Afri welcomes the decision by Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark Durkan not to award a license to Australian mining company Tamboran Resources who sought to begin test drilling work on the Cavan-Fermanagh border as part of its ambitious fracking plans for the island of Ireland. The group say nothing short of an all-Ireland ban on fracking is needed and that leaders in Dublin and Belfast should follow the lead of the French and German governments in banning fracking while prioritising renewable energy sources. According to Afri Coordinator Joe Murray, fracking is a short-sighted solution to job creation and energy supply, which he says compromises water supplies, farming, wildlife and air quality.
Afri’s campaign is backed up by leading international scientists who are supporting Afri’s online campaign for an all-Ireland ban on fracking.
These include renowned scientist Dr. Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University who said:
“We know we need to be heading towards a near zero emission energy and transportation systems. Expansion of the dirtiest corners of the fossil fuel industry is a step in the wrong direction. We need to be developing and deploying the near zero emission clean energy technologies of the future, not expanding last century’s archaic energy system. We can no longer afford to be building energy and transportation systems that assume we can continue to use the sky as a waste dump.” (more…)
The island of Ireland is one of the greenest places on the planet but global energy corporations want to put an end to this. The fracking industry have big plans for both sides of the border and we need to act fast to stop them.
We can’t sit back and let our land and water be destroyed by those who promise us the earth while destroying it in the process.
Despite huge opposition, fracking work has commenced in scenic County Fermanagh and plans are in place for nearby Leitrim. Other areas under threat include the Antrim, Down, Derry, Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Cavan, Monaghan, Clare, Cork and Kerry.
Demand a fracking ban on the island of Ireland by signing and sharing our petition now. Each time someone signs it, key politicians will get an email urging them to act. Sign here or read on: https://www.change.org/petitions/ban-fracking-on-the-island-of-ireland (more…)
Shannonwatch, 22 July 2014
Shannonwatch welcomes attempts by TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly to inspect US military aircraft at Shannon earlier today. At a time when the airport may be helping to supply the weapons used by Israel to kill and main civilians in Gaza, it is vitally important that we have proper oversight of what is on the military planes at the airport. Despite repeated requests, the authorities refuse to search the planes to ensure they are not in breach of international law.
“We are being told repeatedly that there is no proof there are illegal weapons on the planes” said Mick Wallace. “It is nonsense to suggest that none of them are involved in military operations or that there are no weapons on board these planes, which is what the government says. But because the authorities won’t search the planes to find out if that is the case, people like us have to do it.” (more…)
Members of Afri were delighted to attend the premiere of ‘Blood Fruit’ in Galway recently. Director Sinead O’Brien has ensured that the eventual telling of this extraordinary story on the big screen was worth the long wait. The film recounts the story of ten exceptional young workers in Dunnes Stores in Henry Street who took the courageous decision to refuse to handle ‘the fruits of apartheid’ in 1984. This decision was to have major consequences for the workers themselves – being locked out for more than 2 years – and internationally as the story became known around the world. It resulted in a rare and amazing victory when the Irish Government banned the importation of fruit and vegetables from South Africa.
The film relays the experience of the daily drudgery on the picket line as well as their invitation to address the UN, their meeting with Desmond Tutu en route to receive the Nobel Peace prize and their abortive visit to South Africa where they were held by armed police before being sent home on the next plane. This is a compelling and inspiring story which should be compulsory viewing for people of all ages, reflecting what is best in human nature – the ability to empathise with the suffering of others even in faraway places and to express solidarity to the point of making a real and significant difference.
Nelson Mandela had said that the action of the strikers had helped him during his imprisonment and, in a message sent to the strikers via Afri for the premiere, Archbishop Tutu saluted them, describing them as ‘a beacon of hope’ and ‘part of the history of South Africa’s struggle for freedom’.
The on-going humanitarian crisis in Gaza has in recent times once more reached such a level of frenzied depravity that it is too easy to become frozen in a kind of shocked paralysis. The fact that it comes amidst a persecution by the Israeli powers of the Palestinian people that has spanned many decades and the earthly lives of countless Palestinian souls, makes it seem all the more unjust and no less intensely disturbing.
Horribly stuck in a traumatic historical time warp, it is as if the crimes of past wars have achieved the ultimate victory over humanity by the perpetuation of these same crimes by their victims on other human beings.
