Tag Archives: Ireland

Billy King: Rites Again, 315

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

Gender equality, how are ye

It caught my eye on the BBC NI website on 27/11/23: three stories in a row about the treatment of women and girls. Under the heading of ‘Latest updates’ were three stories in a row, “Childminder’s husband jailed for abusing children”, “Upskirting and cyber-flashing laws come into effect”, and “Medic admits sterilising woman without her consent”.

The first story was about a former senior civil servant from Co Down who sexually abused two young girls (age unspecified) in his wife’s childminding care. The second story might be considered ‘good news’ in that new laws came in to effect on upskirting, downblousing and cyber-flashing with perpetrators potentially facing up to two years in prison and up to 10 years on the Sex Offenders Register. But the question underlying this is – why was this new law necessary? The NI Assembly (remember it?) had backed this law in spring of 2022 before the Assembly disappeared in a puff of smoke, with the bill, now law, being introduced by Naomi Long. And the final story was about a male consultant gynaecologist in a regional hospital in the North who admitted sterilising a woman without her permission and without medical need.

These are three stories covering different aspects of the treatment of women and girls in our society, all concerning aspects of what I would consider violence against them. These things happened to happen in the North but could be anywhere. You could come up with many other examples from different aspects of life and society. It doesn’t look very much like equality for women and girls, does it.

Bill Hetherington

The death of long time British peace activist Bill Hetherington removes another of the ‘old’ faces from the peace movement there. He was 89 years old. While associated most with the PPU/Peace Pledge Union (where, incredibly, he was on their Council for fifty years) it is hard to think of a substantial peace initiative in past decades, in Britain or internationally, that he was not involved with. He was well informed on, and involved with, Northern Irish and Irish matters and, if I recall correctly, had some Irish blood in him. He was involved with the BWNIC campaign to withdraw British troops from the North and subsequently was on trial in 1975 for his involvement in that (and was imprisoned for a while, accused of breaking bail conditions) – were the BWNIC 14 encouraging British soldiers to disaffect? Maybe they were but fortunately were found not guilty.

An appreciation of his life as a peace activist can be found at https://www.ppu.org.uk/news/peace-movement-mourns-lifelong-pacifist-campaigner-bill-hetherington and there is a great photo of him there, looking a bit like an old seafarer – and he certainly had to negotiate lots of choppy waters in his time.

The INNATE coordinator remembers fondly the socio-political walking tour of Dublin that he (Rob Fairmichael) conducted for a group from the 2002 WRI/War Resisters’ International Triennial conference. This ran, or rather perambulated, from the Garden of Remembrance to the Dáil; he would give a short take on the relevance of the building, memorial or topography involved….and then Bill would, as was his wont, extend it “with the due parts of legal and constitutional history in detail” as the Triennial newsletter related. There is a photo of just such a scene at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/3269226483/in/album-72157613605954884/ Small of stature, Bill Hetherington was a big presence. For me he was one of those people who I didn’t have much contact with on an ongoing basis but knew were contributing hugely to work for peace I definitely feel sad that he is no longer around.

Shannon ‘not being used’ – but Varadkar is…..

Ah yes, the main supplier of lethal equipment and just as lethal money to Israel is of course the good oul USA. It was kind of Leo Varadkar to tell us https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2023/11/19/shannon-airport-not-being-used-by-us-to-supply-military-equipment-to-israel-varadkar/ that Shannon Air/Warport is not being used by the USA to move military supplies to Israel. He has the USA’s word on that.

But since the Irish state never inspects what is coming through on US military or military-contracted planes he really doesn’t have a clue. And while the US army has no boots on the ground directly fighting in Gaza – I am sure there are lots of military advisors somewhere – he might think that is OK. But any support to a military aggressor or supporter of aggression is plain and simply wrong. And despite the atrocities committed by Hamas in southern Israel on 7th October I think we can be quite clear that Israel is an aggressor in its assault on civilians in Gaza. And, in general (and for generals), armies need soldiers so transporting soldiers through Shannon is every bit as nefarious as transporting weapons.

The Irish state is complicit in supporting US military aggression. [full stop]

EU Bottlegroups

Useful little piece by Conor Gallagher in the Irish Times of 16th November https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/2023/11/16/ireland-faces-embarrassment-as-just-35-troops-volunteer-for-eu-battlegroup/ and follow up on 23/11/23. The first story was that “Ireland faces embarrassment as just 35 troops volunteer for EU Battlegroup”, less than a fifth of those needed from Ireland for a German-led ‘rapid response’ battlegroup being formed in January. It would be good to think that this was Irish soldiers voting with their feet not to get involved. The Irish Times reported that “It will act in support of UN-authorised missions and will also be deployed to aid humanitarian crises and support existing peacekeeping missions that face heightened difficulties” but given the plan to remove the Triple Lock on deployment of Irish troops overseas, and developing EU militarism, it is a further move towards Irish military integration with other military powers.

However this article and the follow up indicated that reluctance to sign up may be mainly due to uncertainty about additional financial allowances for being part of the battlegroup (interesting term that, they don’t even use a euphemism – which they are so good at – such as ‘peacekeeping group’). It is expected that the government will introduce financial incentives to get the 182 soldiers they need (however, it being an army, if needed soldiers could be ‘volunteered’). However amazingly Ireland already withdrew from participation in military peacekeeping in the UNDOF operation in the Golan Heights to get involved in this battlegroup which will be training for most of the next year and on standby for 2025.

Starmint

Is it a new mint flavoured confectionery in rounded star shape? Or a rather unpleasant tasting confection currently out of production? The varmints in Starmint, the House on the Hill, are still not meeting thanks to a DUPlicitous party. Please note I am not saying other political parties are not or cannot be duplicitous, it is just as clear as day that the DUP turned what they saw as electoral survival into a principle. And there are principles involved for unionists who have been sold down the river, again, by a British government intent on its own nationalist project and their desire for survival.

But unionists are not the only people in Northern Ireland, or indeed in the United Kingdom to which they have allegiance. And while they stick to their principles the whole of Norn Iron is going down the tubes in relation to most things – including health and social services, poverty, community groups and the services they provide, and education (how can anyone hope to pull out of such a downward spiral when education funding is cut so badly?). The economy is just ticking over with remarkably low unemployment but also lots and lots of low pay. And Chris H-H as Shockretary of State compounds the problem by using, and adding to, the suffering of ordinary people as a weapon to try to get the DUP back in residence in the House on the Hill. I was thus wondering whether Chris Heaton-Harris deserves the title of (Vindictive to a) Tee-Shock. Meanwhile Troubles victims have been terribly short-changed again.

What a mess. While the new year was being signed up in the last while as a possible point for a return departure, the stars do not seem to be aligned [is Sammy a star?] for, or rather within, the DUP who may struggle on with an assembly boycott while the North falls apart at the seems (sic). Perhaps political bravery could win out but I suspect what is in store is that is not mint to be in NOrthern Ireland. I hope I am wrong, I would be delighted to be proven thus.

Waking up

It’s official, sort of. The Irish – and in Ireland generally culturally Catholic – way of death is superior, certainly compared with another western European island. It is something many of us have known for a long time, and Kevin Toolis’ book “My father’s wake” is on the topic, but research has now proven it (usual caveats…) that active social engagement and collective remembering after the death of a loved one can help you. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-67462985 “The Ulster University study, which involved more than 2,000 people, looked at prolonged grief disorder (PGD). It described the disorder as an enduring yearning for the deceased persisting for more than six months. About 10.9% of grieving people in Ireland featured in the research fulfilled the disorder’s criteria, compared to 15.3% in the UK. The study does go on to say “cultural differences with regard to death may be an explanatory factor” in relation to waking and so on.

So not only is the West a-wake but much of the rest of the island too. You may not be able to wish ‘slainte’ to the deceased but being able to do it to and with their kin, even with a cup of tea, can assist in coming to terms with the death. There is no simple answer or time limit to, or remedy for, grief when you lose your nearest and dearest. But waking can help and waking up to that fact is important so it is never lost.

Recently we have come on for a cold spell (blame the witch/wizard/warlock though I thought the last of these was Micheál Martin’s alternative to the Triple Lock….) but I have bright red salvia still in full bloom in the gordon, however the current cold may knock them on the head – being in a city and only a few k’s from the sea we escape some frosts manifested elsewhere.

But Christmas and New Year festivities and break are coming up fast and so I wish you an enjoyable and restful time (when you get there!) and, as always, a Preposterous New Year – the new year will be well established when I join you again. One piece of good cheer is that a song about Norn Iron trade union and peace activist May Blood is to be released just before Christmas https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/entertainment/music/news/song-about-work-of-ni-peacemaker-for-christmas-release-a-lot-of-people-dont-really-know-who-she-is/a2133175073.html

Let’s hope, and work that, 2024 is more peaceful than the current year – Billy.

