Tag Archives: Gender based violence


Neutrality – and Ukraine

Neutral on whose side?’ was the title of a Dawn magazine issue in 1982 about Irish neutrality and that question remains an extremely pertinent one today, forty years later. Is neutrality in the Republic simply something which has been an historical albatross and current day anomaly to be ditched at the first available opportunity? Is Ireland simply a cheapo fellow traveller with NATO? Or is neutrality something much more meaningful and productive on the international scene with great scope for development in the future?

It is quite clear that the current Irish political elite wishes to ditch neutrality as something from medieval times which is inappropriate for a modern, progressive and ‘European’ country like Ireland. In other words, it belongs with de Valera’s ideas about athletic youths and comely maidens dancing at the crossroads. But in fact behind this image of progressiveness in wanting to ditch neutrality is the most reactionary and violent of enterprises; the creation of an army for a new, and transnational, European empire – one which will not only be adept at turning away migrants in need but fit for intervention in resource wars later in the 21st century, and doing the bidding of NATO.

This, and the strong backing the EU is giving to the arms industry (with the Irish government backing Irish enterprises getting their snout is the violent trough of the ‘European Defence Fund’) is a terrible harbinger of things to come. Ireland, which has been a victim of imperialism and at least a partial bastion of anti-imperialism, is slowly, slowly joining a new imperialist venture. No, of course it doesn’t call itself that but instead of drawing on Irish history and culture it is joining up with the European imperialist countries in a new militarist venture.

It is, as you would expect, all dressed up in the most positive terms, just as ‘Ministries of War’ were relabelled ‘Defence Ministries’. But what is really needed for defence, and defence of what? The two greatest threats in the current era have been global warming and a pandemic; while the rich world responded quickly to the latter, it has been extremely tardy on the former. We need a response to the real challenges and issues that face us today. Human security is what needs protected and governments are too busy thinking about – and spending on – military ‘security’ (which tends to lead to insecurity).

Some commentators talk about Ireland ‘hiding behind’ UK and NATO defences. The question is – hiding behind what and why? Who would want to attack Ireland? And if they did it would be part of a greater conflagration which wreaks massive destruction across Europe. Even thinking in conventional ‘security’ terms, it is nonsense to think Ireland needs to be a part of a military alliance like NATO, or part of an EU army, to feel secure. Far better to make friends, to turn perceived enemies into friends, and to speak fearlessly against the military confrontational tactics used by NATO, Russia and others. And it is quite possible to have a nonviolent defence strategy for Ireland, or one allied with non-offensive military defence.

Ireland can play a real role for peace by being neutral and expanding its action for peace. It has acted constructively over the years on nuclear non-proliferation, the banning of landmines and cluster weapons, and in military peacekeeping with the UN. This kind of role is not only the best defence for Ireland but the best contribution Ireland can make to peace in the world. There are more than enough countries who go down the route of military confrontation, war, and waste of money on weaponry; Ireland would be foolish to copy or join them.

The Irish government and some of the media recently went somewhat wild about Russian naval exercises to take place in the Atlantic nearest to Ireland but far away from its territorial waters. No such protestations have been made about frequent NATO exercises much closer to the Irish coast. As other commentators have said, ranked along with the Irish government giving the use of Shannon Airport to the USA on a plate, this is rank hypocrisy. However it is interesting that a meeting between Irish fishermen, worried about the effects on fishing in the area of the naval exercise, and the Russian ambassador, was successful; the manoeuvres have been moved further away from Ireland, an example of successful negotiation or conciliation.

NATO missed the chance to disband when communist regimes in Russia and eastern Europe fell in 1989 and instead has helped create new enemies. At this time, firm declarations were given to Russia that it would not expand eastwards. It has.

Russia under Putin is an autocratic, violent and corrupt regime but NATO has managed not only to create fears in Russia but also to help destabilise the post-communist peace. Russia has continually been invaded from the west, including in both the First and Second World wars, and by the ‘Allies’ after the First World War was over, in support of the Whites against the Reds.

