction and looting. Only some of these would have been far right activists, others were obviously opportunists of various kinds.
The case has been made https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/2023/11/28/irish-fascism-is-not-a-reaction-to-immigration-or-poverty-its-not-even-a-new-phenomenon/ that fascists in Ireland do not need immigration to create violence since communism was used as such a focus in the 1930s in Ireland. However it is still clear that the far right methodology is to create a scapegoat which can be blamed for the ills of society. If you wanted to find a current scapegoat for the housing crisis in Dublin, a better one would be the multinational companies which have created so many jobs and thus influx of people, or better still successive governments who have done such a poor job in ensuring the requisite housing and accommodation was built. An open door policy to Ukrainian refugees, leading to upwards of a hundred thousand people coming since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, has been a generous response but has made accommodation scarce around much of the country.
There are many answers and solutions to this upsurge in a threat from the far right. One is further solidarity with newcomers, something of which there are many good examples, and some very bad examples (the continuation of the direct provision system for asylum seekers is atrocious for many reasons including that it isolates newcomers from the rest of society). Another is dealing effectively with issues of housing and health so that current deficiencies cannot be blamed on immigrants, aside from the fact that this is necessary for justice and equality for all. Showing the positive contribution that immigrants have made to Irish life – and they have in many ways – is again an important aspect. Civil society has an extremely important role to play in all of this. Immediately challenging false information by far right groups in social media is another necessity so distortions and falsehoods cannot get traction.
It is unlikely, though certainly not impossible, that the far right will make a significant electoral breakthrough in any part of Ireland which means they may continue to focus on exploiting any situation they can use to foment division through creating on street mayhem. It would be unwise to have a knee-jerk reaction to the recent rioting in Dublin and, though obviously the Gardaí need to be prepared, escalation in the policing response can lead to escalation in rioters’ response in any future altercations. Authoritarian reactions could just encourage further attempts to destabilise things and lead to chain reactions.
Freedom to Choose? StoP report on International Security Forum
The report from StoP, Swords to Plougshares Ireland, on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ was published the day after the official report from the Forum chair, Dame Louise Richardson. The StoP report, entitled “Freedom to Choose?”, is at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/report (and other websites) while the official report is at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36bd1-consultative-forum-chairs-report/ The individual submissions made by civil society will be published by DFA in due course. The official report is 27 pages including appendices but under 16 pages of actual report; the StoP report is around 50 pages.
Louise Richardson’s report is analysed in an editorial in the email and web editions of this issue. The StoP report has a preamble which sets the scene regarding Irish neutrality and security before four different authors carefully scrutinise each day of the Forum proceedings. It also includes coverage of one of the “People’s Forum” meetings, in Galway, and the full text of Lelia Doolan’s unscheduled intervention in the official Galway Forum. There are four pages of conclusions and recommendations.
StoP’s conclusions include: The Forum was biased in intent, design and implementation and therefore valid conclusions cannot be drawn from it: Discussion of the ‘triple lock’ on deployment of Irish troops overseas was wholly inadequate and does not in any way justify change in this area: It was not an open ‘Forum’ as in the dictionary definition and common understanding since the speakers were only those chosen by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department: The format of the Forum was inadequate to deal with the issues properly: Various topics were systemically avoided including the use of Shannon Airport by the military of the USA: The Department of Foreign Affairs proclaims its commitment to disarmament but it promotes Irish involvement in the arms trade and lauds its contribution to nuclear disarmament but is now openly involved with NATO, a nuclear armed alliance committed to first use of nuclear weapons.
Palestine/Neutrality/Ukraine demo, Dublin, 4th November
2pm on Saturday 4th November sees a big Dublin demonstration, starting at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square with the themes “Stop Israel’s assault on Gaza / Defend Ireland’s neutrality / Stop the war in Ukraine”. A variety of organisations are backing it, including Irish Neutrality League, Irish Anti-War Movement, World Beyond War, Shannonwatch, Peace People, FEIC, Cork Neutrality League, Veterans for Peace, Independent Workers Union, TCD SU. See various including https://irishantiwar.org/ https://neutrality.ie/ http://www.shannonwatch.org/ https://www.facebook.com/CorkLeague/
MII: Awards at annual conference, Mediatators in midst of war
The annual conference of the Mediators’ Institute Ireland (MII) took place in early October in Cork. One highlight of this was the presentation to Catherine O’Connell of a Generosity of Spirit Award and to Geoffrey Corry of a Lifetime Achievement in Mediation Award; for video see https://www.themii.ie/mii-award-winners Geoffrey Corry’s account of some of the early story of mediation, “The story of Dublin City Mediation (DCM) after 25 years” can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/2a4nnu7v (and accompanying entries). Another feature of the conference was an Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Naoimh McNamee, CEO and Mediator with Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, discussing 25 insights that have helped or hindered peace in Ireland. Keynote speakers were Hon. Ms. Justice Siobhán Lankford on the judicial system and mediation, and Prof Noam Ebner on ‘Mediation, Artificial Intelligence, and Change’. https://www.themii.ie/
lAn online seminar on ‘Connecting mediators in the midst of war’ takes place on Monday 6th November at 5.30pm with speakers Ken Cloke, Mediator Vikram and Mohammad Hadieh as they share their thoughts and insights on unfolding events in Palestine and Israel. They will also discuss the role of the mediator and the world mediation circle in fostering understanding. Participation is free, register at clr.ie/135140 and a Zoom link will be sent.
Nurturing hope – and a learning journey
‘Nurturing Hope’ is an extensive five–book learning resource, written by Derick Wilson, Duncan Morrow, J. Jean Horstman and Dong Jin Kim, being published by the Corrymeela Press. It will be available shortly as an open source resource. The five individual titles in the ‘Nurturing hope’ series are Background fundamentals, A facilitator’s guide, Understanding relationships, Some dynamics of conflict-affected cultures and societies, and Some dynamics for hope. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to order a copy of the Nurturing Hope resource.