The parallels between the terrible crime against humanity that was the genocide of the Jewish and other people by the Nazi regime, and the crimes against humanity and apparent genocide being conducted by Israel against the Palestinian people today, are so obvious that it seems redundant to even speak of them.
Yet in the face of an impotent international political system and an international community that, for the most part, remains resolutely silent in the face of such crimes, then failing to speak of these parallels (when recognising the sovereignty of all life) is a kind of treason: a betrayal not just of innocent Palestinian civilians but of humanity everywhere. (more…)
The third episode in the “Airing Erris” series was held yesterday in Ceathrú Thaidhg in Erris, County Mayo. This episode focussed on policing and included contributions from former UN assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday, Goldman Environmental prize winner Willie Corduff, former Garda and Human Rights Monitor Bernard McCabe, peace activist Margaretta D’Arcy and investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty. Garda Whistleblower John Wilson, also attended, and spoke about his experiences of Garda corruption.
The event was livestreamed by Atlantic Livestream and can be watched again here.
Lorna Siggins also wrote an article about the event in the Irish Times: Ex-UN official calls for presidential commission to investigate Garda
Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield, has said an international ban must be put in place now, before one country starts using them in conflict, opening the door to others to follow suit.
Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Copenhagen, Professor Sharkey noted that so far no nation has openly used entirely autonomous aircraft, submarines, surface vessels or tanks that are capable of tracking, selecting, targeting and deploying weapons entirely by themselves and based on algorithms. However, such systems are already being developed by a number of countries, including the US, China, Israel, Taiwan and Russia. However, because they have not yet been used, an opportunity is there to ban them before nations race to develop and start using them.
To read more: click here
Professor Sharkey was also interviewed about the Campaign to Ban Killer Robots on RTE: click here
In Autumn of 2013, Afri was approached by Ciaron O’Reilly and asked if we would host a visit to Ireland by the family of Chelsea Manning. We were, of course, delighted to do so and to organise a Solidarity meeting in Trinity College onNovember 29th. Among the speakers at that meeting was Gerry Conlon who gave this profoundly moving and passionate address.
Airing Erris 3 with a special message from Desmond Tutu and featuring Willie Corduff, Denis Halliday, Margaretta D’Arcy, Bernard McCabe and Gemma O’Doherty will take place in Erris on 6th July. The event will be live-streamed by Atlantic Stream via the following link:
We support the recent demands for an inquiry into allegations of systemic Garda corruption and violence. We believe any such inquiry should include the Shell/Corrib pipeline police operation in North West Mayo. This is one of the longest running police operations in the history of the Irish state and has drawn critical attention from national and international human rights organisations  since 2006 over the alleged violence and intimidation used by Gardaí against campaigners.
In 2007, campaigners submitted complaints en masse against the Gardaí to the newly established Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). Out of the 111 complaints received by GSOC between May 2007 and November 2009, 78 were deemed admissible and 7 sent to the DPP. The DPP rejected prosecution in all 7 cases. The majority of campaigners have since stopped submitting complaints to GSOC. In 2010, complaints from 400 Kilcommon residents were submitted to Shell’s Belmullet office detailing the “escalating physical and psychological harassment” continuing in the area. In 2012, residents again submitted a mass complaint, this time to Mayo County Council, outlining serious grievances arising out of the project, including experiences of private security and state policing, with no result. Any inquiry into the policing of the Shell/Corrib Gas Project cannot ignore the following extract from the minutes of the Shell Committee of Managing Directors meeting held in London 22/23 July 2002: “It was noted that development of the Corrib field may be delayed until 2004 as planning consent had been refused for the terminal. The committee queried whether the Group had sufficiently well placed contacts with the Irish government and regulators. Paul Skinner undertook to explore this issue further in consultation with the Country Chairman in Ireland”. 
