IT WAS WHILE walking down O’Connell Street on my first ever anti-apartheid protest in the late 70s that I first registered the name Nelson Mandela. Though vaguely aware before, it was when a friend and co-walker Catherine Moloughney began to chant ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ that I was led to find out more about Mandela and the cause he represented.
The urgency and the obscenity of the apartheid system was brought home later when then Bishop Desmond Tutu visited Ireland at the invitation of Afri in 1984 and told extraordinary stories about the reality of apartheid, like, for example, the fact that he had been refused permission to accept a previous invitation from Afri in 1982. Tutu’s great humanity, compassion and warmth was in itself the most stinging challenge to the odious system of apartheid.
Walk to freedom
Watching Nelson Mandela’s iconic walk to freedom in 1990 was like watching the world take a seismic shift. Mandela walked with dignity and pride and talked without rancour or bitterness – his only desire to build a new, just and inclusive South Africa for all its citizens. It was a moment when anything seemed possible.
I was walking again four years later on the Afri Famine Walk as Mandela preparing to be inaugurated as President in South Africa. The Famine Walk that year was led by Dunnes Stores Striker Karen Gearon and Gandhi’s grandson Arun Gandhi, both with their own strong links to South Africa.
The Dunnes Strikers, now finally getting the recognition they deserve, put actions on the many easy words of condemnation directed at the apartheid system.
Their strike courageously challenged the strange paradox of abhorrence and acceptance in which much of the world seemed suspended. My colleague Don Mullan and I departed from the walk for the inauguration at the invitation of Archbishop Tutu, who had also previously led the Famine Walk saying ‘we walked the Famine Walk and soon after we walked to freedom in South Africa’.
I arrived in South Africa to the most tangible excitement I can remember – a whole nation seemed to be swept up in a wave of anticipation, elation and colour. Everyone seemed to be walking and all going in the same direction, towards Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Mandela’s distinctive voice sent the crowd into near hysteria: ‘Today, all of us by our presence here and by our celebrations (throughout) the world confer glory and hope to new found liberty’.
And then the dancing began. Even for one who doesn’t normally dance, there was little option but to allow oneself to be carried along in the embrace of a liberated people, carried eventually back to a Soweto convulsed in song and celebration, where we remained until darkness fell and well beyond.
Regarding the greatness of Mandela there is little doubt and yet even such a great man was not perfect. I recall him once suggesting that South Africa should be a leader in the field of Arms exportation in Africa. But then again Mandela was no pacifist having led a guerrilla army – a fact that has been conveniently airbrushed out of much of the recent blanket media coverage.
In losing Mandela the world has lost a unique leader and global figurehead, one whose political life was clearly about serving the public good rather than personal advancement or enrichment. The long years of reflection in captivity had brought an insight, a wisdom and a mature generosity that is all too rare in leadership today.
But what now? What is most important now, rather than deify Mandela, is to honour his memory with an appropriate legacy. The greatest legacy would be to end the scandal of hunger in our world of plenty; to stop robbing Africa and countries of the South of their resources; to tackle climate change seriously and urgently; to take on the peddlers of death in an arms industry costing over 17 billion dollars annually.
It may seem like an impossible task but in his own imitable words:
“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
Link to The Journal Article: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/i-attended-mandelas-inauguration-tribute-1216000-Dec2013/
Afri was proud and delighted to host a series of events and meetings in solidarity with imprisoned Chelsea (Bradley) Manning’s mother Susan, Aunts Mary and Sharon, and Uncle Kevin. The family travelled from their home in Haverford West, South Wales, to Dublin, the birthplace of their father. In what is a continuing indictment of the Irish Government’s subservience to US power, Pvt. Manning had transited through Shannon on the way to the war on Iraq. He was subsequently tortured in Kuwait and Quantico and is now serving 35 years imprisonment in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, for courageously exposing the horrors of the endless U.S ‘war on terror’.