There will be a related extensive ‘Learning Journey’ 5-day residential programme running each summer 2024 – 2027 involving Corrymeela, Mediation Northern Ireland, TIDES and the Understanding Conflict Trust. The ‘Learning Journey’ is for those seeking to create spaces through which people who are divided can “experience the intimacy of our honest differences”. It draws on Corrymeela members’ decades of experience and was developed with learning partners in South Korea and the USA. This is a detailed and in depth programme with some details available at https://www.corrymeela.org/programmes/nurturing-hope/summer-learning-journey
Glencree Centre for Reconciliation
A detailed annual report on Glencree’s work, entitled ‘Peacebuilding for the next generation’, can be found at https://glencree.ie/homepage-highlight/annual-report-2022 including detailed accounts of the various different programmes (though if you want the financial report you will need to download it). Meanwhile a relatively new staff member is Dorothée Potter-Daniau who has the newly created position of Measurement, Evaluation, Research & Learning (MERL) Manager. Glencree CEO Naoimh McNamee said: “Dorothée’s appointment to the new role of MERL Manager comes at a very exciting time in Glencree’s development. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation next year, we are focused on realising the goals of our 5 Year Strategic Plan which includes establishing Glencree as a national and international Centre for Practical Peace Education and Learning Exchanges.” https://glencree.ie/
Corrymeela: Dialogue for Peaceful Change training
Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC) is a global training programme developed by practitioners working in national and international conflict settings around the world. The DPC methodology offers a practical toolkit and methodology for managing key aspects of both interpersonal and group conflict. There will be a training running at Corrymeela from 18 – 22 March 2024, cost TBC. More details and contact info at https://www.corrymeela.org/events/237/dialogue-for-peaceful-change-training
PANA on ambassadors, supporting Shannon protest
PANA/Peace And Neutrality Alliance has issued a press release about the importance of ambassadors at a time when some call for, e.g., the Israeli ambassador to be expelled. Edward Horgan, International Secretary of PANA said “Expelling ambassadors in time of war is a serious mistake. While we may not like the ambassadors in question and we may not like or agree with the actions of their governments, it is vital to keep diplomatic lines of communications open at such critically important times” and “Neutral countries especially should be playing an important role in promoting an end to those conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, the Sahel region in Africa, and elsewhere.” https://www.pana.ie/
Meanwhile the next Shannonwatch/Uplift/PANA rally at Shannon Airport against US military use is on Sunday 12th November at 2pm; subsidised bus from Dublin, contact email@example.com You can also help fund Dan Dowling’s Shannon nonviolent action fine https://www.gofundme.com/f/ShannonAirport
FOE Act Local campaign
Friends of the Earth has begun an Act Local campaign to assist local activists by focusing on two important issues or campaigning topics, Space for Nature and Connected Communities. There are how-to guides and briefings. See https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act-local/
CAJ: Impunity video, jobs
The important recent seminar, ‘Impunity and the NI legacy bill – 50 years on from the Pinochet coup’, is now available to view online; this was hosted at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), and was organised with CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), and the International Expert Panel on Impunity and the Northern Ireland Conflict. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/event-video-impunity-and-the-ni-legacy-bill-50-years-on-from-the-pinochet-coup/
l Meanwhile CAJ are recruiting a Senior Research and Policy Officer and a Project Research & Campaign Worker for the Migrant Justice Project, deadlines late November. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-is-recruiting/
ICCL: GDPR, Garda, hiring
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has expressed concern at internal investigation into alleged Garda human rights violations in the Lynskey and Kerrigan case, stating that an independent investigation into the role of An Garda Síochána is required. ICCL has also prepared amendments to the European Commission’s proposal for procedural harmonisation on cross-border GDPR enforcement, identifying four primary flaws in the Proposal. Meanwhile they are hiring a new Membership and Development Officer, deadline 20th November. https://www.iccl.ie/
Eco-Congregation: News, Leinster gathering
As always, the newsletter of Eco-Congregation Ireland, the church green network, has a round up of news, island wide. They also have an upcoming online meeting for anyone interested or potentially interested in Leinster, 10-11am on Saturday 11th November; contact firstname.lastname@example.org to attend. https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/
Church and Peace: Overcoming racism in the church
A short report on the Church and Peace European conference on this topic is available at https://www.church-and-peace.org/en/2023/10/racism-and-the-church-a-needed-debate/ and there is more news and resources on the same website. Church and Peace is an ecumenical church peace network.
Palestine-Israel peacebuilding job
An international peaceworker is being hired by KURVE Wustrow & New Profile to be based in the Jerusalem/Bethlehem area in Israel/Palestine, working on a variety of issues including planning and implementation of a Civil Peace Service project focussing on objectors to military service. The deadline for applications is 12th November. Details at https://pzkb.de/stellenanzeigen/international-peace-worker-m-f-d-in-jerusalem-bethlehem-area-in-israel-palestine/
Violence begets violence begets violence……
The easiest way to respond to the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict is, like so many situations of conflict in the world, the dualistic way; one side good, the other side bad (horrible, brutal, vicious, vindictive and so on). This is the easiest response because it does not necessitate us asking the hard questions which we need to ask about the situation, whatever it is. The dualistic model is also not the nonviolent way.
But it is essential to understand the different forms of violence which can be present in a situation, and potentially the asymmetric nature of a conflict. In Israel/Palestine when Hamas attacks Israel and kills someone, Israel retaliates – and the normal death ratio in such a violent exchange would be 10 Palestinians killed for 1 Israeli; at least this ratio is to be expected if the current conflict continues. There are many different forms of physical violence and there are many forms of structural violence. Most people in the world were rightly horrified by the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians in southern Israel on 7th October; children, adults and young adult party goers were all a target in mass killing.