News, November 2023

Freedom to Choose? StoP report on International Security Forum

The report from StoP, Swords to Plougshares Ireland, on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ was published the day after the official report from the Forum chair, Dame Louise Richardson. The StoP report, entitled “Freedom to Choose?”, is at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/report (and other websites) while the official report is at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36bd1-consultative-forum-chairs-report/ The individual submissions made by civil society will be published by DFA in due course. The official report is 27 pages including appendices but under 16 pages of actual report; the StoP report is around 50 pages.

Louise Richardson’s report is analysed in an editorial in the email and web editions of this issue. The StoP report has a preamble which sets the scene regarding Irish neutrality and security before four different authors carefully scrutinise each day of the Forum proceedings. It also includes coverage of one of the “People’s Forum” meetings, in Galway, and the full text of Lelia Doolan’s unscheduled intervention in the official Galway Forum. There are four pages of conclusions and recommendations.

StoP’s conclusions include: The Forum was biased in intent, design and implementation and therefore valid conclusions cannot be drawn from it: Discussion of the ‘triple lock’ on deployment of Irish troops overseas was wholly inadequate and does not in any way justify change in this area: It was not an open ‘Forum’ as in the dictionary definition and common understanding since the speakers were only those chosen by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department: The format of the Forum was inadequate to deal with the issues properly: Various topics were systemically avoided including the use of Shannon Airport by the military of the USA: The Department of Foreign Affairs proclaims its commitment to disarmament but it promotes Irish involvement in the arms trade and lauds its contribution to nuclear disarmament but is now openly involved with NATO, a nuclear armed alliance committed to first use of nuclear weapons.

Palestine/Neutrality/Ukraine demo, Dublin, 4th November

2pm on Saturday 4th November sees a big Dublin demonstration, starting at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square with the themes “Stop Israel’s assault on Gaza / Defend Ireland’s neutrality / Stop the war in Ukraine”. A variety of organisations are backing it, including Irish Neutrality League, Irish Anti-War Movement, World Beyond War, Shannonwatch, Peace People, FEIC, Cork Neutrality League, Veterans for Peace, Independent Workers Union, TCD SU. See various including https://irishantiwar.org/ https://neutrality.ie/ http://www.shannonwatch.org/ https://www.facebook.com/CorkLeague/

MII: Awards at annual conference, Mediatators in midst of war

The annual conference of the Mediators’ Institute Ireland (MII) took place in early October in Cork. One highlight of this was the presentation to Catherine O’Connell of a Generosity of Spirit Award and to Geoffrey Corry of a Lifetime Achievement in Mediation Award; for video see https://www.themii.ie/mii-award-winners Geoffrey Corry’s account of some of the early story of mediation, “The story of Dublin City Mediation (DCM) after 25 years” can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/2a4nnu7v (and accompanying entries). Another feature of the conference was an Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Naoimh McNamee, CEO and Mediator with Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, discussing 25 insights that have helped or hindered peace in Ireland. Keynote speakers were Hon. Ms. Justice Siobhán Lankford on the judicial system and mediation, and Prof Noam Ebner on ‘Mediation, Artificial Intelligence, and Change’. https://www.themii.ie/

lAn online seminar on ‘Connecting mediators in the midst of war’ takes place on Monday 6th November at 5.30pm with speakers Ken Cloke, Mediator Vikram and Mohammad Hadieh as they share their thoughts and insights on unfolding events in Palestine and Israel. They will also discuss the role of the mediator and the world mediation circle in fostering understanding. Participation is free, register at clr.ie/135140 and a Zoom link will be sent.

Nurturing hope – and a learning journey

Nurturing Hope’ is an extensive five–book learning resource, written by Derick Wilson, Duncan Morrow, J. Jean Horstman and Dong Jin Kim, being published by the Corrymeela Press. It will be available shortly as an open source resource. The five individual titles in the ‘Nurturing hope’ series are Background fundamentals, A facilitator’s guide, Understanding relationships, Some dynamics of conflict-affected cultures and societies, and Some dynamics for hope. Please email shonabell@corrymeela.org to order a copy of the Nurturing Hope resource.

There will be a related extensive ‘Learning Journey’ 5-day residential programme running each summer 2024 – 2027 involving Corrymeela, Mediation Northern Ireland, TIDES and the Understanding Conflict Trust. The ‘Learning Journey’ is for those seeking to create spaces through which people who are divided can “experience the intimacy of our honest differences”. It draws on Corrymeela members’ decades of experience and was developed with learning partners in South Korea and the USA. This is a detailed and in depth programme with some details available at https://www.corrymeela.org/programmes/nurturing-hope/summer-learning-journey

Glencree Centre for Reconciliation

A detailed annual report on Glencree’s work, entitled ‘Peacebuilding for the next generation’, can be found at https://glencree.ie/homepage-highlight/annual-report-2022 including detailed accounts of the various different programmes (though if you want the financial report you will need to download it). Meanwhile a relatively new staff member is Dorothée Potter-Daniau who has the newly created position of Measurement, Evaluation, Research & Learning (MERL) Manager. Glencree CEO Naoimh McNamee said: “Dorothée’s appointment to the new role of MERL Manager comes at a very exciting time in Glencree’s development. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation next year, we are focused on realising the goals of our 5 Year Strategic Plan which includes establishing Glencree as a national and international Centre for Practical Peace Education and Learning Exchanges.” https://glencree.ie/

Corrymeela: Dialogue for Peaceful Change training

Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC) is a global training programme developed by practitioners working in national and international conflict settings around the world. The DPC methodology offers a practical toolkit and methodology for managing key aspects of both interpersonal and group conflict. There will be a training running at Corrymeela from 18 – 22 March 2024, cost TBC. More details and contact info at https://www.corrymeela.org/events/237/dialogue-for-peaceful-change-training

PANA on ambassadors, supporting Shannon protest

PANA/Peace And Neutrality Alliance has issued a press release about the importance of ambassadors at a time when some call for, e.g., the Israeli ambassador to be expelled. Edward Horgan, International Secretary of PANA said “Expelling ambassadors in time of war is a serious mistake. While we may not like the ambassadors in question and we may not like or agree with the actions of their governments, it is vital to keep diplomatic lines of communications open at such critically important times” and “Neutral countries especially should be playing an important role in promoting an end to those conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, the Sahel region in Africa, and elsewhere.” https://www.pana.ie/

Meanwhile the next Shannonwatch/Uplift/PANA rally at Shannon Airport against US military use is on Sunday 12th November at 2pm; subsidised bus from Dublin, contact info@pana.ie You can also help fund Dan Dowling’s Shannon nonviolent action fine https://www.gofundme.com/f/ShannonAirport

FOE Act Local campaign

Friends of the Earth has begun an Act Local campaign to assist local activists by focusing on two important issues or campaigning topics, Space for Nature and Connected Communities. There are how-to guides and briefings. See https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act-local/

CAJ: Impunity video, jobs

The important recent seminar, ‘Impunity and the NI legacy bill – 50 years on from the Pinochet coup’, is now available to view online; this was hosted at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), and was organised with CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), and the International Expert Panel on Impunity and the Northern Ireland Conflict. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/event-video-impunity-and-the-ni-legacy-bill-50-years-on-from-the-pinochet-coup/

l Meanwhile CAJ are recruiting a Senior Research and Policy Officer and a Project Research & Campaign Worker for the Migrant Justice Project, deadlines late November. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-is-recruiting/

ICCL: GDPR, Garda, hiring

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has expressed concern at internal investigation into alleged Garda human rights violations in the Lynskey and Kerrigan case, stating that an independent investigation into the role of An Garda Síochána is required. ICCL has also prepared amendments to the European Commission’s proposal for procedural harmonisation on cross-border GDPR enforcement, identifying four primary flaws in the Proposal. Meanwhile they are hiring a new Membership and Development Officer, deadline 20th November. https://www.iccl.ie/

Eco-Congregation: News, Leinster gathering

As always, the newsletter of Eco-Congregation Ireland, the church green network, has a round up of news, island wide. They also have an upcoming online meeting for anyone interested or potentially interested in Leinster, 10-11am on Saturday 11th November; contact info@ecocongregationireland.com to attend. https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/

Church and Peace: Overcoming racism in the church

A short report on the Church and Peace European conference on this topic is available at https://www.church-and-peace.org/en/2023/10/racism-and-the-church-a-needed-debate/ and there is more news and resources on the same website. Church and Peace is an ecumenical church peace network.

Palestine-Israel peacebuilding job

An international peaceworker is being hired by KURVE Wustrow & New Profile to be based in the Jerusalem/Bethlehem area in Israel/Palestine, working on a variety of issues including planning and implementation of a Civil Peace Service project focussing on objectors to military service. The deadline for applications is 12th November. Details at https://pzkb.de/stellenanzeigen/international-peace-worker-m-f-d-in-jerusalem-bethlehem-area-in-israel-palestine/

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

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

See the February 2023 issue of Nonviolent News for a different take, listing all of INNATE’s online resources, covering both the main INNATE site and the Flickr photo/documentation one. See https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/2023/02/01/archival-documentary-and-campaigning-materials-available-from-innate/

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

And where is the greatest imperative to be involved?