Afri invited independent T.D. Catherine Murphy to host a meeting of TDs and Senators in the Dáil for the family which was attended by Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Ming Flanagan, Sean Crowe and Katherine Zappone among others. The family was also welcomed on arrival at the Dáil by Senator David Norris. Very moving interviews with Sharon and Kevin were carried later on RTÉ news and on Drivetime. The visit was also covered by a number of newspapers and radio stations. The family also met with Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders and the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA)
On Friday night, over 100 people gathered at Trinity College to hear a powerful presentation by Gerry Conlon who had served 15 years in prison in Britain, having been tortured & framed as part of the Guilford 4. His father, Giuseppe, who was also framed, died in prison. The film ‘In the Name of the Father’ recounts this tragic story. The day following the meeting was the 39th anniversary of Gerry’s kidnapping by police from his home in Belfast. Gerry reminded us, that it is not only the prisoner who suffers the consequences of imprisonment but also the families and this was confirmed by the Manning family who have borne the brunt of media invasion and harassment, particularly by the prison authorities, during visits. This ordinary – yet extraordinary – family have, however, maintained their dignity and their pride in Chelsea’s actions right throughout this long and painful ordeal.
Gerry Conlon, drawing on his own painful experience, reminded the audience of how important people like Chelsea Manning are: people with the courage to expose lies, criminality and corruption carried out by States and concealed under the guise of ‘state secrets’. We need whistleblowers today, as never before, and we need to support them when they have the courage to speak out and tell the truth.
Carmen Trotta (from the New York Catholic Worker Movement) also spoke about where the “war on terror” has brought us and the significance of the courage and actions of Pvt. Manning. Other highlights of the evening were when Joe Black played his song “Giuseppe Conlon” for Gerry Conlon and Roj played “Free Bradley Manning” for the Manning family.
Lawyer Gareth Peirce joined us on video from London having recorded a speech that afternoon. You can watch this video here.
On Saturday night we had a party in the Brian Boru pub in Phibsborough with Joe Black, Robbie Synnot and a brief appearance by Elvis.
Press Release from the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War
KUALA LUMPUR, 20 November 2013 – The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (KLWCT) commenced hearing of genocide and war crimes charges against the State of Israel and Amos Yaron, a retired Israeli army general today.
In the prosecution’s opening statement by Prof Gurdial S. Nijar, he stated that this trial is significant as it charges a nation that thumbs its nose at UN resolutions; decisions of the ICJ and shakes our confidence in the meaning of civilisation.
Prof Gurdial stated, that the prosecution intends to give incontrovertible proof of the incredible crimes conceived since 1945 and which still continues until today. He stressed in his statement that for the Palestinians, it is a continuing tragic saga of huge proportions. What they term as Nakba or ‘catastrophe’ which started in 1948 with their forced dispossession and eviction from their homeland is a history of the present: an on-going dispossession, dislocation, massacres, ethnic cleansing and all else. In short, the continuity of the trauma is not just the result of 1948 but an on-going process, and continuing into the present and linked to current Israeli policies and practices. (more…)
An Evening for Private Manning
With members of Manning’s family in attendance.
Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four to speak.
Human Rights Lawyer Gareth Peirce also invited.
Friday 29th November
Edmund Burke Theatre, Trinity College Dublin.
Entrance by donation.
More information: Afri, 01 8827563
Meeting co-sponsored by ISE, Trinity College Dublin
Link to Manning’s 28th February statement: http://wiseupaction.info/about-2/full-transcript-with-leaked-audio-of-brads-feb-23-statement/
The human rights group Afri has said it is dismayed but not surprised by the revelation, given in response to a Dáil question, that a US military aircraft “armed with a fixed weapon” stopped at Shannon airport early last month. Afri opposes the use of Shannon by US military because of the way it implicates Ireland in the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people in the US’s disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Afri believes, as confirmed by groups such as Shannon Watch, that weapons are regularly transported through Shannon, the only difference being that on this occasion the weapon was visible. The ongoing arrogance of the US was again in evidence in the failure by the Embassy even to answer questions about the type of aircraft or weapon where the aircraft had flown from or its destination.
Afri is appalled by the craven attitude of the Irish Government and by Mr Gilmore’s bending over backwards in an embarrassing attempt to explain and excuse this ‘administrative error’.
Afri once again calls on the Government to end this practice of participating in proxy war by handing our airports over to the US war machine.
The Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland is joining its European partners in launching a new campaign calling on clothing companies to Pay a Living Wage to garment workers. The Pay a Living Wage campaign begins on 21st October with a week of action in 15 European countries.
The campaign launch comes exactly six months after the devastating collapse of Rana Plaza, in which 1,133 Bangladeshi workers were killed. Six months on from the largest industrial accident to hit the garment industry, millions of workers continue to have no choice but to risk their lives in order to afford a decent life.