But is the world also horrified by the denial of a Palestinian state by Israel with apartheid-style laws in the West Bank and Gaza as arguably the largest prison camp in the world and without control of borders, water, or fuel and no opportunity to develop to meet the needs of its people? The attack on Israel was born out of hopelessness as much as anything else (that is not to say that Hamas did not have a strategy, hyperviolent though it was). Is the world horrified by Israel’s destruction of Gaza and massive death toll on Palestinian civilians and children? The refusal by the USA and UK to call for a ceasefire is a despicable act supporting Israel’s vengeance. Israel claims it is acting within the laws of war but there is very little evidence of this – and the ‘laws of war’ are in any case broken more than they are obeyed.
Israel and Israeli citizens deserve to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours. But how is this possible if you have taken the land and property of your neighbours and control many aspects of their lives? It is clearly impossible. Breaking out of the cycle of violence and oppression is really difficult; there was a time with the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995 that it looked like it might be possible. But Israel has been determined to establish (illegal in international law) ‘facts on the ground’ of Israeli settlement in the West Bank and that and other intransigence has led to today’s situation.
Some Israeli settlers in the West Bank, backed by the army, are gradually trying to push Palestinians and Bedouin back and in many cases out. This is not only a gross injustice but it is also a major stumbling block to a long term settlement. There are nearly half a million Israelis in the area of the West Bank fully controlled by Israel, all of this illegal in international law. Palestinians need all the land that is designated theirs to have a viable state. Some religious Jews insist that because their ancestors controlled land a couple of thousand years ago that it is ‘theirs’; if we were to use the same measurement then Ireland could claim a significant part of western Scotland, which is a nonsense. Palestinians have been there a very long time too, some of their origins go back to time immemorial in the area, but searching online for ‘land ownership map Palestine Israel’ shows just some of the injustice at their loss of territory since the end of the Second World War.
Possibly because of Ireland’s history of being colonised and controlled, Ireland is seen as the EU country most supportive of the Palestinians but pro-Palestinian action has been limited. On the other hand, ‘the West’, to a considerable degree because of guilt about the Nazi genocide of Jews – and lack of support for them from others – bends over backwards to support Israel (just look at statements by Biden, Sunak or von der Leyen). Of course the West should have a guilty conscience over the treatment of Jews – and not just because of the Holocaust/Shoah, as well as being active in preventing antisemitism today. But that should not prevent people looking at what is or would be justice in Israel-Palestine, and taking into account the Nakba the Palestinians suffered.
There is an old Wizard of Id cartoon where the the prisoner, ’the spook’, says how long he has to be in prison before being released. His jailer reveals that this is exactly the same time as he retires; prisoner and jailer are bound together in a mutual time trap. It is a bit like that for Israel and Palestine. And Israel is Gaza’s jailer, and the inflicter of an apartheid system on the Palestinians of the West Bank. As the placard held by a Jewish person said, “Jews will not be free until Palestine is free”.
There are different ways of dealing with ‘enemies’. You can try and kill them all, genocide (of which the Nazi extermination of Jews is one terrible example), or you can try to disempower them and control them, but this will make them more angry, and more your enemy. The positive alternative is to turn them into friends. Israel and Palestine is a small space but if it is not shared equitably then there can be no peace. Israel has not seriously tried, in a sustained way, to turn Palestinians into friends, It can be done but violence from both sides makes rapprochement extremely difficult. And uncritical support (financial and military) from the USA and others in ‘the West’ makes Israel feel it can continue to pursue the path of control of Palestinians (and currently the destruction of Gaza) which it has been engaged in. It should also be noted that Israel’s sophisticated military and intelligence system did not prevent the Hamas attack; it was a failed defence.
Many different people and organisations have spoken out on the conflict. The statement of the War Resisters’ International (WRI) can be found at https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/war-crime-against-humanity-stop-violence-immediately-israel-palestine and it includes the following: “War is sometimes fought with bombs and bullets. Sometimes it is fought by restricting access to the resources that allow people to meet their basic needs, and for humanity to flourish. As antimilitarists, we can and will always reject and condemn both the immediate, deliberate and organised violence that grabs headlines and shocks the world, and simultaneously recognise that the violence that has occurred in Israel-Palestine since Saturday 7th October is rooted in a decades long, asymmetrical, grinding conflict.”
Israel may well, if it kills enough Palestinians and destroys most of Gaza, ‘kill’ Hamas. But it will have stirred up sufficient further hatred to create Hamas Mark 2, and created a vacuum for the people of Gaza. The desire to eradicate Hamas is thus totally false thinking on the part of Israel. The pattern of violence and cycles of violence will almost certainly continue. Hamas soldiers or fighters may be getting killed; so are an inordinate number of children and ordinary Palestinians.
Peace in Israel and Palestine cannot come without an adequate two state or secular one state solution. While either option remains pie in the sky then peace will be similarly placed. Stating this is not anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish; it is to speak the truth and advocate a situation where all the Israeli and Palestinian people can live in peace, which they very much deserve to do. They, both sides, have suffered too much.
The nearer your destination, the more you’re slip sliding away……
The words of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic song seem to be apposite regarding the possibility of the restoration of power-sharing government at Stormont. While both the Northern Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, and the DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson, have been making encouraging sounds about their talks (which no one else is party to), there is the very real possibility that things will go sliding away – again.
There are numerous problems involved. One issue is simply that the talks only involve the DUP in talking to the British government and others are excluded; this exclusiveness could lead to a deal which is unacceptable, wholly or partly, to others. But secondly, there is extremely little room for manoeuvre given that a) the current British government is not going to enter substantial further negotiations with the EU about either Northern Ireland or its overall trading relationship and b) The Good Friday Agreement, and the impartiality which it prescribes, prohibits many possible actions which the DUP might wish for to copperfasten ‘the Union’.
