Tag Archives: Ireland

News, May 2024

Lex Innocentium/Law of the Innocents, 21st Century

A new project is being launched called Lex Innocentium, 21st Century. It is inspired, in the first instance, by the original Lex Innocentium, The Law of the Innocents, decreed by an Irish Monk, Adomnán, ninth Abbot of Iona, in the year 697 AD at the Synod of Birr, Co. Offaly. Lex Innocentium declared it a crime to kill or harm in war women and non-combatants (those too young to engage in war). Given the very unsettled times in which we live, and given the extremely harmful and destructive nature of the weapons existing today, the project believes it is time to write a new Lex Innocentium – one for the 21st Century. This new law will include The Earth and the Future as Innocents in war; it will be a bottom-up, soft-power, people’s law – a law for and of people all over the world who are opposed to war and who care for the future of humanity and the Earth. It will also be a legacy document for future generations.

It is proposed asking those who attend the launch of the new law to sign as official signatories of the law and others will be invited to commit and subscribe to the law on the website. The organisers say “In this way, we hope to develop a roll of subscribers who can act as a collective voice for the protection of the innocent, including the Earth and the Future, from the scourge of war.” It is planned to launch on Saturday 21st of September at Birr in the morning and then Redwood Castle, Lorrha, Co Tipperary later (this has a 17th century Annals of the Four Masters link to Adomnán’s Law). It is hoped to launch the website shortly. Contact sean27english@gmail.com Watch this space for more info.

Afri Doolough Famine Walk: Remembrance and Solidarity – for Gaza

Afri’s annual Doolough valley famine walk, commemorating a real Gorta Mór famine walk in 1849 in which many people died on the way to and from Delphi Lodge, takes place on Saturday 18th May. This year the Famine Walk is dedicated to highlighting and standing against genocide in Palestine. Walk leaders are; Faten Sourani, from Gaza, who is a lawyer and advocate for human rights and social justice; Donal O’Kelly who is a writer, performer and activist; and music will be by Irish-Palestinian artist Roisín El Cherif. Registration takes place from 11 am – 12 noon on 18th May at the parish hall in the centre of Louisburgh, Co Mayo, followed by an opening ceremony; buses will then take participants to the starting point at Delphi Lodge (no parking there). A brief ceremony will be held in Delphi Lodge before the 17 km walk back to Louisburgh (pick up by shuttle car if it gets too much). Registration fee is €25, unwaged €15, children free, including the bus; sponsorship is welcome with money going to cover costs and support Afri’s work. Details at https://www.afri.ie/category/famine-walk-2024/ and film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF-je_JYhPc

UN Chernobyl Disaster: Warning of further disaster

26th April is ‘United Nations Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day’. Adi Roche, voluntary CEO of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), has warned that the full-extent of the Chernobyl disaster has not yet been realised, and that worse is on the horizon if the war in Ukraine escalates further. Since the beginning of the war and the invasion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in February 2022, CCI have been advocating for all nuclear facilities be deemed a ‘No War Zone’ and for World Leaders to invoke the Hague Convention which defines any attack on a nuclear facility to be a ‘war crime’.

However, with the weaponising of nuclear power at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia, the country falls further and further away from the confines of safety; “The accident at Chernobyl happened as a result of faults in the technology and human error. However, if a nuclear accident happens at Zaporizhzhia, it could very well be intentional. We cannot overstate the current critical situation and nuclear threat in Ukraine. We must do everything in our power to prevent Zaporizhzhia from becoming the next ‘Chernobyl’. We neglect Ukraine at our peril”, Roche cautioned. See https://www.chernobyl-international.com/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53676683472/in/dateposted/

Rethinking Growth conference, 25th-26th June, at TCD, Dublin

This event, organised by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Ireland Hub https://weall.org/hub/ireland (which includes Feasta) builds on the Beyond Growth Conference, a cross-party initiative of 20 Members of the European Parliament which took place in Brussels in May 2023. It aims to bring together politicians from across the political spectrum from North and South, policymakers, practitioners, thought leaders and civil society from all around the island to reimagine the concept and role of economic growth, to explore current challenges being faced in both jurisdictions, and to build better foundations for a wellbeing economy for the island of Ireland. See https://rethinking-growth.ie/

Bitter Legacy: State impunity in the Northern Ireland conflict

A new 200-page report with this title has been issued by the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights. Following the introduction of the British Government’s Legacy Bill, at the request of the CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice https://caj.org.uk/ and the Pat Finucane Centre https://www.patfinucanecentre.org/ an International Expert Panel was convened by the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and this is its report. The report focuses on three thematic areas: state killings and impunity, collusion and impunity, and torture and impunity.

Key findings of the report include the revelation that the British government not only engaged in collusion but also blocked proper police investigations into conflict-related killings to protect implicated security force members and agents. The report also highlights the impact of the Legacy Act, and the panel calls for its repeal, warning it will damage Britain’s worldwide reputation. The report documents much wider evidence of security force torture and ill-treatment than previously reported and dismisses state claims that only rogue security force personnel were involved in collusion. It also found that the Irish Government failed to carry out effective investigations, damaging victims’ right to justice. It includes the steps needed for justice and accountability to be achieved (with recommendations for the British and Irish governments); the full report is very comprehensive. It can be downloaded via https://www.jus.uio.no/smr/english/about/id/news/2024/report-reveals-state-impunity-in-northern-ireland-.html or via the CAJ website,

FOE 50:

Friends of the Earth in Ireland celebrated working for 50 years with a special Education Day in Dublin. You can find out about its varied projects and work, including the option of signing up for international solidarity actions, and a training weekend for youth and community workers on 17th May, at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/

Glencree 50, new board members

The members of the new Glencree board are profiled briefly on their website at www.glencree.ie along with news and information on projects. Meanwhile Glencree marks 50 years of existence this year, having been founded in 1974.

Rates: relief for arms producers but not for end recipients….

In a Northern Ireland desperate for funding to avoid further drastic cuts, it is incredible that rates relief is given to arms manufacturers and also those on the BDS list for involvement with Israel. A question from Gerry Carroll MLA revealed that while Thales was not on the list because of how the question was answered, Spirit Aerosystems, Caterpillar and Teva NI were included.