In Bangladesh, where an estimated 4 million people work in the garment industry, the current minimum wage is just €28.60 (3,000 taka) a month. This is 11% of the €259.80 (27,369 taka) that Clean Clothes Campaign partner the Asia Floor Wage Alliance calculates to be a living wage for the country.
For many workers, the lack of a living wage means they must work long hours to earn overtime or bonuses and cannot risk taking time off due to unsafe working conditions or for ill health.
“We force ourselves to work long hours because the salary is not enough to live on, especially because my parents are dependent on my salary as well” says Horn Vy, a 25 year old garment worker in Cambodia.
For Horn Vy and other Cambodian garment workers the minimum wage is €60.95 (336,000 riel), just 21% of the €289.64 (1,596,059 riel) the Asia Floor Wage Alliance calculates to be a living wage in Cambodia.
“A living wage should be earned before overtime and allow a garment worker to be able to feed herself and her family, pay the rent, pay for healthcare and education and have a small amount of savings for when something unexpected happens.” says Kate Nolan, Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland.
The Irish Clean Clothes Campaign has brought this issue into focus with their 50sense Campaign, choosing to highlight the truly tiny amount extra it would cost to achieve a living wage within the garment supply chain.
“Arguments of supply and demand and cost sensitive markets don’t stand up against such a insignificant number. Just 50 cent more per garment, paid directly to a worker is the difference between her living with dignity or within a spiraling poverty trap.” says Kate Nolan, Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland.
The increase of this €0.50 per garment would account for an adjustment of between just 2% and 3.5% to a retailer’s profit margin, a mere drop in the ocean of retailers like Penneys, H&M or Benetton who’s profits soar into the billions each year but as of yet no retailer has successfully integrated a living wage system into their supply chains.
Yet a recent survey carried out by Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland shows consumers expect retailers to do just this. According to Nolan,
“We have seen a clear expectation expressed by consumers for retailers to pay a living wage to their workers. Of the 100 participants, 93% felt it was the responsibility of retailers to ensure their workers were paid a living wage, but we also saw that over 99% or consumers were willing to absorb part or all of the extra cost if retailers demanded it of them.”
“Companies must take steps to ensure they are paying a living wage in the countries they source from. Governments must ensure that minimum wages are set at levels that allow people to live with dignity. While low labour costs continue to be exploited throughout the industry it remains impossible to argue that the garment industry is benefitting those who work within it.”
The 50 sense Campaign is supported by NGOs, unions, schools, colleges and community groups across Ireland and from October 21st they will join activists and advocates for change across Europe to demand clothing companies take control of their supply chains and pay a living wage.
The Pay a Living Wage campaign is calling on:
• clothing brands and companies to take action by setting concrete and measurable steps throughout their supply chain to ensure garment workers get paid a living wage.
• national governments in garment producing countries to make sure minimum wages are set at living wage standards.
• European governments to implement regulation that make sure companies are responsible for the impact they have on the lives of workers in their supply chain, including their right to earn a living wage.
The week of action will see campaigners across Europe promoting a consumers’ living wage petition at press conferences, via social networks (#livingwage), films, street actions, conferences and celebrity testimonials.
Afri is supporting the Pay a Living Wage Campaign. You can sign a petition to demand that the people who make your clothes are paid a living wage:
Spanner in the Works Theatre Company presents Diablo, a play on human trafficking in Ireland. Diablo is written and produced by Patricia Downey. It will be performed in NUI Maynooth (Student Common Room) at 7pm on Wednesday 16th October, and in Trinity College Dublin (ISE/Loyola Institute Building) at 8pm on Thursday 17th October. Tickets at the door: €10 (€5 students/concessions). Please note: this play contains violent sexual language and disturbing scenes. Over 18s I.D. is required.
Diablo has a small cast of 5 actors and is written by Patricia Downey, Artistic Director for Belfast based Spanner in the Works Theatre Company, which is partly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Spanner in the Works Theatre Company was established in Belfast in September 1998 and undertakes performances and workshops throughout Ireland, touring rural and urban communities. The main aim of the company is to provide challenging productions that will deal with difficult, hard hitting and controversial subject matter.
Speaking about the play’s challenging subject matter, Patricia Downey commented: “Human trafficking is a fast growing criminal enterprise due to the fact that it is relatively low risk but with a high profit potential. Sadly, criminal organisations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.
“Diablo deals with the contentious matter of human trafficking. We might not be aware of it or like to acknowledge it, but this form of human exploitation is happening right here on our doorstep and I hope this play serves to increase awareness and, in turn, save lives.”
Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, who attended the opening production of Diablo in 2012, praised the Arts Council for funding the play. He said: “This important play shines the spotlight on human trafficking and should highlight the plight of victims in a way that will help raise awareness of this evil crime.” For further information on the upcoming performances of Diablo please visit www.aptireland.org and www.spannerintheworks.org
“I left the show quite literally speechless and with a renewed passion for the work that our organisation does to raise awareness of this issue. Patricia and her team leave no stone unturned as they unpack this complex crime in a riveting performance that is sure to move the hardest of hearts” ~ Mel Wiggins of Project ‘FREEDOM ACTS’ Craigavon Intercultural Programme.
Hairy Jaysus, Donal O’Kelly’s solo show inspired by Frank Sheehy Skeffington, will have its world premiere in the Viking Theatre @ Connollys’ The Sheds, Clontarf, Dublin, at 8pm for five nights from Monday 14th October until Friday 18th October.
Frank Sheehy Skeffington was James Joyce’s friend in UCD. When he professed to be an atheist, Joyce dubbed him ‘Hairy Jaysus’. He married Hanna Sheehy, they shared each other’s surnames, and campaigned for votes for women. He was a pacifist and a socialist. Close to James Connolly, he was active in support of the locked-out workers of Dublin in 1913. He served time in Mountjoy Jail for opposing recruitment for the First World War. He was summarily executed in Portobello Barracks Rathmines, on Wednesday of Easter Week 1916. He is rarely remembered among those executed.
Donal O’Kelly recently won a Fringe First in Edinburgh with his solo show about the Shell Corrib gas project, Fionnuala, also nominated for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award, and The Stage Best Solo Performer award. His 3-part musicdrama radio series, Francisco, which he wrote and directed, is nominated for Best Radio Fiction Series in the Prix Europa. Fishamble: The New Play Company will present his play, Little Thing Big Thing, on tour in Ireland early next year.
Hairy Jaysus will be broadcast on RTE Radio at 8pm on Sunday 1st December.
To book tickets (€10) contact The Viking Theatre: 087 1129970.
Statement from the Triennial Conference of the International Peace Bureau
September 13th – 15th 2013, Stockholm , Sweden
“The World is Over-armed and Peace is Under-funded”
- Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General
There was a new hope expressed at the IPB Triennial Conference, welcoming the agreement between Russia and the USA on chemical weapons in Syria. Hopefully this will lead to negotiations to put an end to the terrible civil war.
The forming of international coalitions for military intervention is now much more difficult as public opinion against war has become so strong. People are weary of war and the deceit and rhetoric that go with it. They are suspicious of double speak and are tired of ‘humanitarian’ statements which end with actions that simply generate more human suffering. (more…)
Pobal Chill Chomain Press Release
As a community group committed to solving the continued difficulties with the ongoing Shell/Statoil Corrib Gas controversy, we are extremely concerned with the most recent developments regarding allegations of bribery and deception involving senior members of An Garda Siochana and agents acting on behalf of the Corrib developers; i.e. the long-term bribery of Garda members with gifts of alcohol, and misleading a Garda Ombudsman investigation.
These allegations strike at the heart of our community, but strike also at the basic notion of democracy and transparency in this country, and must be rooted out at their foundation if we are to move on from conflict and mistrust.
Various statements have been issued in recent days by Shell E&P Ireland and our police force, and we note with dismay that neither group has yet denied the accusations, but merely pushed them away with talk of repeated internal investigations with no possibility of independence.
Pobal Chill Chomain also notes the statement issued by the Garda Siochana Ombusdman Commission (GSOC) as reported in the mainstream media, stating no complaints were received in relation to the revelations.
GSOC’s reluctance in investigating this aspect of Corrib is unhelpful to say the least, but it’s statment – that no complaints were received in relation to the revelations – is deeply disturbing. Whether intentionally misleading or otherwise, we know this statement to be untrue.
In May of this year – long before the issue was reported in the British and Irish press – GSOC were informed by members of our community of the allegations and the damage they were causing to all concerned, and Pobal Chill Chomain is calling for the Garda Ombudsman to correct it’s statement immediately.
Other people and organisations – including rights groups Frontline and AFRI – have called for a truly independent investigation into these matters, and Pobal Chill Chomain wishes to support that call, as a matter of extreme urgency.
Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan also issued a short statement about the allegations: here and Partners in Faith have also joined calls for an independent investigation into the matter: here