Donaldson did emphasise the importance of a devolved government at Stormont in his party’s annual conference and subsequently. While he might be willing to move, given the opportunity, there is the question of whether all his party colleagues would do so also, and whether DUP voters would follow suit. This is where the problem came in for the DUP before; potential voter defection to hardline unionist TUV meant the DUP did a quick about face to oppose the NI Protocol.
The promise of money (not all of which necessarily appeared) has been an important sweetener in getting Stormont back and running (or at least crawling) in the past. The equivalent of the ‘Welsh deal’ whereby Wales gets a substantial sum based on need, in addition to the ‘Barnett formula’ funding which metes out funding on a per capita basis within the constituent parts of the UK, could be part of what is offered or it might have to await Stormont negotiation after the restoration of government at Stormont – which would have Michelle O’Neill as First Minister. The funding, or prospect of funding, could be used by the DUP to try to show how much Northern Ireland is valued as part of the United Kingdom.
In Northern Ireland now there is hardly anyone who is not affected in some way by the absence of a government. To take just one example from recent times, who is going to sort out the pollution of Lough Neagh? It might not happen fast with a Stormont government but without one then it is rather unlikely, despite the proven need. Education, health, community services and any forward planning on anything, including on economic advancement, are badly affected.
Unionism of the DUP variety is caught on the horns of a dilemma; to continue the boycott of Stormont and allow things to crumble further – and thus be an advertisement for a united Ireland, or to return, this time with the DUP having the post of Deputy First Minister, without a clear victory and risk electoral armageddon. Most unionists want the NI Protocol/Windsor Agreement sorted to their satisfaction before a return to Stormont.
Whichever way the DUP turns it is on slippery ground and it is possible that a return to power sharing will continue to slip slide away. One tiny light at the end of the tunnel is that a Labour government, likely to appear in a year’s time in Britain, could do a deal with the EU which would make checks on goods coming to Northern Ireland redundant. The problem with this chink of light is that it would indicate a very long tunnel, perhaps a couple of years to get through. Let us hope that solid, open ground is reached before then.
Department of Foreign Affairs report
The expected on neutrality and ‘triple lock’
There are no surprises in Louise Richardson’s report as chair of the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy which took place in June; the report came out in mid-October. It is cleverly written, knowing that (valid) criticism of the Forum meant the report could not push too far but still allowing Micheál Martin to claim that it justified ditching the ‘triple lock’ on deployment of Irish troops overseas. However, as the Swords to Ploughshares Ireland (StoP) report on the Forum (see news section) shows, the debate on the triple lock justified no such thing, despite her assertion in the report that “the preponderance of views, especially among the experts and practitioners, is that it is time for a reconsideration of the Triple Lock as it is no longer fit for purpose.”
There are a number of tendentious or incorrect assumptions or statements in the report. One is that public submissions made – yet to be published and not really part of the Forum process (as opposed to any further discussion) – may be biased as made by people committed in this area – of course they may but so might the chosen speakers be biased. She states “the submissions were not a random or representative sample of the population, rather the views of citizens engaged in these issues; therefore, it would be unwise to extrapolate from these views to the population-at-large.” However she makes no such assumptions about those presenting at the Forum (the ‘experts’) even though they were chosen by the Minister including a number of academics who have their posts paid for by the EU, and others had NATO links. This is basically someone on one side saying others, not on the same side, are ‘biased’. She may have read the submissions but there is no detail whatsoever in her report as to worthwhile ideas suggested (she does cover that most of these favoured the retention of neutrality).
In her introduction she says “The proceedings of the four days of meetings and 835 submissions are briefly summarized, synthesized, and analyzed.” She does no such thing and in 15 pages it would be impossible in any case. She does very briefly summarise the contributions made from the chosen speakers in the different panels but in this section there is no mention of contributions from the floor. Given the fact contributors were chosen by the Minister, this is a serious omission. She does refer subsequently, and inadequately, to some contributions by the public, in talking further on the particular issues dealt with – but to say this covers those comments fairly would be untrue. Given the bias in selection of speakers (look at the list online) it is untrue to say it was an “admirably open and transparent debate where unfettered debate was encouraged” – and in some cases issues raised from the floor were not even addressed by the panel.
She makes all sorts of assumptions and statements based on inadequate discussion and exploration in the Forum; only a few of these are explored here. One is that Ireland is falling behind “its peers” in military expenditure, with NATO setting 2% of GDP as a target, and that this needs to be addressed. But if Ireland is taking a different approach as a neutral country, as it should, then perhaps much more money, time and effort needs to be put into conflict resolution and mediation, not the military. And who says that the NATO advocated 2% is a reasonable benchmark?
Her grasp of recent Irish history is also lacking when she states that ”In recent years Irish governments have drawn a distinction between military and political neutrality and between military nonalignment and political nonalignment. This appears to be a uniquely Irish approach, but it is a fair description of the policies consistently followed since the outbreak of the last world war.” While the first part of this may be true, the last statement certainly does not apply to Frank Aiken and Fianna Fáil’s policies of fearless non-alignment in the ‘fifties and into the ‘sixties.
The basis of the Forum was that Irish security policies need reviewed particularly in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That has certainly altered things. But Irish neutrality has weathered many storms, including the cataclysmic events and invasions of the Second World War. There are new threats, including cybersecurity and related undersea cabling, but is the appropriate response necessarily a military one? And it is probably simplistic to state baldly that “our geographic location no longer provides the protection it once did” without extensive further exploration.