500 at April monthly Shannon Warport demo

There was a large attendance at the 2nd Sunday of the month demo (2 pm) at Shannon Airport on 14th April. A statement made there by Shannonwatch included that “The continuing misuse of Shannon airport by aircraft associated with the US military since 7th October 2023, makes the Irish State and the Irish government complicit in the war crimes and the probable genocide by Israel against the Palestinian people, because the US has been very actively supporting Israel with weapons, munitions, and political support.” Fuller info at www.shannonwatch.org and see also https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53688113690/in/photostream/

Aldergrove, Belfast Int’l Airport, joins Shannon in monthly vigil

There is now a monthly vigil at Aldergrove/Belfast International Airport at the same time as that at Shannon; 2pm on the second Sunday of the month with the next one being 12th May. Meet at the first roundabout coming from Belfast. It is opposing the role of military flights (US, UK, NATO – and these do come through the civilian part of Aldergrove) in their role in supporting genocide in Gaza. Belfast International and Aldergrove military airport share an adjoining runway which is being used as a landing site and de-facto military base for the U.S. military and NATO allies. See https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Vsid-Z8Kz2_OwqjPdxJEXE56zy1vVGAs6Sne6Mw5g-0/edit and contact cairdepalestinebf@gmail.com

Good Relations awards, Good Relations Week in the North

The Good Relations awards, coordinated by the Community Relations Council, for 2024 were announced in March; the Exceptional Achievement Award (peace building) went to Elizabeth (Betty) Carlisle and Recognition Awards for Harry Maher and Joe McKeown; Good Relations Volunteer of the Year Award went to Yvonne Heaney with Recognition Awards to Helen Dunn and James Reynolds; Good Relations Community Champion Award went to David Patterson; Good Relations Youth Award (Under 25) winner was Crosslink Volunteer Team Youth Initiative; Good Relations Connecting Communities Project of the Year winner was Waterside Shared Village. https://www.community-relations.org.uk

lMeanwhile Good Relations Week 2024, with the title ‘OpportUNITY’, coordinated by the Community Relations Council, will run from Monday 16th September to Sunday 22nd September with an anticipated programme of over 200 cross community and multi-cultural events across the region. https://goodrelationsweek.com/

Corrymeela podcast

There is a new series of Corrymeela podcasts with Pádraig Ó Tuama in conversation recently with, among others, John Paul Lederach, Jan Carson, Dong Jin Kim, and Rev Dr Rachel Mann (and lots more previously). See https://www.publictheologyireland.com/podcast and www.corrymeela.org for more general news and information about Corrymeela’s work.

Police reform in a changing Ireland: ICCL and CAJ conference

Police Reform in a Changing Ireland: Next Steps After the Commission on the Future of Policing’ is a conference run by ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties in partnership with CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice; it takes place on Thursday 16th May at Renehan Hall, Maynooth University. It will take a past, present and future view of human rights-based policing on the island of Ireland, more than five years on from the publication of the final report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI). There is a range of relevant speakers. https://www.iccl.ie/police-justice-reform/iccl-caj-annual-policing-conference-2024-police-reform-in-a-changing-ireland-next-steps-after-the-commission-on-the-future-of-policing/

Videos: Afri, de Borda

lA short film about the Feile na Beatha/Festival of Living in Carlow, organised by Afri and SETU, is available on the Afri YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PJmyybMytU&t=3s See also www.afri.ie

lAn 11 minute film with Peter Emerson speaking about voting mechanisms, put together for a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences hybrid conference is available at https://vimeo.com/919681575 See also www.deborda.org

News, April 2024

Easter peace actions at Shannon warport

Edward Horgan reports: Two significant non-violent peace actions were carried out at Shannon at Easter time. On Good Friday (29th March) a group of peace activists, mainly from Co Clare, spent over an hour in the arrivals area of Shannon airport terminal building. Report and videos available at this Shannonwatch link: https://www.shannonwatch.org/content/irish-protesters-issue-good-friday-gaza-peace-plea-%C2%A0shannon%C2%A0airport

On 30 March, three peace activists from the Galway Palestinian Solidarity Campaign carried out a peace action within Shannon airport airside areas. Reports at https://www.facebook.com/GalwayPSC/ Their names were Eimear Walshe, Aindriú de Buitléir and Aine Ní Threinir. The climbed over the fence to enter the airport, where an executive diplomatic type US air force Boeing 737 had just arrived from Lebanon. It had been in Israel, Turkey and Egypt over the previous few days. They got to within 100 metres of the aircraft before they were arrested. Also at the airport was US Navy Boeing 737 C40A that had arrived from Bahrain on the previous day. The three defendants were brought to a special sitting of the court at Nenagh, Co Tipperary, where they were released on bail and summoned to appear in court on 24 April. This brings to at least 43 peace activists who have been prosecuted for similar peace actions at Shannon airport over the years. No such US military aircraft has ever been searched at Shannon airport and no one has been prosecuted for complicity with war crimes, torture or genocide due to US military being illegally allowed to transit through Shannon airport. The ongoing genocide in Gaza was the main focus on both of these peace actions.

l The next regular monthly peace vigil at Shannon is on Sunday 14th April 2pm to 3pm. Shannonwatch website is at http://www.shannonwatch.org/ A list of US war-related planes passing through Shannon or Irish air space in recent months appears there and in the e-mail and web editions of this issue of Nonviolent News.

l Meanwhile in Belfast there have been demonstrations at Thales and Spirit AeroSystems over arms links with Israel. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53546068897/in/dateposted/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53602899095/in/dateposted/

Black Shamrocks rock

The black shamrock as a multifacted symbol of Irish resistance to war in general, and the war on Gaza in particular at the moment, and it has been taking off with increased public recognition as it appears more frequently at demonstrations for Gaza and Palestine. First launched in 2006, its use is to visualise support for: Irish Neutrality and the Triple Lock, the people of Gaza and all who find themselves at the blunt end of the weapons industry, and for the rights of nature. It is also to visualise opposition to: Ireland’s involvement in war and the weapons industry, scapegoating and ‘othering’ vulnerable citizens, extractivism and the commodification of human beings. There is now a website at www.blackshamrock.ie and you can order bulk numbers of black shamrock badges to sell (non-commercial), make ones yourself, or both – as Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW) did with their presence at the St Patrick’s Day parade in Galway https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53625559130/in/dateposted/ The Black Shamrock website is still being developed so email them to order.