What follows are primarily resources from INNATE –

lNonviolence in Irish History pamphlet (Dawn, 1978) – covering O’Connell, Davitt, Quakers, Boycott, US ‘westward’ moving Irish, peace groups; link at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/

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

lPeace groups in Ireland through the years

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

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

lThe Peace People Experience (Dawn Train, 1986), this is a detailed study of the most prominent Northern peace group which began in 1976, link at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/

lPeace People and other peace groups

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

lNonviolence in Ireland: A study guide

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

lMy kind of nonviolence

Fifteen people from different parts of Ireland, and with different takes on the topic, write about what nonviolence means to them, available online at https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/

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

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

lPeace trails – telling local stories of work for peace, justice and inclusion – plans got derailed by Covid but will take off again. https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/peace-trails/

lVideo of seminars on recent peace movement history from seminars organised by INNATE, 2021. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/51689114275/

lEco-Awareness

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

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

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

Billy King: Rites Again, 314

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

A tale of two reports

OK, we were involved with the Swords to Ploughshares/StoP report on the Consultative Forum on International Security Policy which took place in June so are somewhat biased in its favour [Biased? Never! – Ed] – but we think it demolishes the premises of the official report from Dame Louise Richardson. In this case, unfortunately, there was nothing like a Dame for doing the Irish Government’s bidding. The StoP report is methodical, even forensic at times, much more comprehensive, and better presented to boot. Louise Richardson’s is poorly argued – see e.g. Dominic Carroll’s letter demolishing her argument against sense being spoken by the common people of Ireland compared to the ‘ex-perts’ invited by the Government. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/2023/10/20/forum-on-neutrality-report/

It has to be said that in her report Louise Richardson does what she was hired/expected to do, and what she might have been expected to do. Given public opprobrium for moving away from neutrality there were limits on how far she could push the EU-NATO boat out but the minimum expected of her by the powers that be was that she justified a move away from the ‘triple lock’ on the deployment of Irish troops overseas – and, surprise, surprise, that is just what she does. It is as if Micheál Martin told her exactly what he wanted and she went away and did it. There is nothing original or innovative in her report. Nul points to Richardson for imagination.

As for her assertion that sustaining neutrality in the future would be difficult, she would say that, wouldn’t she, as she tries to lay out a path for further diminution ( = demolition) of neutrality. Does she imagine that Ireland aligning fully with EU militarism and NATO will be easy in terms of the consequences? Oh, of course, it would mean Ireland fits right in with the prevailing militarist model in north America and western Europe and that would make it ‘easy’ because they wouldn’t be asking awkward questions. But is Ireland a country with a proud international record of standing up for peace and justice (well, some of the time) or is it merely a support player to the Big Powers? The latter is where the Irish elite, political and otherwise, want to take the country.

In the official report there is not one shred of an idea as to how neutrality could be developed as a force for peace in the world, and of security for Ireland; the only show in town, so far as she is concerned, is how to get rid of this damn spot on Ireland’s (well the political and other elites’) attempt to blend with the EU-NATO military industrial complex. She does acknowledge that there is no desire to get rid of ‘neutrality’ but as government policy is to neutralise neutrality what it might mean would be meaningless. Whatever she believes, this report seems to support the idea that preparation for war war is better than preparation for jaw jaw.

Your homework for the month: compare the two reports – you can, if you like, write an essay to Compare and Contrast the two but I won’t insist on it. The StoP one is at https://www.swordstoploughshares-ireland.com/report and the official report at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36bd1-consultative-forum-chairs-report/

One overall sadness though in this whole matter is how a prominent person such as Louise Richardson, who sometimes talks a substantial amount of sense https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/?s=louise+richardson+what+terrorists+think and is obviously a public figure on both sides of the (Atlantic) pond, could be used as such a tool of the Government and of said military-industrial complex. It makes me sad. However it also makes me mad (angry).

That autumnal feeling

Many natural systems slow down or stop as winter approaches – it can be a pleasant excuse for us humans to take some things a bit easier too. While Ireland can have four seasons in a day, and seasons are more mixed up than they were due to climate change and global heating, there still are seasons. We usually divide the year into four seasons but I prefer to think in terms of micro-seasons, a period of similar weather at a particular time of year which can last for a few days or a few weeks – and weather forecasts not withstanding, we generally don’t know what we are going to get more than a few days in advance.

But there is joy to be found in nature at all seasons, however you think of them. Many people enjoy autumn colours, and I do too, but there is something amazing about walking through or past trees as the shed their leaves and these drop down to the ground. Their first and primary job is done. Next, hopefully, they will become – or be allowed to become – an addition of humus (not hummus/houmous don’t get humus spread on your bread!) to the soil and the earth. Death and life are together although the tree will have its hibernation and be ready for new growth in the spring.

If I am warm and active, or about to be active, I enjoy the feeling of chill air on leaving home, It is fresh and invigorating. That is not to say I don’t enjoy warm days in summer (or any other season). Every season has its joys. Autumn is now later than it was, I don’t think it is exaggerating to say that some decades ago trees were bare or virtually bare by the end of October – well, not any more. Anyway, ‘Happy autumn’. Hereby ends my paean of praise to autumn [or is ‘paean’ a misspelling of ‘pain’? – Ed].

Souper

Speaking of autumnal feelings, we are in our neck of the northern hemisphere now well into the season for taking soup. Taking the soup is however another matter – and my ancestors had no need or temptation in that direction as they were already well ensconced on what was then the winning side. My grandparents’ ethnic origin included Ulster Scots (probably through natural migration rather than plantation due to their geographical location in north Antrim), Huguenot, and two of English plantation origin – though again not Ulster Plantation. I am sure I have told you before that the French chef in England who devised a soup recipe for the giant cauldrons (‘famine pots’) for public distribution during An Gorta Mór – take a dozen turnips….kind of thing – was thanked by the establishment in Dublin….with a sumptuous banquet….

But back to getting souped up today. It can be the heart of a lunch, a snack, or even a dinner if you have a hearty thick soup with croutons or savoury dumplings. Making soup from scratch is of course possible but most of the time we would make it with leftovers, especially around leftover lentil dhal with other leftover veg plus perhaps additional onions, chilli or garlic, possibly vegetable water/stock, and flavourings or herbs. Most of the time we wouldn’t liquidise the soup although other times we would, partially or wholly. You can also add leftover noodles or pasta, chopped up if needed and you have it. Finely liquidised lentils can make for a really creamy soup.

However you may not have the leftovers or the time to make soup and fancy something warming. We had been able to buy some non-supermarket organic instant soups without emulsifiers before Covid but those have disappeared. We can still buy instant (dried) miso soup which is fine but a bit thin and boring if you have it too frequently.

However I was mulling [I thought that was for wine, not soup – Ed] over the theme of miso quite recently which I would have used as an ingredient in soups and stews. I realised that I could make a great instant soup – apart from the stirring! with just three ingredients – miso paste, bouillon or vegetable cubes, and nutritional yeast (e.g. Engevita, this is yeast flakes not ‘yeast extract’ Marmite-type product though you could try that too – I haven’t). The miso adds depth and nutrition, the bouillon or veggie cube gives taste, and the nutritional yeast tops it off with richness or umami. There is a bit of stirring to do with the miso paste but it is still pretty instant and no preparation is needed.

Miso and nutritional yeast may seem on the expensive side but they go a long way, and miso paste will keep a long time in the fridge. Take a dessert spoon of miso, a teaspoon of bouillon powder or a half soup cube, plus a teaspoon of the nutritional yeast and put them into your favourite mug. You can use heaped spoons or less depending on your taste. You can fill it with boiling water straight away or, it may be easier, a little boiling water until you get the miso mixed and then top it up. It may take a minute or two to get it all mixed or you will be left, as you drain the last drop of liquid into your mouth, with half solid miso at the bottom. This is a rich and satisfying ‘instant’ soup. And I have no extra charge for culinary advice. © Billy King Cuisine 2023

A Hugh presence

The death of the former Olympic medal boxer and Irish News photographer Hugh Russell has featured in a number of media and I am not going to go much into his life here, that is available elsewhere and online. Though small of stature he had a huge presence and a great smile. His best known scoop was the iconic photo of Gerry Conlon as he was just being released from his wrongful imprisonment.

Why I am mentioning his death is mainly because as a ‘demonstrator in the street’ I wanted to pay tribute to him as a friendly media presence in different situations in Belfast when we would have been wondering whether any media would turn up, and if so whether they would be interested in the cause concerned. He was always willing to chat and make suggestions for the best photographic shot, and you knew if he was there then it was likely a photo of something to do with the event would be in the paper the next day . He was only approaching retirement age when he died. I will miss his friendly presence and infectious smile on the street.