Solutions are there but the USA is unwilling to accept a situation which would be intolerable to itself. The USA threatened global nuclear disaster in the ‘Cuban missile crisis’ of 1962 when it would not accept the weapons of a perceived enemy to be ‘on its doorstep’; Russia (USSR) backed down. And yet the USA expects Russia to have perceived enemy forces (NATO) in its neighbourhood. We do not believe in big power ‘spheres of influence’ but if it comes to having a level playing field on this, it should be noted the USA has over 800 military bases around the world and regards the whole globe as its oyster (for consumption).

The solution for Ukraine is clear: an autonomous regime in the Russian-identifying east of the country (in line with the Minsk II agreement of 2015), and the whole country to be neutral with neither foreign bases there nor military alignment. Neutrality is not just a sensible policy for Ireland.

In closing this piece it is worth quoting at length a statement from the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement:

The people of our country and the entire planet are in mortal danger due to the nuclear confrontation between the civilizations of East and West. We need to stop the build-up of troops, the accumulation of weapons and military equipment in and around Ukraine, the insane throwing of taxpayers’ money into the furnace of the war machine instead of solving acute socio-economic and environmental problems. We need to stop indulging the cruel whims of military commanders and oligarchs who profit from bloodshed.

The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement condemns the preparation of Ukraine and NATO member states for war with Russia.
We demand global de-escalation and disarmament, the dissolution of military alliances, the elimination of armies and borders that divide people.

We demand an immediate peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, around Donetsk and Luhansk, on the basis of:
1) absolute compliance with a ceasefire by all pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian combatants and strict adherence to the Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements, approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202 (2015);
2) withdrawal of all troops, cessation of all supplies of weapons and military equipment, cessation of total mobilization of the population for war, cessation of propaganda of war and hostility between civilizations in the media and social networks;
3) conducting open, inclusive and comprehensive negotiations on peace and disarmament in the format of a public dialogue between all state and non-state parties to the conflict with the participation of pro-peace civil society actors;
4) enshrining neutrality of our country by the Constitution of Ukraine;
5) guaranteeing the human right to conscientious objection to military service (including refusal to be trained for military service), in accordance with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and paragraphs 2, 11 of the General Comment № 22 of the UN Human Rights Committee.
War is a crime against humanity. Therefore, we are determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.”

Gender based violence: The missing link

The killing of Ashling Murphy on a canal bank outside Tullamore in Co Offaly on 12th January shocked people in Ireland and further afield. While death dealt by (presumably) a stranger in this way is unusual in Ireland and generally – most femicides involve a killer known to the woman killed – it sparked a considerable and welcome debate about violence against women in general.

Perhaps some good will come from this tragedy if education and expectations change so that there is outright rejection of interpersonal violence and particularly violence against women, much of which currently is sexually related and taking many different forms. Increased educational programmes and exploration at school level will help. But there needs to be a focus on this for adults too and a general change in culture. This requires ongoing commitment and not simply knee jerk reactions.

Male violence has been the elephant in the room – or, in the words of the INNATE poster, too big to fit in the room (go to poster ‘MV’ at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ ). There is perhaps starting to be an awareness of the gendered nature of violence but this understanding has a long way to go, and the parameters are no way wide enough. Maleness certainly does not equate to violence but the vast majority of violence stems partly from the perpetrator being male.

Why do (essentially male) people achieve pleasure from playing an extremely violent computer war game like ‘Call of Duty’ (which was part of a recent multi-billion dollar deal)? What is it about us that we can enjoy a ‘game’ where killing and destruction is routine and something we are encouraged to do? Do we not make connections? All right, say many, this is fantasy and allows people to let off steam; perhaps yes but it does so at the cost of normalising such violence and destruction. If we learn by playing then such games are literally a death trap. Violence in our culture is endemic.