Corrymeela: Transforming trauma

Corrymeela is organising a 3–day series on Transforming trauma: A Community Approach to Healing, in Belfast in partnership with Dr James S. Gordon and the Centre for Mind Body Medicine. This runs in different venues from Wednesday 10th to Friday 12th April. Details on this and other Corrymeela news at https://www.corrymeela.org/

Columbia Congress: Neutrality – Strategy for Global Stabilization

This Congress on 4th and 5th April aims to focus on neutrality as a state commitment, discuss actions for a true peace with social justice, and debate on the obsolescence of war. There will be a full agenda of activities, with more than 50 speakers who will talk on various topics related to neutrality and peace building. Activities will start at 8:00 a.m. Colombian time and will conclude at 4:30 p.m. It will be a hybrid event, broadcast live, in Spanish with English translation available. Source and contacts: https://tinyurl.com/w8hf5xbn

Irish Centre for Human Rights: ICC Summer School, new post

The annual International Criminal Court Summer School at the Irish Centre for Human Rights allows participants the opportunity to attend a series of intensive lectures which are given by leading academics on the subject as well as by legal professionals working at the International Criminal Court. The course is particularly suited to postgraduate students, legal professionals, scholars, and NGO workers. This year it runs online from 10th – 13th June with a registration fee of €75. See https://www.universityofgalway.ie/irish-centre-human-rights/summerschools/

lMeanwhile Professor Siobhán Mullally, Director of University of Galway Irish Centre for Human Rights, was elected as the first Chairperson of the newly established Platform of Independent Experts on Refugee Rights, see https://www.universityofgalway.ie/irish-centre-human-rights/newsevents/professor-siobhan-mullally-elected-first-chairperson-of-platform-of-independent-experts-on-refugee-rights.html

Social Change Initiative: Northern Ireland values and attitudes

Using data from the World Values Survey (WVS) SCI have produced a report on Values and Attitudes in Northern Ireland 25 Years After the Belfast Good Friday Agreement which shows considerable liberalisation happening (among other things). See https://www.socialchangeinitiative.com/values-and-attitudes-in-northern-ireland

Síolta Chroí: Ecosystem restoration for community groups

Upcoming courses at Síolta Chroí in Co Monaghan include one on Ecosystem regeneration for community groups on 20th and 21st April at a low, subsidised fee. It will explore how individuals and community groups can play their part to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss by creating systems that sequester carbon, build biodiversity and restores the ecosystem, mixing theory with practical hands on work. Details on this and more at https://sioltachroi.ie/

Chernobyl Children International: Peace prize for Adi Roche

Chernobyl Children International’s voluntary CEO, Adi Roche was presented with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize at the National Peace Symposium in London on 9th March, in recognition of her life-long “contribution for the advancement of the cause of peace”. The ceremony took place at the Baitul Futuh Mosque, in London. Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdown, Martin Fraser, welcomed Adi receiving the honour in a letter of citation; “Through her inspirational work Adi has accomplished many firsts and it is particularly fitting that she is the first ever Irish honouree of this Prize”. While not within the mainstream of Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has a particular emphasis on peace. For Chernobyl Children International/CCI see https://www.chernobyl-international.com/

Afri Doolough Famine Walk, 18th May

The annual Doolough Famine Walk, organised by Afri, which walks the 18 km from Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh in Mayo in commemoration of a real life famine walk in 1849, takes place on Saturday 18th May; registration begins late morning. Further details in next issue or keep an eye on www.afri.ie

Rochtain: Training on lobbying and legislative process

The next training by Rochtain, a project of ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties, will focus on effective Oireachtas communications for community and voluntary organisations, specifically on “getting your foot in the door” and making a good pitch for why your organisation should be listened to on a particular issues. The (alternative) dates are 8th or 9th April, both 11am, held remotely. Contact ronan.kennedy@iccl.ie and see also https://www.iccl.ie/activism-protest/rochtain/

IPB: Focus on military spending, Sean MacBride Awards

More relevant than ever, GDAMS (Global Days of Action on Military Spending) begins this year on 12th April. A project of IPB/International Peace Bureau, see more at https://ipb.org/events/gdams-2024-april-12-to-may-15/

lThe Sean MacBride Peace Award for 2023, presented on 22nd March 2024, went to champions of the right to conscientious objection, represented by a joint prize for three movements – Our House in Belarus, the Movement of Conscientious Objectors in Russia, and the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement – and an individual peace advocate, Tore Nærland, through his initiative “Bike for Peace”. See https://ipb.org/sean-macbride-peace-prize/

CGE: Delivering educational programme for Palestinian refugees

The Centre for Global Education (CGE) in Belfast has announced that NIPSA trade union has awarded a two-year grant to support the project titled “Chance to Learn: Educating Palestinian and Syrian Refugees in Lebanon”. The project will provide education activities in 2024 and 2025 that will enhance the formal education and employment opportunities of 100 Palestinian and Syrian children aged 12-16 years. The project will be delivered in three Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. https://www.centreforglobaleducation.com/news/

FOE Earth Day Conference: Faster & fairer climate action

April 22nd sees a Friends of the Earth conference for Earth Day in central Dublin on Ireland 2030: Faster and Fairer Climate Action from 9am – 4pm. Sessions will be on How Politics Can Rise To The Climate Challenge; Speaking Up For Faster And Fairer Climate Action; and Our Energy Future; speakers include Hannah Daly, Professor in Sustainable Energy and Energy Systems Modelling at University College Cork; Kevin Cunningham, lecturer in Politics at TU Dublin, and MD and Founder at Ireland Thinks; as well as Eamon Ryan, Minister for Environment, Climate and Communication. More info and register at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/events/earth-day-conference-ireland-2030-faster-and-fairer-climate/

Church and Peace new Gen Sec

After seven years in her post as general secretary of Church and Peace, the European ecumenical peace church network, Lydia Funck has moved on. She has been rep advisor on nonviolent conflict transformation in social movements. “Juliane Prüfert brings practical experience in community-building and networking both in international contexts and with the non-governmental organisation Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Colombia, Lesbos and Kurdistan/Iraq. Until recently she worked as secretary for peace and reconciliation at the Ecumenical Information Centre in Dresden and then with the Frauenkirche Dresden Foundation.” Church and Peace website is at https://www.church-and-peace.org/en/

Mairead Maguire on the state of the world

Peace People co-founder, and Nobel Peace laureate, Mairead Maguire has been busy in the recent past speaking about Gaza and Palestine https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53602771264/in/dateposted/ but in an interview with Maung Zarni, recorded last December, she also speaks about how she became involved in peace work, Myanmar, Julian Assange, Iraq and war and the state of the world in general. https://forsea.co/israel-cannot-build-peace-on-genocide-says-1976-nobel-peace-laureate-mairead-maguire/

Billy King: Rites Again, 318

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

As I have proclaimed oft times before, April is on average the driest month in Ireland so, after some wet weather recently – including some wetting through on our bi-cyles – perhaps we can hope that the month lives up to its norm. But four seasons in a day is also an Irish reality. Anyway, that is the weather dealt with (obligatory in discussion in this land of ours) and so on with My Thoughts for the Month [I hope they are not wet through too – Ed].