A concluding statement that the Forum was “not designed to make policy prescriptions” is not quite true in that a significant part of it being set up was to provide the Minister with a rationale for ditching the ‘triple lock’ – and anything else that could go. If you look at the sequence of events and the evolution from the Minister thinking about a possible citizens’ assembly to a hand-picked so-called Forum (‘so-called’ because it was not open), his thinking is clear. Micheál Martin may be satisfied that Louise Richardson’s report takes things as far as she can in the direction he wanted – popular protest and opinion set limits – but in a wider context it is all very unsatisfactory and inadequate.
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 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2023/02/01/archival-documentary-and-campaigning-materials-available-from-innate/
Please get in touch at email@example.com 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 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/
lNonviolence – The Irish Experience Quiz link at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/resources/ 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 https://www.corrymeela.org/ (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 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/
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 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/
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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/ and select ‘Albums’.
lNonviolence in Ireland: A study guide
A short study guide for individual learning and reflection or group use. Download at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/resources/ 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 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/
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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/ 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. https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/peace-trails/
lVideo of seminars on recent peace movement history from seminars organised by INNATE, 2021. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/51689114275/
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.
The controversial ‘Consultative Forum on International Security’ of June 2023 was set up by the Minister for Foreign Affairs – but to what end? This detailed report, prepared by a working group of StoP (Swords to Ploughshares Ireland), looks at the 4 days of the Forum in detail. Included is a preamble, setting the scene, and a substantial set of conclusions which can be drawn from the current situation regarding neutrality and security and what the Forum did and did not consider, Click here to download – StoP Report Forum on International Security Mark 2
This is also available on the StoP website at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/report
Neutrality and ‘security’: Peace protests are felt
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department held all the cards in setting up the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ in the Republic but peace and neutrality activists and groups made plenty of noise and contributions contrary to the establishment view. They were able to raise severe doubts about the enterprise during the process which the Minister had designed to get the result he wanted in removing the ‘triple lock’ on the deployment of Irish troops overseas. See Editorial and article by Dominic Carroll in email and web editions for more details and resource links immediately below. Civil society’s effort was obviously greatly assisted through comments from President Michael D Higgins who correctly identified an (undemocratic) ‘drift’ towards NATO.
For those wanting to learn more, much other information is available:
1. An excellent general overview of the issues by Carol Fox appeared in the Irish Examiner www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-41169388.html See also Martina Devlin in The Irish Independent, 23rd June (paywall).
2. A photo album on the Citizens’ Forum meetings, and the Consultative Forum on International Security and protests regarding the same appears on the INNATE photo site at
3. Afri’s recent booklet on Irish neutrality “A Force for Good?” is available for purchase (€10) www.afri.ie The video (68 minutes) of the recent online launch of this publication is worth watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMpOi6gnSkg and there is a shorter 22 minute documentary from Afri on the issue at
4. Slides from presentations by Dr Karen Devine, providing valuable detail, appear on her website at https://www.drkarendevine.com/
5. For an international view which supports armed defence by neutrals see https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/06/06/ukraine-russia-war-neutrality-nonalignment/
6. The official programme of the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39289-consultative-forum-programme/ and 4 days of video are available https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/00e68-follow-the-forum-online/# (you have to agree to the cookies) and you can make up your own mind about the balance or imbalance on particular panels, and on the whole process.
Advancing Nonviolence: Catholic Nonviolence Initiative
On Saturday 14th October, 10.30am – 1.30pm there will be an event run by Pax Christi Ireland in conjunction with The Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI); this is a project of Pax Christi International to deepen understanding and commitment to Gospel nonviolence. The main speakers are Marie Dennis and Pat Gaffney, CNI. The venue is the Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin, and further details will be available in September. Contact: Tony D’Costa, Pax Christi Ireland, email: firstname.lastname@example.org The CNI website is at https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/
NI NGOs call for urgent anti-poverty strategy
Dire cuts to services and support to those in need are in process in the North. On 28th June NGOs, trade unions, and academics called for an anti-poverty strategy based on objective need to be a day one priority for a new NI Executive at a seminar held in Stormont. The half day seminar on ‘Progressing an anti-poverty strategy for Northern Ireland’ was organised jointly by the Equality Coalition, Barnardo’s NI, and Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN). Northern Ireland has been waiting for an anti-poverty strategy for almost twenty years. The 2006 St Andrews Agreement contained a legal obligation for the NI Executive to develop a strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion, and patterns of deprivation based on objective need. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/ngos-call-for-urgent-progress-on-an-anti-poverty-strategy-for-ni/
ECHR and NI Legacy Bill
CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice has welcomed the Interim Resolution from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe published on 8th June. The resolution records ‘serious concern’ that there has been no tangible progress to address concerns the legacy bill is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In particular, the Committee of Ministers has called on the UK authorities to reconsider the proposed amnesty scheme and the shutting down of legacy inquests. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-welcomes-new-human-rights-resolution-from-european-ministers/
Good Relations Week in the North: 18-24 September
This year’s theme for Good Relations Week in the North is ‘Together’; coordinated by the Community Relations Council, this showcases many different examples of work on eradicating sectarianism, racism, and inequality and has a focus on cooperation, inclusivity, and progress. For more information on Good Relations Week 2023 and to register an event, visit https://goodrelationsweek.com/
FOE on LNG: Petition to stop government backsliding
Irish Friends of the Earth is campaigning against the government possibly permitting a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility. FOE state “One of the Green Party’s conditions for going into Government was that the coalition Government would oppose the development of LNG terminals for importing fracked gas into Ireland. Highly polluting fracked LNG was a red line issue – and rightly so. But now we’re worried that Minister Eamon Ryan may be considering a U-turn on long-standing Green Party policy on LNG.” Further info and an online petition on the FOE website at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act/say-no-to-government-u-turn-on-lng/
l FOE have an Action Pledge you can take at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act/friends-of-the-earth-action-pledge/
ICCL: Facial recognition illegality by Dept of Social Protection
A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) reveals for the first time that the Department of Social Protection has known that its biometric processing of personal data arising from the Public Services Card (PSC) project is illegal. The DPIA indicates the Department of Social Protection has built a national biometric database of 3.2 million cardholders’ unique facial features since 2013, including, in some cases, those of children. It also indicates that the Department is intent on retaining each cardholder’s biometric data for their individual lifetime, plus 10 years. Olga Cronin, Surveillance and Human Rights Policy Officer, ICCL, says: “The Department has been building a national biometric database without a relevant legal basis and without transparency. It continues to collect people’s biometric information in exchange for services they are legally entitled to. This must stop. This processing is unnecessary, disproportionate, and presents a risk to people’s fundamental rights.” More info at https://www.iccl.ie/news/psc-facial-recognition-software-dpia/
l ICCL has welcomed the 14th June plenary vote in the European Parliament on the EU’s draft Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act. The vote establishes the Parliament’s position on the Act ahead of negotiations with the Council of the EU and the European Commission. The Parliament’s text includes a complete ban on the use of real-time facial recognition technology (FRT) in public spaces and represents a significant blow to the Irish Government’s plans to introduce FRT for An Garda Síochána.