The Downpatrick Declaration, https://www.downpatrickdeclaration.com/ launched in December, seeks among other things to link the commitments made to non-violence in Northern Ireland as part of the Good Friday Agreement to wider and international dealings. We need a commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflict – which the Irish constitution speaks about – not just in the ‘domestic’, inside a country, environment but at every level. There is essentially no difference. States give themselves the ‘right’ to declare war and fight wars but why? And how is this really any different to someone or a group using violence within a country? Ethically and practically there is no difference though states claim the mantle of statehood to do so.

This is where we need to introduce the concept of toxic militarist masculinity. What entitles men to go to war, kill and maim others, attack who they wish, all for a cause which would be better served by nonviolent means? And this is not the preserve of countries in the Middle East or elsewhere; it is regularly practised through drone and missile strikes by the USA and UK with impunity, and by invasions of countries with regimes they don’t like. And it is the politicians and leaders who direct the soldiers to go to war and the weapons to be fired; soldiers, who know what violence entails, may be much more reluctant to engage in warfare and not just to avoid risking their own lives.

The state tends to hold their war-fighting machinery and sophisticated armed forces in high regard. Most countries treat their armies as symbols of their nationhood, although it is ironic that individual soldiers are often not well treated even in peacetime, and forgotten and neglected after fighting a war. Many men join their national army for altruistic motives as well as it being a job.

We feel there is a strong link between toxic masculinity in general, including the violence of men, with military violence and potential violence. Individual soldiers and ex-soldiers may be the gentlest and most considerate of people but the very fact of having armed forces – and possibly the more belligerent a country and army the worse it is – acts as an incentive to male violence at other levels. If men are entitled to use violence in armed forces in “our country’s” cause – and ‘God’ is inevitably expressed to be on our side – then that also legitimises violence by men at other levels, perhaps very unconsciously, but legitimises it in the minds of some. Please note we are not saying this has a direct affect on all soldiers and ex-soldiers but ‘it is in the air’ and affects some.

In other words, there is a direct link between the legitimisation of violence at a military level and men’s assumption of its legitimisation at a personal level. This may not be thought out or expressed rationally but it is there. It is not a simple link and for most people it may not have an effect but it is there in the culture. And therefore no amount of educational or anger management programmes will erase the potential for male violence at a personal level while violence at the state level is considered legitimate and even worthy, and countries go to war at the drop of a hat.

This is the missing link in the debate about male violence. It is unexplored, controversial and even raising it is likely to be an unpopular point of view and considered iconoclastic – but, we insist, that link exists. It is not the only background factor to male-on-female or other interpersonal violence but it is an important aspect which is part of the ‘elephant in the room’ which is male violence.

About the contents of this (bumper) issue….

While the individual contents of this bumper issue ‘speak for themselves’, some general clarification is perhaps needed. We are aware that our analysis of ‘the missing link’ in relation to male violence (in the second Editorial) is controversial.- controversial, yes, but also needed to point out something entirely missing in the discussion.

Edward Horgan’s piece on neutrality and what it means, nationally and internationally, is important; his viewpoint, included in the piece, on the need for a national army might not be ours but it fits into the concept of “non-offensive defence” which is important and progressive in the Irish context. Realistically, defending and developing Irish neutrality is essential in avoiding Ireland (the Republic) jumping fully into the NATO camp with its militarist and confrontational approach – or of course continuing to buy into EU militarism as the western European arm of NATO.

The article by Garreth Byrne on the development of organic growing, selling and communicating in the north-west is not just a little bit of history but also detailing some stepping stones on the way ‘we’ need to go in relation to land use. The size of the Irish cattle herd is unsustainable in terms of global warming emissions, a point evaded by the Irish government in relation to COP26. Developing new, and rediscovering old, ways of relating to the land is essential and credit is due to trailblazers on this.

Continuing the series on ‘Art and peace’, there are many questions we need to ask about how peace can be built up in our society and culture; this series with Stefania Gualberti continues as explorations of the whole area, this time in a fascinating and grounded interview with Karen McFarlane.

The aim of Nonviolent News is not just to inform but also to stimulate debate. We welcome comments on these and all articles and material in Nonviolent News . Comments can be sent to innate@ntlworld.com

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