Not out of arms’ way

The people of Gaza are, tragically, the recipients of the products of the arms trade. And profits for the arms companies are BOOMING, literally and figuratively, due to the war in Ukraine and uncertainty in the Middle East with the Israeli war on Gaza. The arms trade is many things including astronomically expensive, corrupt (news was coming in during the last month on British bribes for arms sales to Saudi Arabia, something which is not even the tip of the iceberg) and wasteful – money spent on arms is money that cannot go on human security and wellbeing.

Congratulations to the activists on Gaza and Palestine who have joined up the dots and organised protests at Thales in Castlereagh, Belfast, https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53546068897/in/dateposted/ and Spirit AeroSystems in the docks area of Belfast. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53602899095/in/dateposted/ There has also been an Irish Anti-War Movement meeting in Dublin on “The Gaza genocide and the arms trade”. The west has its bloody hands involved in the war in Gaza in a variety of ways.

In 2023 Irish ‘dual use’ exports (which can be used for military or civilian purposes) to Israel were worth €70 million, an exponential increase – how much of this was due to the Irish government’s promotion of dual use production is unclear – and, ahem, severely conflicts with Ireland standing up (or at least crouching up) for Palestine and against the obliteration of Gaza. The arms trade has consequences, something which Simon Coveney and company seem to have blatantly ignored.

Thales seems to have been going on a charm offensive, e.g. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/uk-world/production-at-weapons-plant-doubles-amid-war-in-ukraine/a933017996.html and

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2024/mar/26/im-not-profiting-from-misery-im-averting-more-thaless-uk-boss-on-making-missiles-for-ukraine?CMP=share_btn_url Of course what Thales is not so keen to state is that they were supplying parts for Russian tanks and planes until a western embargo in 2014 so they are probably still helping the Russian war effort, and they have worked closely with major Israeli arms company Elbit on drones, a key weapon used by the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza. The bottom line for arms companies is profit.

We would of course dispute most of what Thales’ personnel have to say. Thales UK CEO proclaiming how good a deterrent ‘his’ weapons are is nonsense, we don’t know whether they have had any deterrent effect whatsoever, they certainly didn’t stop war in Ukraine. Thales’ Belfast weaponry includes Starstreak, Lightweight Multi-role Missile (LMM) systems as well as assembly of NLAWs (a kind of bazooka if you want to know). The Guardian reports that “Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, the group’s shares have gained more than 80%, its value has swelled to €33bn and its order book has reached a record high, at €45bn.” It’s definitely an ill wind.

The Thales CEO is also quoted as saying “It’s a peculiarly British thing that we uphold our armed forces, but simultaneously despise the industry that produces things that will protect them or make them more effective.” No it’s not and that is a militarist assumption. But in any case challenging militarism means challenging all aspects of it.

Thales Belfast production has doubled since before the 2022 Ukraine and yer man says it will double again (the UK sent lots of weaponry to Ukraine and are also restocking themselves). He also said that the Belfast plant was “its best kept secret” during the Troubles in the North; no it wasn’t, not to peace activists anyway, it was always the biggest bomb factory in Belfast. Why kill a few people in Northern Ireland when you can kill far more abroad?

Wheely good, a spokesperson said……

A survey of five metropolitan areas in the Republic https://www.irishtimes.com/environment/climate-crisis/2024/03/05/walking-and-cycling-take-680000-cars-off-road-daily-in-states-five-largest-cities/ could be considered relatively optimistic for self-propelled travel, cycling, walking and so on. This study estimates a saving of some 160,00 tonnes of greenhouse gases. For more info see also https://www.nationaltransport.ie/planning-and-investment/transport-investment/active-travel-investment-programme/walking-and-cycling-index/

This survey showed walking, cycling and wheeling (using wheeled mobility aids such as wheelchairs or strollers) took 680k cars off the road in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Shannon-Limerick and Waterford. While a modest 15% of people cycle weekly, one in two residents want to do more cycling or walking. More than half of people in these areas walk five days a week or more. And there is a high level of support for increased government funding on cycling and walking – much higher than support for increased spending on motoring.

The fact that more men cycle than women probably has a number of reasons, one perhaps being being the higher involvement of women in childcare (though modern cycle options can include a variety of child seats and attachments) but also gender-based safety issues. The way to get more people cycling is of course to provide more dedicated and safe cycling routes – and the more people out and about on bikes, the more others will want to do it too. Dividing cycling lanes from pedestrians is also essential, not least to avoid recrimination between those who are self-propelled and should be allies.

While some Irish cities are hilly in places – Cork and Derry come to mind – the advent of ebikes can also help to make for a more level playing field, so to speak, though I much prefer the plain old push bike for normal usage.

Ireland, North and Republic, has a long road to travel to make cycling the default option for short distance travel, and much more of an option for medium or longer distances. But this has to be achievable both for ecological and health reasons, and through providing safe spaces to cycle. It has recently come to light that serious accidents to cyclists are far higher than Garda figures indicate, particularly for children (by a factor of six). Scary.

Nevertheless two wheels good….. https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ and go to “Cycling……[CW]”

Not a wind up

It is amazing how we can set challenges to ourselves to do this or that, achieve that or this, fulfil some sort of bucket or non-bucket list. I was engaging in the unfashionable task of looking through the CDs in my favourite Oxfam shop when I stumbled across an audio box set of Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles”, still unused and sealed, for £2. CDs are, if course, not zeitgeisty now, call me old fashioned [Yes….. – Ed] but I like them and, as with vinyl, they will return to be fashionable at some stage (unspecified).

26 hours of audio, the box proclaimed, in 21 CDs. I’m not sure where it came from within me but I immediately pronounced to the the person on the till right beside the CDs, and the shop manager who was nearby, that I accepted the challenge (….actually set by me) to listen to the whole thing. 26 miles is the length of a marathon. There are 26 counties in the Republic. There are only 24 hours in a whole day. But 26 hours of listening? What was I thinking, and I knew nothing about the book.

Well, well, well, I won’t divulge the most dramatic happenings to the main protagonist Toru Okada in the book and this is not a review as such. Spoiler alert, early on in the book my companion in listening thought it was unsurprising that Toru’s wife left him, so passive was he to things that happened to him (at that stage). But things change and get more mystical and fantastical.

It is not a humorous book as such, and there are passages depicting extreme violence, but I did laugh out loud at some of Murakami’s descriptions (the English translation is excellent, done by the author himself, and the reading by Rupert Degas likewise). The situations described range from the mundane to the truly bizarre and mystical. I don’t think “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” is intended as a wind up, to use an English language idiom (and different sense of the term), but it can certainly feel like that at times.

But to return to challenges. We all benefit from setting challenges, whether it is some kind of bucket list or one off tasks or goals which we set ourselves to achieve. This applies in the socio-political realm as much as in our ordinary lives. If we don’t continually push ourselves to try and do new things and explore new horizons (by horizons I mean ‘at home’ and not as a tourist where, as the saying goes, it is possible that ‘travel broadens the arse’) then we can stultify in our routines. I am a creature of routine, I enjoy the routine, so I am talking primarily to myself here.