In 2007, GSOC requested to conduct a “practice, policy and procedure” investigation into the police operation but this was turned down by the then Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan. In 2009, the then Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy ignored recommendations from GSOC that a senior Garda on the operation face disciplinary action. The following year, two officers on secondment to GSOC tasked with addressing the body of complaints in relation to the policing of the Shell/Corrib gas project gave their apologies to campaigners before returning to New Zealand. In 2011, following the tape controversy, in which members of the Gardaí were recorded joking about raping and deporting female protestors, campaigners publicly stated that they believed GSOC’s response to the controversy amounted to “blame the victim” tactics through a campaign of spin and misinformation. Quite understandably, there is now no faith in GSOC as it currently exists and any inquiry by GSOC into the Shell/Corrib gas police operation would be dysfunctional, particularly as this inquiry should include the failings of GSOC. (more…)
The justice and peace group Afri have expressed dismay at the revelation that the Irish army plans to spend over €4m on upgrading its air defence missile system. The Army stated that the purpose of the missile system is to “take out enemy aircraft” and elaborated on this unlikely scenario by stating that the missiles in question would “deter hostile actions”.
Extraordinarily, this monumental waste of resources is occurring at the same time as health, education, social welfare and overseas development aid budgets continue to be cut causing intense suffering to some of the most vulnerable people in our society and on our planet.
Afri raises the question as to where the ‘hostile action’ is likely to come from that would require such weapons, suggesting that the real agenda is being set by NATO (towards which Ireland is moving ever closer) with its push towards ‘interoperability’ and aggressive military actions. Where does this fit with Ireland’s traditional neutrality, which has been shown to be strongly supported by Irish people in successive opinion polls? For example, a Red C poll carried out for the Peace and Neutrality Alliance in 2013 showed 78% of people support Irish neutrality, an essential element of which is non-participation in aggressive military alliances and minimal military spending.
Afri calls on the Labour Party in particular to clarify where its priorities lie in terms of such spending. Afri believes that this bizarre decision is representative of why the Labour Party is being wiped out in Government. Labour is clearly not listening to its voters by subscribing to and supporting such obscene choices as spending on missile systems while cutting health, education and overseas development aid.
Look out for the 3rd installment of the series of events entitled “Airing Erris”. This event will focus on the policing of the Corrib Gas project and will take place in An tSeanscoil, Ceathrú Thaidhg, Co. Mayo at 1pm on Sunday July 6th.
Further information to follow.
To find out more about the other events in the Airing Erris series:
Afri was pleased to support the ‘Remembering the Citizenship Referendum’ event outside Dáil Éireann today. This marks the 10th anniversary of this dark day in our recent history and many of the migrant speakers reminded us of the shocking legacy it has left children born into a limbo state in the last decade.
Comparisons were made with the treatment of children in the ‘mother and baby’ homes which is the source of such recent horror. There were also many references to the appalling system known as ‘Direct Provision’ in which people are given just over €19 per week to live on. One woman who grew up in apartheid South Africa saying that she felt she had left that behind but now finds an apartheid-like approach at work in the direct provision system.
Well done to all those involved in organizing today’s event.
Statement by Nobel Peace Laureates
In April 2013 in London, a group of nongovernmental organizations – most associated with the successful efforts to ban landmines and cluster munitions – publicly launched the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.” Their efforts have helped bring the issue of fully autonomous weapons to a broader audience and spur governments to begin discussions on these weapons this May in Geneva.
We, the undersigned Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, applaud this new global effort and whole-heartedly embrace its goal of a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons that would be able to select and attack targets on their own. It is unconscionable that human beings are expanding research and development of lethal machines that would be able to kill people without human intervention.
Not all that long ago such weapons were considered the subject of science fiction, Hollywood and video games. But some machines are already taking the place of soldiers on the battlefield. Some experts in the field predict that fully autonomous weapons could be developed within 20 to 30 years; others contend it could even be sooner. With the rapid development of drones and the expansion of their use in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and beyond, billions of dollars are already being spent to research new systems for the air, land, and sea that one day would make drones seem as quaint as the Model T Ford does today.
Too many applaud the so-called success of drone warfare and extol the virtues of the weapons. While these unmanned aircraft can fly thousands of miles from home base on their own, they still require individuals watching computer screens to fire its weapons and attack a target. Already over 70 countries have drones and many are looking to develop methods to make them ever more autonomous and create new lethal robots that will, in fact, kill human beings on their own.
Those who favor the development of autonomous lethal robots make many arguments on their behalf. They note that such machines do not put soldiers’ lives at risk nor do they tire or become frightened. Emotion would not cloud their decision-making. They also say that ultimately lethal autonomous robots will be cheaper than manned systems and laud that feature in these times of cutting government budgets.