ICCL on Offences Against the State Acts Review Group
ICCL has called for immediate implementation of key recommendations of the Offences Against the State Acts Review Group which recommends its repeal. https://www.iccl.ie/news/minister-must-implement-review-groups-recommendation-and-repeal-the-offences-against-the-state-acts/
Síolta Chroí: Ecosystem restoration for community groups
Upcoming courses at Co Monaghan centre Síolta Chroí include one, 26th-27th August, on Ecosystem restoration for community groups, looking at how groups that have access to, or look after, pieces of land can create systems that sequester carbon, build biodiversity and restore the ecosystem. Full info at https://sioltachroi.ie/courses-and-events/
Russia: COs movement declared ‘foreign agent’
On 23rd June the Movement of Conscientious Objectors was officially labeled as a “foreign agent” in the Russian Federation. They state, “This action, while a demonstration of the effectiveness of our work, is fundamentally a discriminatory application of law that contradicts universally accepted human rights and freedoms.…… A significant number of our volunteers and coordinators are based in Russia, and they now face a heightened risk of state pressure and persecution. Despite these increased threats, we remain committed to supporting those who resist war and forced conscription.” See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/another-blatant-human-rights-violation-russia-labelling-movement-conscientious-objectors
Global Women for Peace United Against NATO
A new international women’s movement has been formed and has produced a Declaration for Peace, outlining its message of peace, justice, solidarity, and common security. As part of the international protests, they are organising a programme of events in Brussels, home of the NATO headquarters, taking place from 6th to 9th July (there will be a NATO summit in Vilnius, 11th-12th July). Join in person or online. http://womenagainstnato.org/
Consultative Forum on International Security
Peace and neutrality activists don’t let the government away with it….
In their concluding remarks on the fourth and final day of the Consultative Forum on International Security, Micheál Martin, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Louise Richardson, Forum chair, were in congratulatory mode (to the country and themselves) for the liveliness of debate and even the involvement of people in the process through protest. To an uninformed observer these might seem urbane remarks however since the protests were due to the discriminatory way in which the whole enterprise was set up, this was rather hollow and putting a gloss on something which was less than satisfactory and of their own making. The previous establishment and government line was that protesters were trying to shut down debate; given the organisers’ own role in trying to control the agenda for debate, the opposite was the case.
Louise Richardson also said she knew of no other country where such a forum had taken place, implying how wonderful Irish democracy was. This was true about the uniqueness of the event. What she did not say however was that it was taking place because of political expediency on the part of the Minister. He wanted to remove – presumably still aims to remove – the triple lock (government, Dáil, UN) on the deployment of Irish troops overseas this autumn. The war in Ukraine gave an excuse to try to move things in the direction he wanted but he needed some ‘democratic’ credentials or ‘weaponised’ basis to do so – and thus set up what purported to be a ‘Forum’ (‘a public event for open discussion of ideas’) but was actually a long conference with speakers hand picked by the Minister and his staff to give the answers or direction he wanted. The whole process was not instigated out of the goodness of the Minister’s heart, and his desire for democracy, but for very particular political ends.
The Irish government has been trying to use the war in Ukraine, and Russian invasion, as a reason to change the ‘triple lock’. There is only one case where the triple lock may have prevented a peacekeeping deployment and that did not involve Russia. Of course the government and pro-government speakers did not mention the warmongering of the USA and the West, nor the breach of neutrality by giving Shannon for US military use, no questions asked. The background also included the lie that the Forum was not about neutrality as opposed to ‘security’ as if the two were unconnected, another part of the ‘get rid of neutrality by stealth’ strategy.
Micheál Martin has previously stated how much he learned and benefited from conciliation programme run by Quaker House Belfast (for info on the latter see https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/50654202881/in/album-72157717185737611/ ). This was in getting to meet, and know Northern unionists – and he does have a reputation among unionists as being someone who understands them. However it is really sad that he has not been able to extrapolate from this experience of dealing with conflict on the island of Ireland, demonstrating the importance of long term conciliation and mediation efforts, to thinking internationally. Instead he is going with militarisation and so-called military ‘solutions’. He was going to take what he could get from this ‘forum process’ and the hope must be that this will be severely constrained by the challenges both to the process and the content which took place.
Louise Richardson also didn’t say it was deliberately not a citizens’ assembly – a format which now has established form in Ireland in dealing with difficult and contentious issues – because it would have given the ‘wrong’ answers so far as the Minister was concerned.