However next time I see a 26 hour audio book for sale in a charity shop I might just leave it on the shelf. I have done that particular challenge.

That’s me for now. May Day, May Day or thereabouts will see the next instalment in my perverse [oh, are you going to take to poetry? – Ed] take on the universe [more poetry? – Ed], until then, Billy.

PS in reply to the Ed, above, it may not be known that I am an accomplished poet, in fact I wrote an epic poem years ago having seen the poet Padraic Fiacc (he died in 2019) in my local supermarket. My poem includes the memorable lines:

I saw a poet shopping in Dunnes

I presume for bread, and not for puns.

Meanwhile I await my No Bells Prize for Litterature (sic).

However, I admit I cannot write as profound and sublime poetry as deceased Irish citizen Spike Milligan who penned the immortal lines:

Said the general of the army

I think that war is barmy’,

So he threw away his gun,

Now he’s having much more fun.

News, March 2024

Afri: Joe Murray retiring, coordinator post advertised

Joe Murray, the long time and well known coordinator of peace, justice and sustainability organisation Afri will be retiring in August this year. The permanent post of coordinator, starting in August, is now being advertised with a closing date of 26th April. The details are on the Afri website; the job advertisement at https://www.afri.ie/category/afri-hiring-new-coordinator/ and job description at https://www.afri.ie/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Afri-coordinator-job-description.pdf “Afri’s vision is of a just, peaceful, equal and sustainable world. Key areas of work identified in the current strategic plan include: 1) militarisation and peace, 2) food sovereignty, 3) climate change and climate justice, and 4) migration, refugees and homelessness.”

Applicants should have experience of managing or leading within nongovernmental organisations or grassroots movements and a variety of other experience – specified in the job description – but Afri is encouraging people to apply who feel the job is right for them even if they don’t have all the experience listed. The coordinator of Afri is one of just two full time staff and is responsible for Afri’s programme of one off and regular events, the latter including Féile Bríde and the Doolough Famine Walk, as well as a global citizen education programme. The Afri office is in Dublin but a certain amount of remote working is envisaged.

Legacy Act: Broad welcome for Belfast High Court decision

There has been widespread approval among victims and human rights groups, including Amnesty International who were involved in supporting the case, for the NI High Court decision (in a lengthy ruling) that the British Government’s Legacy Act breached the European Convention on Human Rights in offering conditional immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during the Troubles. The British government remains committed to the Act so the way forward is unclear. Word search for more details, and for background see e.g. https://caj.org.uk/our-work/legacy-of-the-past/

Thales and Palestine

In a positive crossover event, a protest and blockade of the main entrance at Thales arms company factory at Alanbrooke Road, Castlereagh, Belfast, took place for over an hour on 23rd February. Organised by an ad hoc group of activists on Palestine, with help from peace activists, over thirty people attended. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53546068897/in/dateposted/ Earlier, workers had also been leafletted as they arrived, among other things urging conversion to socially useful production. Thales is involved internationally with the prominent Israeli arms company Elbit in the production of drones including Watchkeeper – and drones are now a key aspect of warmaking without any indication in Gaza that it adds to the ‘precision’ of attacks on Hamas by the IDF.

VSI volunteer programme: Promoting peace, social justice

VSI/Voluntary Service International has launched its 2024 programme of international volunteer projects which take place across Europe, including Belgium, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Sweden and elsewhere. Most projects last for 2-3 weeks throughout the summer, with the earliest starting near the end of March, and many more starting from May onwards. VSI also has medium and long-term volunteer projects available, and various global citizenship education activities. To learn more, follow on social media or visit the website https://www.vsi.ie/volunteer/programmes/ivp/ VSI is the Irish branch of Service Civil International (SCI) and works to promote peace, social justice, sustainable development, and intercultural understanding through volunteering in Ireland and internationally, and through global citizenship education.

Palestine: Meeting violence with non-violence

A meeting at Queen’s University Belfast from 12.30 – 2.30pm (light lunch from 12 noon) on Thursday 7th March sees Prof Mohamed Abu Nimer and Dr Marwan Darweish speaking, respectively, on the role of religious identity on war and peace in Israel and Palestine, and on the role of unarmed civil protection in Palestine. The full title of the meeting is ‘Meeting violence with non-violence – Responding to injustice through peaceful interventions in Palestine’. The event is organised by the George Mitchell Institute and the School of Law at QUB. Admission is free and booking can be made at buff.ly/3SCXj7X which gives further info.

Front Line Defenders: Afghan women defying the Taliban

The 2024 Front Line Defenders (FLD) lectures in Dublin, Galway and Belfast (respectively on 11th, 12th and 14th March, times differ) are given by Afghan Woman Human Rights Defender & Journalist Horia Mosadiq on the topic ‘How Afghan Women are Defying the Taliban’. Attendance is free but the Dublin event is already ‘sold out’. She will address human rights, particularly the situation for women’s rights under the Taliban and the struggle of Human Rights Defenders and Women Human Rights Defenders in this context, as well as what can be done to support them. Run in conjunction with local bodies. See https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/front-line-defenders-annual-lecture for more info and booking. FLD is based in Blackrock, Co Dublin, their website is https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/

Afri: Secondary school resource on hunger and war

Afri has published a new GCE (Global Citizenship Education) resource entitled “Sowing seeds of peace: A Global Citizenship Education Resource on Hunger as a Consequence of War”. Designed for use by secondary school teachers, this 77 page resource includes introductory material, and sections on the scourge of war, hunger as a humanitarian cost of war, sowing seeds of peace as active citizens, and material for further learning. Addressing its intended teacher audience it states “We urge you as educators to move away from seeing and teaching about war and hunger as natural phenomena in our world, and to ensure students see both as political and human failures of will and empathy.” Available at https://www.afri.ie/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Sowing-Seeds-of-Peace-final_web.pdf

l A 10 minute video report on Afri’s Féile Bríde is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_BJKYsL8E4

Corrymeela Horizons volunteer programme

The closing date to apply to be part of the September 2024 – August 2025 volunteer programme at Corrymeela is 8th March; roles are for programme and hospitality, and cover support. Accommodation and living costs are covered. See https://www.corrymeela.org/volunteer for details.