But not everyone supports the arguments. In it very aptly entitled report, “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” Human Rights Watch outlined legal and other arguments against the development of such weapons. The report says that such robots will have serious challenges meeting tests of military necessity, proportionality and distinction, which are fundamental to the laws of war. Lethal autonomous weapons would also threaten essential non-legal safeguards for civilians. They would not be constrained by the capacity for compassion, which can provide a key check on killing civilians. These arguments were also brought to the fore in the report of the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial and arbitrary execution, Christoff Heyns, presented to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2013.
Of course a key argument for robotic weapons is that using them could reduce military casualties. On the flip side, many fear that leaving the killing to machines might make going to war easier and shift the burden of armed conflict onto civilians. The use of fully autonomous weapons raises serious questions of accountability. Who should be held responsible for any unlawful actions they commit? The military commander? The company that makes the robot? The company that produces the software? The obstacles to holding anyone accountable are huge and would significantly weaken the power of the law to deter future violations.
While there has been some heated debate about the dangers and possible virtues of such weapons, until now it had almost exclusively occurred among scientists, ethicists, lawyers and military. Even as killer robots loom over our future, there had been virtually no public discussion about the ethics and morality of fully autonomous weapons, let alone the implications and impact of their potential use.
But the work of the campaign is changing that and even in the lead-up to the April 23rd launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, interest and public awareness had begun to grow. The press has increasingly begun to report on killer robots with both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal running opinion pieces outlining the moral and legal perils of creating killer robots and calling for public discourse before it is too late.
Lethal robots would completely and forever change the face of war and likely spawn a new arms race. Can humanity afford to follow such a path? We applaud and support the efforts of civil society’s Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to help move us away from a possible future of robotic warfare.
Mairead Maguire (1976)
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980)
President Lech Walesa (1983)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984)
President Oscar Arias Sánchez (1987)
Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992)
President F.W. de Klerk (1993)
President José Ramos-Horta (1996)
Jody Williams (1997)
John Hume (1998)
Shirin Ebadi (2003)
Muhammad Yunus (2006)
Leymah Gbowee (2011)
Tawakkol Karman (2011)
American Friends Service Committee (The Quakers) (1947) – Shan Cretin, General Secretary
Amnesty International (1978) – Salil Shetty, Secretary-General
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (1997) – Sylvie Brigot-Vilain, Executive Director
International Peace Bureau (1910) – Colin Archer, Secretary-General
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1985) – Michael Christ, Executive Director
Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (1995) – Jayathana Dhanapala, President
Film by Dave Donnellan about event held on 7th May in Dublin
Afri was privileged to host a meeting of Voices for Creative Nonviolence members Maya Evans and Ewa Jasiewicz in Dublin last evening. Maya and Ewa were part of a peace delegation to Kabul, where they lived and worked with the Afghan peace volunteers. They gave unique eye witness accounts of the experience of people in Afghanistan from a grassroots perspective, based on their time spent with refugees, street children, widows, activists and civil society groups. Though disturbing in its content, it is very important to hear these perspectives – rarely heard in our mainstream media. They outlined the utter devastation caused by the US led war and its impact on people and the environment. They also gave eye-witness accounts of people and families torn apart as a result of assassination by drones. One of their creative nonviolent responses is a campaign entitled “Fly Kites, Not Drones”. Kite-flying is a national pastime in Afghanistan, but nowadays, unfortunately, when children look towards the skies in Afghanistan they sometimes see death-dealing drones, rather than dancing, colourful kites. Our photo shows Afri intern, Ali Hanaf, wearing one of the “Fly Kites, Not Drones” t-shirts.
Report by Afri Co-ordinator Joe Murray
On 10 April, the Irish launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots took place at Trinity College Dublin with a keynote address by Professor Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, a founder of the global Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Afri—a peace and human rights organisation that opposes war and militarization—held the launch in association with the International Peace Studies Programme of the Irish School of Ecumenics. Other organisations participating in the Irish Campaign to Stop Killer Robots include Amnesty International Ireland and Pax Christi Ireland.
Born in Belfast, Sharkey is a well-known robotics and artificial intelligence expert at the University of Sheffield in the UK. At the event, he called on the Irish government to show leadership on the crucial issue of ensuring human control over targeting and attack decisions by banning fully autonomous weapons.