Gazing at Gaza

It is hard to wrench your gaze from Gaza and if you do look then it is heart breaking, if you don’t you feel you are ignoring terrible suffering. Some of the people of southern Israel knew terror when attacked by Hamas. The revengeful attack on Gaza by Israel is relentless and impossible to escape, creating terror on a daily basis. Those moving south in Gaza, as ordered by Israel, are still not safe. There is nowhere to go. What people can do in the West is limited but their plea publicly for a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities is important. Israel’s avowed aim to destroy Hamas is destroying Gaza and its people – half of whose population are children. Many governments in the West, including those in the USA and UK, are complicit in the destruction and death in Gaza by not pushing Israel to cease fire.

If you are looking for some facts about Gaza, at least in terms of recent history, you can do worse than see/listen to an interview with Prof Norman Finkelstein on the USA Jimmy Dore Show at https://rumble.com/v3okvw3-gaza-israel-and-the-hamas-attacks-w-prof.-norman-finkelstein.html It is long but informative – I wasn’t able to fast forward at any point, you probably need to let it run. Finkelstein’s spoken manner is a bit shouty but much of his analysis is first class – there is also some US politics at points.

I don’t apologise for ending on a ‘down’ note again. The Irish born comedian Dave Allan (born O’Mahony) had a farewell greeting of “May your God go with you”. In that vein I and we might offer ‘a prayer’ or a determined wish, secular or religious according to your orientation, “May God help us all and particularly the people of Gaza and all those affected by the curse of war.” – Billy.

News, October 2023

Peace Heroines exhibition continues touring

The exhibition on women heroines of peace in Northern Ireland which has now been circulating for a considerable time – launched at Stormont on International Day of Peace, September 2022 – is well worth seeing; it consists of 28 panels. It was created by Herstory https://www.herstory.ie/peace-heroine-stories and forthcoming venues can be found at https://www.herstory.ie/new-page A showing at 2 Royal Avenue, Belfast ends on 6th October; subsequent venues through to autumn 2024 include Down County Museum, North Down Museum and Ards Arts Centre, Iontas Centre in Monaghan, Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, Coleraine Museum, New Shankill Women’s Centre in Belfast, and Donegal County Museum.

Conversation on Gospel Nonviolence

Pax Christi Ireland and the Loyola Institute (Trinity College Dublin) are hosting a ‘Conversation’ to deepen Catholic understanding of and commitment to Gospel nonviolence. Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) was initiated at the Vatican in 2016. https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/ The main speakers are Marie Dennis and Pat Gaffney, CNI, followed by a panel on the practice of nonviolence with representatives of EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel), Spirasi (The National Centre for Survivors of Torture in Ireland) and INNATE. It takes place in the Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin on Saturday 14th October from 10.30am – 2pm. Registration from 10am. Booking via Eventbrite

Lough Neagh’s a-wake

Lough Neagh should be a jewel in Ireland/Northern Ireland’s crown – instead it is a cesspool along with much of the north’s other waterways. While some of the causes are complex or multi-layered, the lack of action has been shocking – it has been an issue that green groups such as FOE-NI have been campaigning on for years. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/nature/lough-neagh-why-europes-wildlife-jewel-needs-space-breathe Now, however, it has at last reached public consciousness, including through a wake for the lough at Ballyronan on 17th September. See Larry Speight’s EcoAwareness column in the email and web editions

Could rights based-safeguards make Stormont functional?

Friday 13th October from 2 – 5 pm sees a seminar in Belfast exploring whether it is possible to unlock sustainable governance through reforming the present structures of the NI Assembly and Executive in line with the rights-based safeguards intended under the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. It is organised by the Equality Coalition and Transitional Justice Institute, supported by the LSE Gender, Justice and Security Hub. There are well known contributors and two panels, one on Vetoes or safeguards? An exploration of mechanisms, and the second on Women’s rights and social transformation. As well as in-person attendance the event will be livestreamed. Details and booking at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/could-rights-based-safeguards-make-stormont-functional-tickets-711233517597

White Poppies: Remembering and committing

As the ‘remembrance season’ of November approaches there is the opportunity to wear a white poppy as a symbol of remembrance for all those who have died in war (not just soldiers and not just British forces as with the red poppy) and show a commitment for peace and against war. The Peace Pledge Union in Britain have white poppies for sale in small packs or larger display boxes, along wth posters, postcards stickers etc. See www.ppu.org.uk where the biodegradeable poppies are UK£5 for 5, £20 for 25, or £68 for 100, plus postage. Email mail@ppu.org.uk

Police Surveillance North and South

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) have a joint conference looking at the issues of surveillance and oversight in policing in the North and South. It take place from 9am to 5pm on Tuesday 24th October at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dublin. Speakers include: Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney , Baroness Nuala O’Loan, David Kaye, Professor Marie Breen-Smyth, Dr Abeba Birhane, Jonathan Hall KC, Alyson Kilpatrick BL, Dr Daragh Murray, and John Wadham. The keynote plenary will discuss the human impact of covert surveillance and the lack of international legal regulation on the matter; panel discussions will cover facial recognition technology (FRT), covert surveillance, and policing oversight bodies as a means of accountability. Register at https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/police-surveillance-north-and-south-tickets-714670658177 for your free ticket with further details there. https://www.iccl.ie/ and https://caj.org.uk/

FOE impact report, jobs

Friends of the Earth Ireland has issued its annual impact report for the last year which includes its goals and work realised – Learning Hub events, campaigning including on Warm Homes for All, the work of Young Friends of the Earth among much else. Over 950 submissions were made to consultations in the year. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w82a1FT5o88 and https://friendsoftheearth.cmail20.com/t/t-l-vxitly-jrktjjkhkl-j/ Meanwhile the closing date for applications for the posts of Communications Content Officer and Fossil Free Ireland Campaigner is 8th October, see https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/news/job-alerts-were-recruiting-a-communications-content-officer/ By the end of 2023 the staff numbers will have tripled from 2019.

Call for independent inquiry into case of Sallins Men

Four leading human rights organisations – the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Fair Trials delivered a petition on 19th September to the Irish Government asking the Minister for Justice to establish an inquiry into the abuse suffered by Osgur Breatnach, Michael Barrett, John Fitzpatrick, Nicky Kelly, Brian McNally, and Michael Plunkett (deceased). The lives of these six men, known as ‘the Sallins Men’, were changed irrevocably when they were arrested, detained, charged, convicted and imprisoned following the Sallins Train Robbery in 1976. The statement from the organisation concerned states “Their case remains one of the most significant miscarriages of justice in modern Irish history. The abuse they suffered – and the continuing suffering they endure – is a violation of their human rights. To date, there has been no effective investigation into their case.” The petition asks for a human rights compliant investigation, conducted in accordance with the standards required following a breach and violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 3 is the absolute prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment. https://www.iccl.ie/ https://caj.org.uk/ https://www.patfinucanecentre.org/ https://www.fairtrials.org/

Sunny Jacobs appeal

After her release from a US prison in 1992 where she spent 17 years for a crime she didn’t commit, Sunny Jacobs became a yoga teacher and a campaigner. For over thirty years, she has been a leading international voice for forgiveness, redemption, justice, and reform, calling for an end to the death penalty, and support for people who have been wrongfully convicted. She moved to Ireland after meeting Peter, and the two of them established the Sunny Healing Center in rural Connemara, where they have offered a space for healing and respite to dozens of individuals who have faced miscarriages of justice. They also spent years travelling the world speaking in schools, universities, at conferences and in the media, calling for reform…..” After recently losing her beloved husband, Peter, who provided a vital caring role for her, friends are appealing for financial assistance to help meet her needs. More information and links on the Gofundme page https://www.gofundme.com/f/send-some-love-and-solidarity-to-sunny-jacobs

European peace activists under threat

It can be a difficult and even dangerous task being a peace activist, especially in a time of war. Yurii Sheliazhenko, a well-known conscientious objector, pacifist, human rights defender and the Executive Secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, was placed under house arrest in mid-August, supposedly for justifying Russian aggression – despite having specifically condemned it! Letters of solidarity can be sent using a template at https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/ukraine-release-yurii-sheliazhenko and World Beyond War has also delivered a petition on his behalf https://worldbeyondwar.org/petition-to-be-delivered-to-ukrainian-embassy-in-washington-d-c-on-monday/ At a court sitting in mid-September, the prosecution has not yet proceeded, perhaps due to international attention.

Meanwhile also well known Olga Karatch, a Belarussian activist now in Lithuania, director of ‘Our House’, was denied political asylum in August but given a one-year temporary residency. But this is no safety for a prominent peace and human rights activist who would face immediate imprisonment if returned to Belarus. See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/international-campaign-protection-and-asylum-human-rights-defender-olga-karatch for more info and links to sending solidarity letters.