ICCL: Human rights, facial recognition

ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties has presented to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva its alternative report highlighting issues such as gender equality, the right to housing, hate crime and the legacy of Mother and Baby Homes. https://www.iccl.ie/equality-inclusion/iccl-alternative-report-to-un-committee-on-economic-social-and-cultural-rights/ Meanwhile it has also commented on a Joint Oireachtas Justice Committee critical report on the Facial Recognition Technology bill https://www.iccl.ie/digital-data/justice-committee-highlights-serious-deficiencies-with-facial-recognition-technology-bill/

Irish Neutrality League leaflet on Triple Lock

The Irish Neutrality League (INL) has produced a very useful A5 back-to-back paper leaflet on the Triple Lock on the deployment of Irish troops abroad. It is reproduced at

https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53559581373/in/dateposted/ which gives contacts.

Deposit Return Scheme in Republic – how it came about

A little success….whether you judge it worth opening a bottle/can of anything is up to you, but the first ever reverse vending machines for plastic bottles and aluminium cans opened to the public at the start of February to allow people to bring back their waste and get rewarded with cash. FOE has documented how it came about – see https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/news/irelands-newly-launched-deposit-return-scheme-a-testimony-to/

Development educators and the war in Gaza

The Centre for Global Education in Belfast and Comhlámh have organised a couple of online discussions on how the development education sector should respond to the war in Gaza, with various suggestions emerging, and another meeting is planned. https://www.centreforglobaleducation.com/news

Feasta: hiring communications and operations worker

Feasta is hiring a part-time Communications and Operations Facilitator which they say “should be of interest to anyone living in Ireland who is attuned to wellbeing, post-growth and doughnut economics, and who wishes to enhance their skills in communication, advocacy, logistics and digital media.”
The closing date for applications is March 12th.
https://www.feasta.org/

INNATE posters on Palestine and Israel, arms race

Four new mini-posters (A4 size for home printing) on Palestine and Israel, and one on the arms race, have been added to the sizeable set of posters on the INNATE website at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/

World Beyond War virtual film festival: Women and war

Marking International Women’s Day (March 8), World Beyond War’s “Women & War” virtual film festival from 9th – 23rd March explores the intersection of women, war, and militarized masculinity. One ticket (standard price $15, concession $5) gives access to the 3 films (to be watched at your own time) and three Zoom discussions. Details and booking at https://worldbeyondwar.org/2024filmfest/

News, No.316

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

Afri’s Féile Bríde 2024 takes place at Solas Bhríde, Kildare on Saturday 10th February. The programme includes Senator Frances Black speaking about Palestine, John Maguire on “Peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace”, Sunny Jacobs on “Peace is the answer; Love is the way”, Catherine Cleary on “Pocket forests; Bringing biodiversity to your doorstep”, Ruby Cowdell on “There is no Planet B”, and Niamh Brennan on “The universe story”; music will be by Emer Lynam. The event is organised by Afri in partnership with St Patrick’s Kiltegan and Cairde Bríde. Conference fee is €35 including lunch, €25 concessions. More information and booking details at https://www.afri.ie/category/date-for-your-diary-4/

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition, Linen Hall, Belfast

The vertical gallery at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, has a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition running until 28th February, admission free. This informative exhibition, well worth visiting, is produced by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum including photos in 30 information panels and artefacts – some eliciting emotion such as paper cranes made by Sadako Sasaki https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53453897548/in/dateposted/ Further info at www.linenhall.com

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report

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

St Brigid’s Day at the DFA

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

ICCL Rochtain: Increasing advocacy capacity

ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties, with supporting funding from the St. Stephen’s Green Trust, is to offer training, seminars and support through its new programme Rochtain to enhance the advocacy capacity of community and voluntary organisations. The first online training session will happen shortly – a seminar on the legislative process in the Oireachtas and it will focus on the critical junctures to intervene effectively on policy matters. More info is available at https://www.iccl.ie/2024/rochtain/ and you can register your interest in participating there.

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

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

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

Meanwhile the always valuable and informative CAJ publication Just News for January 2024 has a focus on the severe effects of budget cuts in Northern Ireland https://caj.org.uk/publications/our-newsletter/just-news-january-2024/ While the restoration of the Stormont Assembly gives some hope for increased funding for social provision, this shows just how dire the situation is in Northern Ireland.

Triple Lock posters on neutrality (and many others)

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

Cultivate: NonViolent Communication, Feeding Ourselves

Forthcoming events organised by Cultivate include a foundation weekend on NonViolent Communication (NVC) at Cloughjordan, Tipperary, the weekend of 24th and 25th February, run by Mel White and Aaron Bailey. This “provides tools and skills to navigate some of the challenges involved in making and maintaining meaningful connections”; details and booking at http://cultivate.ie/nonviolent-communication-trainings-2024/

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

82% want Big Tech’s toxic algorithms switched off

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

Tools for Solidarity: Tanzanian developments

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

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” – https://drawdown.org/solutions/nuclear-power

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 – https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Pioneering-Nuclear-Project-Gets-Canceled-After-Costs-Surge.html

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 https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/09/09/the-case-against-nuclear-power-a-primer/

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.” – https://www.euronews.com/2023/08/25/sustainability-has-lost-its-meaning-as-the-nuclear-lobby-triumphs

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. https://drb.ie/articles/were-all-hot-now/

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 – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.3c03565#

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

https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/-World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-Report-2023-.html

News, January 2024 – Supplement to Nonviolent News 315

Afri Féile Bride (Kildare), Louie Bennett gathering (Dublin)

Afri’s Féile Bride peace conference, theme “The Light of Peace”, takes place on Saturday, 10th February, in the Solas Bhríde Centre, Kildare town; it is organised in partnership with the Brigidines and Cairde Bríde. Further details will be available on the Afri website at www.afri.ie

l Also organised by Afri, an informal annual gathering remembering Louie Bennett and her companion Helen Chenevix takes place on Sunday 7th January at 1pm at the memorial bench for them in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. There will be a presentation of flowers and conversation. “In the dark days of winter, in an ever-darker world of destruction and vengeance, Louie Bennett reminds us of a life lived well through often equally appalling times. She worked for peace throughout World War I with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). From a Church of Ireland background, she ardently pursued Irish freedom whilst unapologetically warning her fellow leaders against militarism and violence. A champion of women’s suffrage, she was a founder of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, and the first woman elected President of the Irish Trades Union Congress.

In the 1950s she confronted the pressures of the Cold War, stoutly defending neutrality and peaceful conflict resolution just as we need to do today. She would have no truck with Official Ireland’s mythical Island of Saints and Soldiers: she made Brigid Patron of the IWWU, and named her home after the woman who sold her father’s sword to feed the dispossessed.”