Peace and neutrality groups were working hard to point out the illegitimacy of the exercise, and hold alternative forums where the speakers and issues they wanted included were not excluded. But an intervention by Michael D Higgins, pushing at the boundaries of what it is acceptable for an Irish president to say, questioned the drift towards NATO and also raised questions about the credentials of the chair (he later withdrew some of these remarks). That greatly helped make the issue a hot potato. However he would never have felt constrained to make those remarks had the enterprise not been an underhand one to begin with. His comments thus served the interests of democracy.
One illustrative ironic twist took place during a Forum session on cyber threats and disinformation. A couple of contributors from the floor both pointed to the Forum itself as an exercise in disinformation due to the built in bias in the programme and speakers. Perhaps this fits the old adage of ‘the medium is the message’. You can easily find the list of speakers on the Department website and some analysis of speakers’ backgrounds is in The Phoenix issue for 30h June.
That is not to say that some participants in the Forum did not make a useful and even positive contribution on the issues involved. Some panels were less imbalanced than others and some had reasonably comprehensive discussion of the issues. But the topics dealt with, and the speakers chosen, as well as the chair who will write the report, were all hand picked by the Minister and staff acting on his direction. At no point was it stated by the Minister or the Department that inclusion in the speakers list was by Department of Foreign Affairs invitation only (which was the case). An INNATE offer to contribute unique content, on nonviolent civilian defence and on extending neutrality as part of security, was brushed aside. (See https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53003786126/in/dateposted/ with INNATE being prevented from putting these leaflets out for those attending at Dublin Castle). So a ‘Forum’ it was not.
Proponents of peace and neutrality faced a dilemma, to protest (possibly through a boycott) and/or be involved. In general people protested and were involved; a boycott, especially given the bias in the media, was likely to lead to invisibility. But making a point, or raising a question – which might not be answered or answered poorly – from the floor is not in any sense being properly included, it is being tolerated and patronised – especially when Micheál Martin congratulated everyone, including protesters, for their commitment on the issue. He might genuinely feel that way but certainly this was not the feeling for those on the other side of the NATO fence (Ireland is still a fellow traveller with NATO through its euphemistically named ‘Partnership for Peace’). And being involved in any way, even protesting inside the Forum, could be seen as legitimising it in that the organisers could then say “Look how tolerant we are, we even allow protest” (no they didn’t, anything they allowed was under sufferance, and numerous people were ejected from the chamber).
So the question of the legitimacy of the whole enterprise entered some of the media (e.g. The Irish Independent of 23/6/23 but not The Irish Times whose paper edition the same day, after the first session in Cork, held not one photo of protests and only a brief mention of protests themselves). And as usual the mass media did not cover the fact there were different protests and people or groups involved (see e.g. the text of https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/52993125392/in/dateposted/ and compare that with mass media reports ).
While we must await the final report, written by Louise Richardson, there is no indication to date that she might not be the ‘safe pair of hands’ she would seem to be, the reason she was appointed by the Minister. The report should never, in any case, have been the responsibility of one person. While the question of the legitimacy of the whole enterprise has been raised successfully, it is still possible that the Minister will try to use the report as a means to get what he wants and the triple lock removed. This should be a real test of the integrity of deputies in the Dáil.
The Irish state should be looking at how neutrality could be extended as a real and vibrant force for peace in the world. That is the approach taken in INNATE’s written submission to the Forum, see https://tinyurl.com/3rurehhv The world already has far too many countries armed to the teeth and acting in a belligerent and self-interested manner. Ireland has the opportunity to be different but the establishment choice is to join even closer the big boys with their guns. The metaphorical guns in the above affair were held by the Minister; the peace and neutrality sector, through mobilising and its nonviolent action, succeeded in at least disarming some of those weapons of mass distraction.
The struggle is not over.
–See also the news section for links to further information, the article by Dominic Carroll in this issue, and INNATE’s photo album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72177720309217408
Back to a different inefficiency
It is clear that Geoffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, wants to get back into Stormont and is drawing up his shopping lists. Here there is the danger that the British government, in giving the DUP and unionists the assurances they want about the place of Northern Ireland in the UK will actually breach the Good Friday Agreement. Meanwhile other prominent members of the party, such as Ian Paisley, are very much more reluctant, and that dynamic has to work itself out within the DUP itself.
In a cynical political move the British Secretary of State in the North, Chris Heaton-Harris, continues to make people suffer through swingeing cuts and the resultant instability in education, health, social service and community sectors as he weaponises the cuts to put pressure on the DUP to return to Stormont – of course that would be with a package which removes some of those cuts. People’s lives are thus a political football.
Assuming that Stormont does return in the autumn – and if it doesn’t there could be a lengthy period of direct rule by Britain – there are a myriad of issues on the table to be dealt with by Michelle (O’Neill), Geoffrey (Donaldson), the Executive and the whole Assembly. While we might hope for a good ‘run’ at and on the pressing issues of concern, if past history is anything to go by then ‘things’ will gradually run into the ground and another crisis emerge to stymie progress.
It is difficult to enumerate all the issues of concern in one editorial. There are systemic issues of governance and decision making. There are issues which are difficult to resolve (e.g. education) because of the nature of the sectarian division which then overlaps with divisions on a left/right, progressive/conservative axis. There is the sectarian division itself which creates difficulties in the provision of facilities and sometimes requires ‘double provision’ (one facility for mainly Protestants, and one for mainly Catholics). And there are big problems simply with the amount of money available from the British Exchequer, given that the home rule Assembly system is not responsible for taxation (but see below).
While it has been generally recognised that the system of decision making needs reformed, simply removing the necessity for the two largest parties on either side to be involved in the Executive will not eradicate the problems. If the largest party on one side can ‘pass’ (i.e. decline to be involved in the Executive) but others on the same side pick up the ball (and be in the Executive), that would largely eradicate the start-stop nature of the Assembly. But it would not deal with the difficulty which the parties have in arriving at good decision making.