Both Olga and Yurii are very impressive activists who deserve any support they can be given…

l Meanwhile there is a campaign for the protection and asylum for all from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine who refuse military service and a call for actions from December 4, 2023 to the International “Human Rights Day” on December 10, 2023. See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/take-action-objectwarcampaign-4th-10th-december-2023

ICCL on Garda bodycams

The Irish Council fo Civil Liberties has cautiously welcomed the announcement from An Garda Síochána that they will pilot the introduction of bodyworn cameras before moving to a national roll-out. See https://www.iccl.ie/press-release/bodyworn-cameras-pilot-must-ensure-fundamental-rights-are-protected-iccl/ for details

ForcesWatch on Legacy Act and Troubles podcasts

ForcesWatch is a UK organisation dedicated to investigating militarisation, military ethics and human rights concerns. It has produced coverage of the Legacy Act https://www.forceswatch.net/comment/erasing-accountability-in-the-troubles/ and a mini-series of three podcasts about Northern Ireland; these have interviews with Lee Lavis, Fiona Gallagher, and Ian Cobain https://open.spotify.com/show/6bdLyHplM6s1tfwV8u5LA6

Billy King: Rites Again, 313

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Not coining it

I confess. I am a lapsed numismatist. That doesn’t make me particularly dangerous to know, just that I used to collect coins, tokens (non-official monetary items), and medallions (non-monetary commemorative items in round form). A comparison can be drawn with philately – which may or may not get you everywhere; while the bottom has fallen out of some of the stamp collecting market now that people have other things to do with their time through gaming, streaming, TikToking and so on, there are some indications it is considered by some as retro chic and may be making a come back (I think rare stamps retained their value, others did not). Coin collecting was never as popular as stamp collecting anyway, except in Ireland and Britain around the time of currency decimalisation in 1971, so while it also may have declined it had less far to fall.

I still have retained a very modest number of coins, tokens and medallions in the form of a small exhibition on Irish history comprising a couple of dozen items and the rest I disposed off – some politically marked or ‘defaced’ coins were given to the Ulster Museum, e.g. an Irish coin stamped ‘UVF’. But I fell greatly in luck to begin with when I was a young teenager; family friends had a box full of old coins, tokens etc which had been in their possession for years and which I was given gratis, and got me well started. I never learnt their origin beyond that but I suspect they may have been rejects/throw outs from a guy living locally who did have a very valuable and world class collection of classical coins.

There was nothing particularly valuable in my collection, most were not silver or in great condition (an important point in their value) but there was lots of interest. I wasn’t trying to build up a valuable collection and in any case didn’t have the money to do so. But to hold in my hand an historical monetary token from my home town, or a political ‘Buy Irish’ medallion from the Repeal Movement in 1841 https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/50632724311/in/photolist-2k9eWVn I just find absolutely amazing. Likewise to hold a coin from the Williamite war of 1688-90, Cogadh an Dá Rí (The war of the two kings), is to hold history in your hand and wonder about the fate of those who possessed such an object long ago, and, literally, whose hands it passed through.

A fascinating detail of the ‘Gunmoney’ coinage produced on James’ side in Ireland (so called because some was made from melted down old guns) is that it was minted in base metal but includes the month as well as the year in the design. The intention was that when James won (!) the coinage would be gradually redeemed in silver coinage in monthly order; instead, when William’s side was victorious the value of this ‘Gunmoney’ was devalued – a Gunmoney shilling became worth a penny, one twelfth of its face value. But turning guns into money to help finance a war is not turning swords into ploughshares.

Coins and banknotes, physical money, are endangered species because of Covid and card/phone payments and many locations refusing to take cash. However I think physical ‘money’ will stagger on for some time to come, albeit in much reduced prominence and use. There are also many social reasons why cash should continue, not least for the cash strapped who may not have access to bank cards. And there is a fascination with something which has been in endless people’s purses and pockets.

But what nonviolent or political activist could not be fascinated by the early 18th century Irish boycott of Wood’s Halfpence? https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/50632799571/in/dateposted/see also https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/wood-s-halfpence-1724-1.1063593 To have one of those is to have an object of controversy from three hundred years ago in your hand, and the subject of a successful boycott a century and a half before the term ‘boycott’ was coined in Ireland (to coin a phrase…..) and entered the English language – and other languages as well, including Dutch.

Gunmen or Queen?

Loyalist loyalty in the North is a rather variable concept. It’s not that most people on the Protestant side of the house in Northern Ireland don’t identify as British – obviously they do – but there is a huge variation in what feeling or being British means to them. In his heyday Rev Ian Paisley could tell a British prime minister to stop interfering in Northern Ireland, for example, which is a rather strange image for someone identifying as strongly as he did in being British.

So it was intriguing to find an item about a mural in north Belfast where a picture of Queen Elizabeth replaced one of loyalist gunmen, and some people weren’t pleased. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/news/hardliners-anger-as-queen-replaces-mural-of-uda-gunmen/a1342196603.html (paywall after title, photo and first sentence). “Loyalist hardliners have accused the South East Antrim (SEA) UDA of “going soft” after one of its most famous murals was replaced with an image of Queen Elizabeth II.” You can’t get more loyal to the Crown than portraying the monarch, or former monarch, and so far as I know it is not the custom for people on the island of Britain to decorate gable walls with murals of illegal gunmen. And a picture of the Queen on a gable wall in Norn Iron still strongly identifies the area as Prod and loyalist.

While disputed by some unionist commentators, I found, and find, the analysis in David Millar’s “Queen’s Rebels – Ulster Loyalism in Historical Perspective” helpful. This was published many moons ago (first edition 1978). As I remember it he portrayed unionists and loyalists as seeing themselves as having a covenant with the British Crown dating back to the Plantation of Ulster; hold ‘Ulster’ for the Crown and after that do what they like. Of course with the passage of time, and the advent of parliamentary democracy, the power of the Crown waned but loyalist allegiance was still to, their concept of, the Crown – and thus they could see themselves as loyal British subjects, and loyal to the Crown, while being intensely disloyal to the British government – and, I would say, to some of the values that British people on the island of Britain would mainly hold or (say they) subscribe to. Loyalists can try to portray themselves as misunderstood or even forgotten by inhabitants of Britain but what does that say about the reciprocity of the relationship?

I am not saying on the other side of the house that nationalist/Catholic political views are straightforward either because do they identify with a concept or a state? How are Nordies seen in De Sout? And what are the practical and financial implications of a united Ireland? How does acceptance today by many of armed struggle by the IRA in the past fit with other values they hold?

Moving forward for the North also needs people to look back, not to justify or glory in what has been done by any side but to understand the complexity and the reality of very different views. Some people have done that while others are still stuck in silos. Getting out of those silos, of all kinds, is not an easy task for any of us.

From pretty to petty – and back

Living in Norn Iron, as I do, I follow the slings and arrows of the outrageous British policies on asylum seekers and migrants. The Republic’s ‘direct provision’ system for asylum seekers is appalling too and counter-productive in helping people (who become entitled to do so) to settle. But for sheer vindictiveness the British system takes some beating.

Take the decision earlier this year, made by a British government immigration minister, to remove cartoons from the walls of of a reception centre for migrants for fear that children would feel welcomed – the walls were considered too welcoming. Repainting the walls to drab nothingness actually cost an appreciable amount of money – to make the place less welcoming to children who have probably been through quite traumatic experiences to end up there; “It later emerged that a child-friendly mural at a separate detention camp had also been painted over at a cost of £1,549.52.” This is simply inhumane and vindictive.

However many professional cartoonists weren’t taking this removal of visual signs of life and welcome lying down: “leading cartoonists have created an uplifting Welcome to Britain colouring book to be given to children arriving in the UK. The drawings reflect quintessential aspects of British culture, including the Loch Ness monster, London buses, seaside donkeys, the royal family, cake and lots of animals, including some playing football. The 62-page book has been created by the Professional Cartoonists Organisation (PCO) and will be distributed to children newly arrived in the UK via refugee charities and support groups.” Some of the most prominent British cartoonists have been involved. A second book may go on sale. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/sep/22/cartoonists-colouring-book-refugees-welcome-to-britain?CMP=share_btn_link

This is simple and simply brilliant, and a great example of building a positive alternative to inhumanity. Perhaps we can say that in drawing attention to a petty injustice they were illustrating just how possible it is to picture a brighter future through action, they didn’t mickey mouse around but were able to show that the writing was on the wall for inhumane approaches.

Saints alive

I am not sure how I end up on e-mail lists that I haven’t signed up to, at least deliberately. Is it accidental, is it someone trying to increase the size of their mailing list, have I been deliberately targetted, is it that I have inadvertently ticked something or failed to cancel an automatic inclusion on a website? I don’t know how I ended up on the mailing list for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Sometimes when this happens I hit the ‘stop sending’ button but often I let them come and ignore 95% but pick up the odd thing.

And one odd thing from the past, which I have told you about before, from the same source was a press release which obviously hadn’t been checked after the spell check – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had become Dairymaid Martin and Bishop Colm O’Reilly was now Calm O’Reilly. However a recent press release spoke about a Catholic diocesan stand at the National Ploughing Championships – an important event in the Irish rural and farming calendar, and this caught my attention.

Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin in whose diocese the Ploughing Championships was held (Co Laois this year) announced a quest (a competition?) to find Ireland’s favourite saint. Nominations could be made at the diocesan stall. Now I know there are plenty of saints to choose from, and all churches are struggling for relevance in today’s world, but I must say I found this a bit strange – a popularity contest for saints. They were, after all, living breathing humans who are remembered and venerated by some people. What could come next, Top of the Popes?

There were other religious offerings at the stall concerned, including the opportunity for meditation and reflection, and that I find appropriate. But sometimes in trying to appeal to people and find relevance we can take things too far and this particular quest I find fits into that category. And no, I don’t know who ‘won’ as the most popular saint, we will have to plough on without knowing.

Nation shall wage war against nation….

…..and they shall study war evermore…. The possibility of AI (i.e. Artificial Intelligence, not Artificial Insemination as someone like myself living in an agricultural country might think or have thought going back a few years) being used for weapons production is a scary prospect. Even the British government is worried. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/sep/25/ai-bioweapons-rishi-sunak-safety?CMP=share_btn_link Deputy UK prime minister Oliver Dowden said “Only nation states can provide reassurance that the most significant national security concerns have been allayed.” This made me think – there is possibly only one thing worse than non-state actors developing weapons through AI, and that is states, with all the resources they have at their disposal, using the results for nefarious ends. Being on the peace spectrum we don’t trust nation states with their weaponry. And the Irish government, for all its blather about commitment to disarmament, backs Irish involvement in the arms trade and cosies up to nuclear-armed NATO.

Sorry folks, that is not a very upbeat note to end on. But that’s me for now, it may be meteorological autumn but I think temperature winter arrives in October, so I wish you warmth of all kinds, Billy.

News, September 2023

Tangled web of lies from Irish governments

For decades the government of the day has always sought to assure citizens that Irish neutrality, prized by said citizenry, is safe, despite doing everything they could to undermine it. Training in demining for the Ukrainian army was non-lethal, they said, rather dubiously. However assurances that support to Ukraine was solely non-lethal have fallen apart with the revelation that support being offered includes military tactics and training in shooting and marksmanship. The Irish Neutrality League stated that if this proceeds “it will represent an unprecedented contravention of Ireland’s already seriously compromised neutrality.” https://neutrality.ie Questions have also arisen about what the limited number of Irish soldiers got up to in Afghanistan. With the report from Louise Richardson on the June ‘Consultative Forum on International Security’ due in the near future there are likely to be further assaults on neutrality such as the ‘triple lock’ on deployment of Irish troops overseas. However one picket on the Department of Foreign Affairs has already taken place and further actions will follow. See also editorial in this issue

Advancing Nonviolence: Pax Christi Ireland

On Saturday 14th October, 10.30am – 2.00pm (registration 10am) there will be an event run by Pax Christi Ireland in conjunction with The Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) which is a project of Pax Christi International. The main speakers are Pat Gaffney and Marie Dennis (the latter remotely) along with a panel on different aspects of nonviolence. The venue is the Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin, and booking details will be available in the October issue. Contact: Tony D’Costa, Pax Christi Ireland, email: tdc1@paxchristi.ie The CNI website is at https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/

Frederick Douglass statue goes up in Belfast

A recent positive memorialisation is the erection of a statue of US former slave, antislavery activist, social reformer and pro-feminist Frederick Douglass in Lombard Street in Belfast – the first in Ireland (though there are plaques to him in Cork and Waterford). Douglass spent quite some time in Ireland and was very appreciative of the welcome and support he received. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-66358247 Perhaps next on the list can be a statue of Belfast anti-slavery activist and humanitarian Mary Ann McCracken…..

QUB+ study of Troubles trauma services

Undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast in association with others, the study “Conflict, Trauma and Mental Health – How Psychological Services in Northern Ireland Address the Needs of Victims and Survivors” was produced for the Commission for Victims and Survivors. It makes a number of detailed comments and recommendations on addressing unmet needs, and the authors state “In treating victims’ needs as societal needs, we build on a solid foundation towards a future that offers peace, prosperity and growth for all who live here.” https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/publications/conflict-trauma-and-mental-health-how-psychological-services-in-n but you may have to go through hoops to get the full report. See also https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/social-affairs/2023/08/07/troubles-linked-trauma-in-north-untreated-for-decades-report-finds/

Report urges increased Northern arms trade

A report from the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) advocates increased Northern Ireland involvement in UK arms production, particularly highlighting the ‘big three’ of Thales, Harland and Wolff and Spirit AeroSystems but also looking at cybersecurity. See https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/occasional-papers/defence-industry-northern-ireland-leveraging-untapped-potential It advocates the North getting a larger share of the massive British arms industry, selling the proposal on ‘prosperity’ and jobs despite nationalist objections (and obviously there is no coverage of the irony of a place previously wracked by a small scale war contributing to warfare elsewhere). This item also appeared in the August news supplement

Good Relations Week, 18th – 24th September

The annual showcase of ‘good relations’ projects in the North takes place from 18th – 24th September to “celebrate the remarkable peace-building and cultural diversity efforts to tackle sectarianism, racism, and inequality across the region.” See https://goodrelationsweek.com/

ICCL Annual Report 2022

The detailed report from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties on its very varied and expanding work in 2022 is available on their website at https://www.iccl.ie/?s=annual+report

CAJ: Poverty, relationships, migration, legacy

The August issue of Just News, produced by CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice https://caj.org.uk/publications/our-newsletter/just-news-august-2023/ contains important considerations well worth reading on issues as varied as the urgency of having an anti-poverty strategy in Northern Ireland, relationships and sexuality education, the Illegal Migration Act and its incompatibility with international human rights law (and particular considerations concerning the North), and the ‘notorious’ NI Legacy Bill, plus other coverage. There is also a briefing paper on the CAJ website on the Illegal Migration Act and its impact on the land border in Ireland.

Impunity and the Northern Ireland Legacy Bill

Monday 11th September from 2 – 5 pm in Belfast sees a hybrid seminar on ‘Impunity and the NI legacy bill – 50 years on from the Pinochet coup’ – exploring combatting impunity, both internationally and locally, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile. It is hosted at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and organised with CAJ, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), and the International Expert Panel on Impunity and the Northern Ireland Conflict. Both in person and online tickets are available, indicate when booking. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/impunity-and-the-ni-legacy-bill-50-years-on-from-the-pinochet-coup-tickets-695450369777

Amnesty International on surveillance of journalists in North

Amnesty International has issued succinct guidelines for journalists or human rights defenders in Northern Ireland who suspect they may have been spied upon by the PSNI. See https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/northern-ireland-journalist-guide-what-do-if-you-think-psni-has-been-spying-you

CGE: Development education and democracy webinar report

The Centre for Global Education’s June seminar on their issue of Policy and Practice on Development education and democracy is available on their website at https://www.centreforglobaleducation.com/ and the issue itself at https://www.developmenteducationreview.com/

Feasta: Cap and Share, Annual Report

Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, Feasta has joined with five other NGOs on four continents to launch a new Cap and Share Climate Alliance for a fair global fossil fuel phase-out at source; see https://www.capandsharealliance.org/ Meanwhile Feasta’s annual report for 2022 is available on their website at https://www.feasta.org/annual-report/ along with lots more info.

World Beyond War (WBW) awards, conference

In their annual awards for 2023, WBW has given their Individual War Abolisher Award to Sultana Khaya, the Organizational War Abolisher Award to Wage Peace Australia, the David Hartsough Individual Lifetime War Abolisher Award to David Bradbury and the Organizational Lifetime War Abolisher Award to Fundación Mil Milenios de Paz. See https://worldbeyondwar.org/war-abolisher-awards/ and links for the compelling stories involved.

l Meanwhile WBW’s online conference #NoWar2023 Conference: Nonviolent Resistance to Militarism takes place from Friday 22nd September to Sunday 24th September. See https://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2023/ and the programme for the opening day includes a keynote speech by Jørgen Johansen and a panel on unarmed civilian protection and accompaniment.