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition, Linen Hall, Belfast

The vertical gallery at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, has a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb exhibition running from Monday 8th January to 28th February, admission free. This exhibition is produced by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum including photos and artefacts. There is a launch event on 8th January at 4pm, booking essential. While they state that the exhibition ends on a hopeful note with how the two cities have risen from the ashes to spread a message of peace, they also say the exhibition contains content some may find distressing. Further info at www.linenhall.com

Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report

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

l Meanwhile for the first time since 1969 there were no Troubles-related deaths in the last year, according to the PSNI https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/no-security-related-deaths-in-ni-for-first-time-since-records-began-says-psni/a934436965.html

CAJ Annual Report

The detailed and extensive work done by CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice over the last year appears in their annual report, available at https://caj.org.uk/publications/annual-reports/annual-report-2023/ A couple of photos from the AGM at which the report was presented are at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53393845666/in/dateposted/ and the entry beside that.

ICCL on toxic algorithms

On 18th December the European Commission launched formal proceedings against Twitter / X for suspected infringements of the EU Digital Services Act. It will now investigate whether the Blue Tick deceives users, whether content that breaks the law is spread by the platform, and whether the platform is unlawfully non-transparent. Welcoming this development, ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties has said the European Commission should learn from the example of Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s new broadcasting and online regulator. ICCL has sent the European Commission a report urging it to follow Coimisiún na Meán’s example and switch off Big Tech’s toxic algorithms across the European Union. ICCL went on to say “Algorithmic “recommender systems” select emotive and extreme content and show it to people who the system estimates are most likely to be outraged. These outraged people then spend longer on the platform, which allows the company to make more money showing them ads. These systems are acutely dangerous. Just one hour after Amnesty’s researchers started a TikTok account posing as a 13-year-old child who views mental health content, TikTok’s algorithm started to show the child videos glamourising suicide.” https://www.iccl.ie/2023/the-european-commission-must-follow-irelands-lead-and-switch-off-big-techs-toxic-algorithms/

Amnesty welcomes Irish government action on NI Troubles Act

Amnesty International has been among the many many bodies to comment on the Irish government’s move on the Northern Ireland Troubles (Reconciliation and Legacy) Act 2023, referring the matter to the European Court of Human Rights; most comments in Ireland, North and South, were favourable to this. Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Deputy Director, said: “The Irish Government is doing the right thing for victims, for the rule of law and for the upholding of human rights. Victims’ rights to truth, reparations and justice must be realised. This challenge is vital for victims here and around the world, who face the prospect of similar state-gifted impunity. The UK Government doggedly pursued this legislation which shields perpetrators of serious human rights violations from being held accountable. It’s important that the Irish Government takes this stand. This State-level challenge is very welcome and made necessary by the UK government’s actions. Victims should be at the heart of how the ‘Troubles’ is addressed, not swept to the side with denial of rights imposed. We hope this critical litigation will bring all Troubles victims closer to the justice they deserve.” https://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Northern-Ireland

Tools for Solidarity: Tanzanian developments

Tools for Solidarity (TFS) works in Tanzania in solidarity with a local governmental organisation named SIDO (Small Industries Development Organisation). In 2022 the SIDO office in the Iringa Region expressed the wish of having a centre similar to the one TFS had opened two years before in Njombe. This was the starting point of the Iringa Artisan Support and Training Centre (IASTC), officially inaugurated during a field visit by two TFS staff last May. The focus of the newly established centre is to supply tools, sewing machines and machinery to artisans, providing also technical and sewing training and back up service supports. More news about TFS associated work in Tanzania, and other aspects of TFS work, can be found in their latest newsletter, see https://www.toolsforsolidarity.com/publications/newsletters/

Tools For Solidarity is a not-for-profit organisation based in Belfast. It is fully run by international, local and supported volunteers with the main focus to support artisans in the poorest parts of the world. TFS collects, refurbishes and ships out hand tools, sewing machines, machinery and accessories to communities, women’s groups, people with disabilities and vocational training colleges primarily in sub Sahara Africa.

Feasta: Unprecedented demand for its research and advocacy

Feasta reports growing active interest in relation to its goals. They say that “Global and transnational calls for economic system change ‘beyond growth’ are becoming far more widespread, with prominent international NGOs such as Oxfam, Friends of the Earth International, Caritas and Greenpeace taking up the cause. A major cross-party conference on the theme was held at the European Parliament in May and was packed with enthusiastic young people. There is significant new EU funding for post-growth research now, and the UN’s Secretary-General has joined the chorus of those calling for new measurements of economic progress” and that “Feasta’s research and advocacy on economic system change is in unprecedented demand.” Learn more about Feasta’s work and approach at https://www.feasta.org/

News, December 2023

Triple lock removal: No surprise but underhand

Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Defence, Micheál Martin announced in the Dáil on 22nd November his intention to remove the ‘triple lock’ (one strand of which includes the go ahead of the UN Security Council) on the deployment of (more than a dozen) Irish troops overseas on ‘active service’. https://www.thejournal.ie/triple-lock-changes-micheal-martin-6229725-Nov2023/ He said that this was the first opportunity he had had to speak to the Dáil in detail on the issue since the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ in June. What Martin did not say was that he had long been gunning (sic) to remove it, had chosen the Forum format and the speakers there to get the answer he wanted, and, as Catherine Connolly TD stated in response, had depicted the Forum as the start of a conversation on neutrality but he had now ended it. Martin proposes alternative ratification which would be meaningless, such as EU approval – which could be the EU approving Irish involvement in the actions of an EU army!

What was also not covered is that the discussion on the triple lock at the Forum was wholly inadequate and inconclusive – see the StoP report available at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/ and in particular page 23 plus. The thoroughness of this StoP report can also be contrasted with the flimsiness of the official report by the chair of the Forum, available at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36bd1-consultative-forum-chairs-report/

ICCL launches Enforce unit re human rights on tech

In mid-November ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties launched a new unit, Enforce, to investigate, advocate, and litigate to protect human rights globally in relation to technology, industry practice, and markets. Liam Herrick, Executive Director of ICCL, said “…Ireland’s unique position in the international digital realm means we’re uniquely positioned to undertake this work”. It is an area where ICCL has been working for some time; they are currently litigating in Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg. They state “We will push technology back towards democratic value. Our mission to protect human rights also helps protect journalistic media, enact smart law, and curb online hate and hysteria.” https://www.iccl.ie/enforce/

MNI courses….and work with private sector

Upcoming courses over the next number of months organised by Mediation Northern Ireland (MNI) can be found on their website at https://mediationni.org/training/#upcoming including a one day course on Dealing with difficult conversations, a three day programme on Immersive conflict resolution practice, a one day Workplace conflict resolution skills course, and an 8-day Mediation theory and practice course in April and May 2024. Meanwhile MNI has gained major Lottery funding which will enable it offer new training programmes and wrap around services for businesses and statutory organisations across Northern Ireland to get better at dealing with conflict – they quote that “Recent research from the Labour Relations Agency found that workplace conflicts cost the Northern Irish economy over £850 million every year.” https://mediationni.org/lottery-grant/