This is where the decision making methodologies proposed and propounded by the de Borda Institute www.deborda.org should come into play. In effect these have built in consideration for minority viewpoints and are the fairest way of trying to arrive at a workable consensus or decision that all can live with. They do require political parties to act in a different manner, however, and this is only likely to come about through pressure from the public. It might at least give an impetus to effective decision making in areas where there was been sustained failure in the past.
While Stormont, if the Assembly is up and running, cannot replicate taxation raised by the UK government, there is nothing to stop it raising taxes that are different, such as a land use tax (e.g. a tax on land and property which is not being used productively aside from that which is clearly set aside for ecological purposes). And due to the lack of economies of scale in an area of 1.9 million people, and issues of poverty and ill health, some stemming from the Troubles, the ‘Barnett formula’ of funding for UK regions needs further tweaked to give Northern Ireland a fairer share of the UK cake – Wales has already succeeded in doing that.
Whatever the constitutional future for Northern Ireland, there are urgent issues which need sorted now. The reform of Stormont could be a vital tool in turning around an area where the majority of young people want to leave, a fact illustrative of the many problems which beset individuals and society and of the existing malaise. The Northern Ireland Protocol and Windsor Agreement give Northern Ireland some economic advantages which it is next to impossible to harness without a home rule government in place.
by Dominic Carroll, Cork Neutrality League
1. We’re not joining NATO. It is now suggested that the government had NEVER contemplated NATO membership, and that defenders of neutrality are, inexplicably, crying “Wolf”. Yet government politicians have repeatedly expressed enthusiasm for, at the very least, increased cooperation with NATO (stealth membership). In June 2022, Micheál Martin said Ireland does not need a referendum to join NATO. How else was this to be interpreted other than that the government was giving serious consideration to joining? It is logical, then, that defenders of neutrality continue to take the rush/drift towards NATO seriously (in 2022 a rush, in 2023 a drift). 2. Government assurances in advance of the forum (actually, admissions of defeat) regarding neutrality and NATO should have mollified supporters of neutrality, it is suggested. Numerous politicians and commentators have sought to portray/deride our continued objections and protests as illogical. However, the objection to the forum remained valid. It provided a platform for a preponderance of securocrats and academics intent on extolling the benefits of NATO, with little formal opposition (i.e. platform speakers). The forum was clearly designed to “deliver” for the government. Despite objections at the highest level (the presidency), the programme and selection of speakers remained unaltered. Opposition to the forum remained valid. 3. The forum was not the beginning and end of the debate. The debate is being conducted across the media, within academia, among politicians and government departments (in Ireland, the EU, the US, etc.), among the public and (for four days only) in and around the forum. Numerous commentators, politicians and academics (not only from Ireland) have been egging Ireland on towards NATO membership. The Irish Times has been central to the debate, with an obvious bias in favour of anti-neutrality/pro-NATO contributors – e.g. Gay Mitchell was afforded numerous opportunities to persuade the readership of the Irish Times that Ireland should join NATO. Prominent commentators in numerous other leading publications have chided Ireland for failing to step up militarily (e.g. “Ireland is Europe’s weakest link” and “Irish neutrality – complacent at the best of times – has now become untenable, and perhaps its politicians will finally resolve to do something about it”). The neutrality movement was addressing ALL opponents of Irish neutrality, wherever they may be, when opposing the forum. 4. Despite this, the government has been forced to declare/concede that we are NOT joining NATO. (For now.) And that we will continue to be neutral. (Until we cease to be neutral.) It is only logical that these government blandishments regarding neutrality and NATO (while they await developments in their favour) should be scorned. 5. Government intentions with regard to Nato and neutrality have been thwarted by a recalcitrant public (61%), by the activities and discourse of pro-neutrality groups, by pro-neutrality scholarly discourse, and by opposition in the Oireachtas, by MEPs and by President Michael D. Higgins. 6. We can’t be sure if Micheál Martin continues to hanker after NATO membership; perhaps it was just a dalliance in the heat of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (under pressure from EU/NATO securocrats), and perhaps he now accepts – all things considered – that it’s not on (apparently, many of his backbenchers are also of this view). But he is undoubtedly determined to do something about the Triple Lock and is fully committed to increased integration into EU defence arrangements. He is clearly no enthusiast for neutrality. 7. Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael clearly yearn for eventual NATO membership. This, they hope, can be achieved through salami tactics: first, tackle the Triple Lock; next – well, that depends – it might take years. Or perhaps the escalation of the war in Ukraine will suddenly make it seem like the sensible option to a majority of people. 8. As to the forum, while it may not have backfired, exactly, it could be said to have misfired (because of the opposition to it). Dame Louise Richardson is still certain to deliver on the Triple Lock, and pro-neutrality campaign groups must now step up efforts to defend it. But if Dame Richardson is not inclined – perhaps, no longer inclined – to recommend the abandonment of neutrality and for Ireland to join NATO, the forum may fairly be judged a partial failure for the government. Equally, the pro-neutrality movement may fairly claim a considerable degree of success in undermining the forum. - The email of Cork Neutrality League is email@example.com and they have social media accounts as follows: Instagram www.instagram.com/corkneutralityleague Facebook www.facebook.com/CorkLeague Twitter twitter.com/Cork_CNL_SNOW (S’no joke, SNOW stands for Stay Neutral Oppose War).
To read INNATE’s 11-page submission to the Consultative Forum on International Security in the Republic, see https://tinyurl.com/3rurehhv
It had not been the intention to publish this until the July issue of INNATE’s monthly publication Nonviolent News but due to publicity about the failure of the Department of Foreign Affairs to consider having an oral presentation on aspects of the submission – specifically nonviolent civilian defence and extending neutrality as a means of adding to Irish security, it is being published now.
Photos of the “People’s Forums” on neutrality and protests concerning the government “Consultative Forum” can be seen on the INNATE photo site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72177720309217408