FOE: Left out in the cold, seminar on energy poverty

Friends of the Earth has an online seminar on Monday 4th September from 7pm where they will be discussing the impacts of energy poverty and solutions to the associated crises – in the current year in Ireland the percentage of households in energy poverty reached 29%. With a mix of activists and practitioners the seminar will dig into the human impacts of this issue and what decision-makers can do to solve it, particularly in the run-up to Budget 2024. https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/events/left-out-in-the-cold-a-webinar-on-energy-poverty-and-energy/

Stop Fuelling War/Cessez d’alimenter la guerre

Stop Fuelling War is a French association which exists to promote peace and disarmament, and contribute towards a world free of war, where conflict is resolved through peaceful means and where human security and human rights are prioritised over personal gain or the financial interests of the arms industry. They report “We are building on SFW’s five-year track record of promoting non-military responses to conflict resolution, presenting alternatives and working with other actors in the field……to promote non-military responses to conflict resolution and promote security based on justice, cooperation and sustainability.” Lots of useful info on their website at https://www.stopfuellingwar.org/en/

BOLD Climate Action

BOLD Climate Action is an educational project by and for older people – supported by Friends of the Earth – and has dialogue and action series starting in September. The first event is on Energy Costs, Older People and Climate Crisis, taking place in Green Street, Dublin 7 at 11am on Tuesday 12th September. https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/events/energy-costs-older-people-and-the-climate/ Further sessions are on Just Transition & Older People (Tuesday 17 October, 11 am), Global Climate Justice & Older People (Tuesday 14 November, 11 am) and Intergenerational Solidarity & the Climate Crisis (Tuesday 23 Jan 2024, 11 am). bold.climate.action@gmail.com

News, July 2023, NN 311

Neutrality and ‘security’: Peace protests are felt

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department held all the cards in setting up the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ in the Republic but peace and neutrality activists and groups made plenty of noise and contributions contrary to the establishment view. They were able to raise severe doubts about the enterprise during the process which the Minister had designed to get the result he wanted in removing the ‘triple lock’ on the deployment of Irish troops overseas. See Editorial and article by Dominic Carroll in email and web editions for more details and resource links immediately below. Civil society’s effort was obviously greatly assisted through comments from President Michael D Higgins who correctly identified an (undemocratic) ‘drift’ towards NATO.

For those wanting to learn more, much other information is available:

1. An excellent general overview of the issues by Carol Fox appeared in the Irish Examiner www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-41169388.html See also Martina Devlin in The Irish Independent, 23rd June (paywall).

2. A photo album on the Citizens’ Forum meetings, and the Consultative Forum on International Security and protests regarding the same appears on the INNATE photo site at

https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72177720309217408

3. Afri’s recent booklet on Irish neutrality “A Force for Good?” is available for purchase (€10) www.afri.ie The video (68 minutes) of the recent online launch of this publication is worth watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMpOi6gnSkg and there is a shorter 22 minute documentary from Afri on the issue at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h00k3pFLofk

4. Slides from presentations by Dr Karen Devine, providing valuable detail, appear on her website at https://www.drkarendevine.com/

5. For an international view which supports armed defence by neutrals see https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/06/06/ukraine-russia-war-neutrality-nonalignment/

6. The official programme of the ‘Consultative Forum on International Security Policy’ https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39289-consultative-forum-programme/ and 4 days of video are available https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/00e68-follow-the-forum-online/# (you have to agree to the cookies) and you can make up your own mind about the balance or imbalance on particular panels, and on the whole process.

Advancing Nonviolence: Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

On Saturday 14th October, 10.30am – 1.30pm there will be an event run by Pax Christi Ireland in conjunction with The Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI); this is a project of Pax Christi International to deepen understanding and commitment to Gospel nonviolence. The main speakers are Marie Dennis and Pat Gaffney, CNI. The venue is the Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin, and further details will be available in September. Contact: Tony D’Costa, Pax Christi Ireland, email: tdc1@paxchristi.ie The CNI website is at https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/

NI NGOs call for urgent anti-poverty strategy

Dire cuts to services and support to those in need are in process in the North. On 28th June NGOs, trade unions, and academics called for an anti-poverty strategy based on objective need to be a day one priority for a new NI Executive at a seminar held in Stormont. The half day seminar on ‘Progressing an anti-poverty strategy for Northern Ireland’ was organised jointly by the Equality Coalition, Barnardo’s NI, and Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN). Northern Ireland has been waiting for an anti-poverty strategy for almost twenty years. The 2006 St Andrews Agreement contained a legal obligation for the NI Executive to develop a strategy to tackle poverty, social exclusion, and patterns of deprivation based on objective need. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/ngos-call-for-urgent-progress-on-an-anti-poverty-strategy-for-ni/

ECHR and NI Legacy Bill

CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice has welcomed the Interim Resolution from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe published on 8th June. The resolution records ‘serious concern’ that there has been no tangible progress to address concerns the legacy bill is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In particular, the Committee of Ministers has called on the UK authorities to reconsider the proposed amnesty scheme and the shutting down of legacy inquests. See https://caj.org.uk/latest/caj-welcomes-new-human-rights-resolution-from-european-ministers/

Good Relations Week in the North: 18-24 September

This year’s theme for Good Relations Week in the North is ‘Together’; coordinated by the Community Relations Council, this showcases many different examples of work on eradicating sectarianism, racism, and inequality and has a focus on cooperation, inclusivity, and progress. For more information on Good Relations Week 2023 and to register an event, visit https://goodrelationsweek.com/

FOE on LNG: Petition to stop government backsliding

Irish Friends of the Earth is campaigning against the government possibly permitting a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility. FOE state “One of the Green Party’s conditions for going into Government was that the coalition Government would oppose the development of LNG terminals for importing fracked gas into Ireland. Highly polluting fracked LNG was a red line issue – and rightly so. But now we’re worried that Minister Eamon Ryan may be considering a U-turn on long-standing Green Party policy on LNG.” Further info and an online petition on the FOE website at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act/say-no-to-government-u-turn-on-lng/

l FOE have an Action Pledge you can take at https://www.friendsoftheearth.ie/act/friends-of-the-earth-action-pledge/

ICCL: Facial recognition illegality by Dept of Social Protection

A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) reveals for the first time that the Department of Social Protection has known that its biometric processing of personal data arising from the Public Services Card (PSC) project is illegal.  The DPIA indicates the Department of Social Protection has built a national biometric database of 3.2 million cardholders’ unique facial features since 2013, including, in some cases, those of children. It also indicates that the Department is intent on retaining each cardholder’s biometric data for their individual lifetime, plus 10 years. Olga Cronin, Surveillance and Human Rights Policy Officer, ICCL, says: “The Department has been building a national biometric database without a relevant legal basis and without transparency. It continues to collect people’s biometric information in exchange for services they are legally entitled to. This must stop. This processing is unnecessary, disproportionate, and presents a risk to people’s fundamental rights.More info at https://www.iccl.ie/news/psc-facial-recognition-software-dpia/

l ICCL has welcomed the 14th June plenary vote in the European Parliament on the EU’s draft Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act. The vote establishes the Parliament’s position on the Act ahead of negotiations with the Council of the EU and the European Commission. The Parliament’s text includes a complete ban on the use of real-time facial recognition technology (FRT) in public spaces and represents a significant blow to the Irish Government’s plans to introduce FRT for An Garda Síochána.

ICCL on Offences Against the State Acts Review Group

ICCL has called for immediate implementation of key recommendations of the Offences Against the State Acts Review Group which recommends its repeal. https://www.iccl.ie/news/minister-must-implement-review-groups-recommendation-and-repeal-the-offences-against-the-state-acts/

Síolta Chroí: Ecosystem restoration for community groups

Upcoming courses at Co Monaghan centre Síolta Chroí include one, 26th-27th August, on Ecosystem restoration for community groups, looking at how groups that have access to, or look after, pieces of land can create systems that sequester carbon, build biodiversity and restore the ecosystem. Full info at https://sioltachroi.ie/courses-and-events/

Russia: COs movement declared ‘foreign agent’

On 23rd June the Movement of Conscientious Objectors was officially labeled as a “foreign agent” in the Russian Federation. They state, “This action, while a demonstration of the effectiveness of our work, is fundamentally a discriminatory application of law that contradicts universally accepted human rights and freedoms.…… A significant number of our volunteers and coordinators are based in Russia, and they now face a heightened risk of state pressure and persecution. Despite these increased threats, we remain committed to supporting those who resist war and forced conscription.” See https://wri-irg.org/en/story/2023/another-blatant-human-rights-violation-russia-labelling-movement-conscientious-objectors

Global Women for Peace United Against NATO

A new international women’s movement has been formed and has produced a Declaration for Peace, outlining its message of peace, justice, solidarity, and common security. As part of the international protests, they are organising a programme of events in Brussels, home of the NATO headquarters, taking place from 6th to 9th July (there will be a NATO summit in Vilnius, 11th-12th July). Join in person or online. http://womenagainstnato.org/

Editorials: Consultative Forum on International Security, Northern Ireland – a different inefficiency

Consultative Forum on International Security

Peace and neutrality activists don’t let the government away with it….

In their concluding remarks on the fourth and final day of the Consultative Forum on International Security, Micheál Martin, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Louise Richardson, Forum chair, were in congratulatory mode (to the country and themselves) for the liveliness of debate and even the involvement of people in the process through protest. To an uninformed observer these might seem urbane remarks however since the protests were due to the discriminatory way in which the whole enterprise was set up, this was rather hollow and putting a gloss on something which was less than satisfactory and of their own making. The previous establishment and government line was that protesters were trying to shut down debate; given the organisers’ own role in trying to control the agenda for debate, the opposite was the case.

Louise Richardson also said she knew of no other country where such a forum had taken place, implying how wonderful Irish democracy was. This was true about the uniqueness of the event. What she did not say however was that it was taking place because of political expediency on the part of the Minister. He wanted to remove – presumably still aims to remove – the triple lock (government, Dáil, UN) on the deployment of Irish troops overseas this autumn. The war in Ukraine gave an excuse to try to move things in the direction he wanted but he needed some ‘democratic’ credentials or ‘weaponised’ basis to do so – and thus set up what purported to be a ‘Forum’ (‘a public event for open discussion of ideas’) but was actually a long conference with speakers hand picked by the Minister and his staff to give the answers or direction he wanted. The whole process was not instigated out of the goodness of the Minister’s heart, and his desire for democracy, but for very particular political ends.