CAJ: NI Troubles Act, counterterrorism and human rights

CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice have issued a compendium of submissions and critiques it made regarding the controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Reconciliation and Legacy) Act 2023 which became law in September 2023, despite criticism both from within Northern Ireland and internationally. This detailed and authoritative 146 page compendium is available at https://caj.org.uk/publications/reports/compendium-of-caj-legacy-bill-submissions/

l The annual CAJ lecture has Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin speaking at 3.30pm on Tuesday 12th December in central Belfast on ‘Reflections from the UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights 2017-2023’; see https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-annual-lecture-2023-featuring-professor-fionnuala-ni-aolain/

Pax Christi Peace Award to Parents Circle – Families Forum

The 2023 Pax Christi International Peace Award is going to the Parents Circle – Families Forum which is a collaborative Israeli-Palestinian organisation comprising more than 700 families, all of whom have lost a close family member due to the continuing conflict; the PCFF firmly believes that the process of reconciliation between the two nations is an essential precondition for attaining a lasting peace. https://paxchristi.net/2023/11/08/the-parents-circle-families-forum-receives-2023-pax-christi-international-peace-award/ and https://www.theparentscircle.org/en/pcff-home-page-en/

Corrymeela: Shine a light for peace

Corrymeela has a ‘Shine a Light for peace’ Christmas fundraising campaign with a variety of options to support their work including individual donations, doing it collectively with named tags for donors, or organising an event. Further info at https://www.corrymeela.org/donate/shine-a-light-for-peace

Mairead Maguire on ending current wars & Ed Horgan interview

A November podcast of Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire in discussion with David Swanson of World Beyond War on ending current wars – running time 29 mins – can be found at https://davidswanson.org/talk-world-radio-mairead-maguire-on-ending-the-current-wars/ An interview with Ed Horgan, in the same slot, on Why Genocide/War Continues is at https://worldbeyondwar.org/talk-world-radio-ed-horgan-on-why-genocide-war-continues/

Chernobyl Children Int’l: Support needed, archives to UCC

Chernobyl Children International need support for their ongoing work. CCI has been working within the Chernobyl Region (Ukraine and Belarus) for over 36 years and are striving to get humanitarian aid, which includes food, water, and medicines, to children and their families who are in desperate need, as well as performing life-saving operations for children with ‘Chernobyl heart’ and helping provide supported living.

See https://www.chernobyl-international.com/

l Meanwhile the CCI archives, founded 1991, and those of its founder Adi Roche – including previous peace work as a CND activist – have been deposited at UCC.

Housmans Peace Diary 2024 with World Peace Directory

Paper diaries are not as ubiquitous as they once were but for the peace/social justice/environmental activist a Housmans Peace Diary is an important resource at your fingertips for building a peaceful world. 2024 sees the 71st edition of the diary, with a feature on 50 years of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, a significant organisation in the British peace movement – and internationally – plus a listing of over 1400 national and international peace, environmental and human rights organisations. The format is two pages to a week with anniversaries noted, quotes, a forward planner etc. Order online from www.housmans.com/peace-diary/ It is priced at UK£9.95, with a £2 discount per copy for 10 or more in the UK; postage is £2 flat rate in UK postal area or £6 outside it, irrespective of the number of copies ordered. Housmans, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, ph +44 20 7837 4473.

A more extensive version of the World Peace Directory in the Diary is available online at http://www.housmans.info/wpd/ It is worth reading the background information on the web in the site home page to get the best use out of it. And as their blurb says “It’s the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of its kind” – don’t be caught out without a contact when heading to Ulaanbaatar……

Everyday Peacebuilding

Everyday Peacebuilding https://everydaypeacebuilding.com/ is a very useful website where you can see a growing compilation of resources on peacebuilding. Taylor O’Connor wanted to build a global community of peacebuilders who could share learnings and resources and support each other. The idea was to connect and share creative ways to build peace and justice and taking care of peacebuilders’ wellbeing too. People can sign up and each week they will receive in their inbox a selection of resources on building peace from around the world.

These are the values at the base of Everyday Peacebuilding: “Simplicity. Content and products will be user friendly and accessible. Creativity. Content and products present creative approaches to peacebuilding.

Exploration. Content and products support community members on their personal peacebuilding journeys.

Diversity. Representing the ideas and perspectives of diverse peacebuilders from around the world is important in our content and products. Our community is intentionally global. Collaboration. We’re building a global community of peacebuilders and in doing so create spaces for community members to connect, share ideas, take collaborative action and support one another.”

Resources go from definitions of violence and peacebuilding to analysis tools for conflict transformation, from quotes for peace to blog pieces that tackle current global issues under the peacebuilding lens. In the newsletter the topics usually vary, there is a diversity of topics (gender, education, anti militarisation, art and peacebuilding…) and links to articles or resources from different places around the world. There are private facebook chats as well on the different topics, for people to communicate, share ideas, links and events worldwide. It is very accessible and inviting for people who are new to peacebuilding but also for who want to know more and get connected.

Our mission as active nonviolence”

A useful and perceptive short statement on nonviolence, made in late October, by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, can be found in different places including https://paxchristi.net/2023/10/26/cardinal-bo-our-mission-as-active-nonviolence/

Crimes Against Lough Neagh

Friends of the Earth NI has a few tickets left for this panel discussion from 1-5pm, on Friday 15th December 2023, at the MAC in Belfast, with Bernadette McAliskey, Prof Mark Emerson, Bróna MacNeill, Sam McBride, Shauna Corr and Tommy Greene, and chaired by John Manley. It will include breakout sessions where people will be invited to share their ideas on a recovery plan for the Lough. Book at https://friendsoftheearth.uk/about/events-northern-ireland

FOE on COP28, and opportunity for Christmas support

Friends of the Earth in the Republic has been busy campaigning on COP28 and are involved in the Christmas gift card market whereby for each €20 you donate “for the protection of our planet and all its inhabitants” they will post you a specially designed gift card that you can give to your friend – this will include your friend’s name, the amount donated in their name and your name. https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/

Eco Congregation newsletter now monthly

Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI), the Christian church green network, is now issuing its newsletter monthly; you can sign up to receive it at info@ecocongregationireland.com ECI recently welcomed Anna Byrne as the new Catholic representative. https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/

Editorials: War and the rules of war, In Dublin’s fair(ly violent) city

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.

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 cultureofpeace@gmail.com has been issued as a leaflet for Pax Christi.