The Irish government has been trying to use the war in Ukraine, and Russian invasion, as a reason to change the ‘triple lock’. There is only one case where the triple lock may have prevented a peacekeeping deployment and that did not involve Russia. Of course the government and pro-government speakers did not mention the warmongering of the USA and the West, nor the breach of neutrality by giving Shannon for US military use, no questions asked. The background also included the lie that the Forum was not about neutrality as opposed to ‘security’ as if the two were unconnected, another part of the ‘get rid of neutrality by stealth’ strategy.

Micheál Martin has previously stated how much he learned and benefited from conciliation programme run by Quaker House Belfast (for info on the latter see https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/50654202881/in/album-72157717185737611/ ). This was in getting to meet, and know Northern unionists – and he does have a reputation among unionists as being someone who understands them. However it is really sad that he has not been able to extrapolate from this experience of dealing with conflict on the island of Ireland, demonstrating the importance of long term conciliation and mediation efforts, to thinking internationally. Instead he is going with militarisation and so-called military ‘solutions’. He was going to take what he could get from this ‘forum process’ and the hope must be that this will be severely constrained by the challenges both to the process and the content which took place.

Louise Richardson also didn’t say it was deliberately not a citizens’ assembly – a format which now has established form in Ireland in dealing with difficult and contentious issues – because it would have given the ‘wrong’ answers so far as the Minister was concerned.

Peace and neutrality groups were working hard to point out the illegitimacy of the exercise, and hold alternative forums where the speakers and issues they wanted included were not excluded. But an intervention by Michael D Higgins, pushing at the boundaries of what it is acceptable for an Irish president to say, questioned the drift towards NATO and also raised questions about the credentials of the chair (he later withdrew some of these remarks). That greatly helped make the issue a hot potato. However he would never have felt constrained to make those remarks had the enterprise not been an underhand one to begin with. His comments thus served the interests of democracy.

One illustrative ironic twist took place during a Forum session on cyber threats and disinformation. A couple of contributors from the floor both pointed to the Forum itself as an exercise in disinformation due to the built in bias in the programme and speakers. Perhaps this fits the old adage of ‘the medium is the message’. You can easily find the list of speakers on the Department website and some analysis of speakers’ backgrounds is in The Phoenix issue for 30h June.

That is not to say that some participants in the Forum did not make a useful and even positive contribution on the issues involved. Some panels were less imbalanced than others and some had reasonably comprehensive discussion of the issues. But the topics dealt with, and the speakers chosen, as well as the chair who will write the report, were all hand picked by the Minister and staff acting on his direction. At no point was it stated by the Minister or the Department that inclusion in the speakers list was by Department of Foreign Affairs invitation only (which was the case). An INNATE offer to contribute unique content, on nonviolent civilian defence and on extending neutrality as part of security, was brushed aside. (See https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/53003786126/in/dateposted/ with INNATE being prevented from putting these leaflets out for those attending at Dublin Castle). So a ‘Forum’ it was not.

Proponents of peace and neutrality faced a dilemma, to protest (possibly through a boycott) and/or be involved. In general people protested and were involved; a boycott, especially given the bias in the media, was likely to lead to invisibility. But making a point, or raising a question – which might not be answered or answered poorly – from the floor is not in any sense being properly included, it is being tolerated and patronised – especially when Micheál Martin congratulated everyone, including protesters, for their commitment on the issue. He might genuinely feel that way but certainly this was not the feeling for those on the other side of the NATO fence (Ireland is still a fellow traveller with NATO through its euphemistically named ‘Partnership for Peace’). And being involved in any way, even protesting inside the Forum, could be seen as legitimising it in that the organisers could then say “Look how tolerant we are, we even allow protest” (no they didn’t, anything they allowed was under sufferance, and numerous people were ejected from the chamber).

So the question of the legitimacy of the whole enterprise entered some of the media (e.g. The Irish Independent of 23/6/23 but not The Irish Times whose paper edition the same day, after the first session in Cork, held not one photo of protests and only a brief mention of protests themselves). And as usual the mass media did not cover the fact there were different protests and people or groups involved (see e.g. the text of https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/52993125392/in/dateposted/ and compare that with mass media reports ).

While we must await the final report, written by Louise Richardson, there is no indication to date that she might not be the ‘safe pair of hands’ she would seem to be, the reason she was appointed by the Minister. The report should never, in any case, have been the responsibility of one person. While the question of the legitimacy of the whole enterprise has been raised successfully, it is still possible that the Minister will try to use the report as a means to get what he wants and the triple lock removed. This should be a real test of the integrity of deputies in the Dáil.

The Irish state should be looking at how neutrality could be extended as a real and vibrant force for peace in the world. That is the approach taken in INNATE’s written submission to the Forum, see https://tinyurl.com/3rurehhv The world already has far too many countries armed to the teeth and acting in a belligerent and self-interested manner. Ireland has the opportunity to be different but the establishment choice is to join even closer the big boys with their guns. The metaphorical guns in the above affair were held by the Minister; the peace and neutrality sector, through mobilising and its nonviolent action, succeeded in at least disarming some of those weapons of mass distraction.

The struggle is not over.

See also the news section for links to further information, the article by Dominic Carroll in this issue, and INNATE’s photo album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72177720309217408

Northern Ireland

Back to a different inefficiency

It is clear that Geoffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, wants to get back into Stormont and is drawing up his shopping lists. Here there is the danger that the British government, in giving the DUP and unionists the assurances they want about the place of Northern Ireland in the UK will actually breach the Good Friday Agreement. Meanwhile other prominent members of the party, such as Ian Paisley, are very much more reluctant, and that dynamic has to work itself out within the DUP itself.

In a cynical political move the British Secretary of State in the North, Chris Heaton-Harris, continues to make people suffer through swingeing cuts and the resultant instability in education, health, social service and community sectors as he weaponises the cuts to put pressure on the DUP to return to Stormont – of course that would be with a package which removes some of those cuts. People’s lives are thus a political football.

Assuming that Stormont does return in the autumn – and if it doesn’t there could be a lengthy period of direct rule by Britain – there are a myriad of issues on the table to be dealt with by Michelle (O’Neill), Geoffrey (Donaldson), the Executive and the whole Assembly. While we might hope for a good ‘run’ at and on the pressing issues of concern, if past history is anything to go by then ‘things’ will gradually run into the ground and another crisis emerge to stymie progress.

It is difficult to enumerate all the issues of concern in one editorial. There are systemic issues of governance and decision making. There are issues which are difficult to resolve (e.g. education) because of the nature of the sectarian division which then overlaps with divisions on a left/right, progressive/conservative axis. There is the sectarian division itself which creates difficulties in the provision of facilities and sometimes requires ‘double provision’ (one facility for mainly Protestants, and one for mainly Catholics). And there are big problems simply with the amount of money available from the British Exchequer, given that the home rule Assembly system is not responsible for taxation (but see below).

While it has been generally recognised that the system of decision making needs reformed, simply removing the necessity for the two largest parties on either side to be involved in the Executive will not eradicate the problems. If the largest party on one side can ‘pass’ (i.e. decline to be involved in the Executive) but others on the same side pick up the ball (and be in the Executive), that would largely eradicate the start-stop nature of the Assembly. But it would not deal with the difficulty which the parties have in arriving at good decision making.

This is where the decision making methodologies proposed and propounded by the de Borda Institute www.deborda.org should come into play. In effect these have built in consideration for minority viewpoints and are the fairest way of trying to arrive at a workable consensus or decision that all can live with. They do require political parties to act in a different manner, however, and this is only likely to come about through pressure from the public. It might at least give an impetus to effective decision making in areas where there was been sustained failure in the past.

While Stormont, if the Assembly is up and running, cannot replicate taxation raised by the UK government, there is nothing to stop it raising taxes that are different, such as a land use tax (e.g. a tax on land and property which is not being used productively aside from that which is clearly set aside for ecological purposes). And due to the lack of economies of scale in an area of 1.9 million people, and issues of poverty and ill health, some stemming from the Troubles, the ‘Barnett formula’ of funding for UK regions needs further tweaked to give Northern Ireland a fairer share of the UK cake – Wales has already succeeded in doing that.

Whatever the constitutional future for Northern Ireland, there are urgent issues which need sorted now. The reform of Stormont could be a vital tool in turning around an area where the majority of young people want to leave, a fact illustrative of the many problems which beset individuals and society and of the existing malaise. The Northern Ireland Protocol and Windsor Agreement give Northern Ireland some economic advantages which it is next to impossible to harness without a home rule government in place.

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

Review

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

Reviewed by Rob Fairmichael

Introduction

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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