In a press release, Afri described the launch as timely given the context of moves by some countries towards the use of lethal autonomous robotic weapons. It expressed strong support for call for a comprehensive ban and said it was “delighted” to have Professor Sharkey at the launch of campaign in Ireland.
Afri co-ordinator Joe Murray called for an urgent ban of autonomous weapons, noting “Should we allow the monumentally insane policy of developing fully autonomous weapons to be pursued then even the element of human intervention will be sidelined and we will have war and violence of epic proportions. It is time to wake up and shout stop.” (more…)
On Thursday 10th April Afri, in association with the International Peace Studies Programme, Irish School of Ecumenics, will host the Irish launch of the campaign to Stop Killer Robots in Trinity College Dublin (see details below). The keynote speaker will be Professor Noel Sharkey, a well known robotics and artificial intelligence expert from the University of Sheffield, UK and Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.
Professor Noel Sharkey is calling on the Irish Government to show leadership on the crucial issue of fully autonomous weapons as he visits Dublin for the launch of the Irish campaign to Stop Killer Robots. During his visit to Dublin Professor Sharkey will meet with Afri, Amnesty International Ireland, Pax Christi Ireland as well as with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Defence Forces.
Professor Sharkey stated that “There is great concern that several nations are developing weapons that once activated could select their own target and attack them with violent force without human intervention. These weapons are variously known as Fully Autonomous Weapon (FAWs), Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARS), Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and Killer Robots.
But do we really want to delegate the decision to kill humans to a machine? Is this not crossing a fundamental moral line in the ultimate violation of our human rights and indignity? If we do not act, our silence will let it happen.” Governments must act to ensure that human control over targeting and attack decisions is never relinquished to machines in the future.
Afri, as a peace and human rights organisation which opposes war and militarisation, is delighted to host Professor Noel Sharkey at the launch of the Stop Killer Robots campaign in Ireland. As a member organisation of this campaign, Afri sees this as a timely launch, in the context of moves by some countries towards the use of lethal autonomous robotic weapons and strongly supports the campaign for a comprehensive ban on all such weapons.
Afri’s Co-ordinator, Joe Murray, in calling for an urgent ban of autonomous weapons stated that “The world is already over-armed to an alarming extent, the devastating consequences of which, are seen and experienced day and daily in the form of wholesale injury, death and destruction. What is urgently needed is a de-escalation of this insane obsession with war, weapons and violence. Should we allow the monumentally insane policy of developing fully autonomous weapons to be pursued then even the element of human intervention will be sidelined and we will have war and violence of epic proportions. It is time to wake up and shout stop.”
In May this year, delegates from more than 100 nations will meet at the United Nations in Geneva for the Convention on Conventional Weapons (including Ireland) for a 4 days experts’ meeting to discuss concerns over these dangerous new weapons.
Between them, the US, UK, China, Russia and Israel have already been developing autonomous robot aircraft, submarines, tank-like machines and Naval vessels that could carry weapons. Other nations with high-tech militaries, such as China and Russia, are believed to be moving toward systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines.
“At present robot weapons do not have the capability to comply predictably with International Humanitarian Law. They cannot distinguish between civilians and combatants and they are incapable of making decisions about the proportional use of force” said Professor Sharkey. “If we do not stop autonomous weapons now, we are on a slippery slope towards the full automation of violent force in warfare. This will be a major disruption to international security and no one can predict how it will turn out.”
Professor Sharkey is a principal spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a global coalition of more than 50 non-governmental organizations active in two dozen countries that launched in April 2013. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is calling for a new international treaty to prohibit the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons. In Ireland, participating organisations include Afri, Amnesty International Ireland, and Pax Christi Ireland.
Professor Sharkey said that, “As an Irishman I would be very proud if my homeland was to take up a leadership role in stopping the headlong rush into the automation of death.”
But there are other concerns outside of warfare, as Amnesty International Ireland’s Executive Director, Colm O’Gorman says, “The use of Lethal Autonomous Robots would result in unlawful killings and injuries both in situations of armed conflict, where both international humanitarian law and international human rights law apply, and in law enforcement operations, where international human rights law applies.
International human rights law requires states to only use lethal force law where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury, and when we speak to technologists or government officials about this, none of them can convince us that a machine can actually do that. That’s why we think that any ban or moratorium that comes into force must cover the use of such weapons both in conflict and non-conflict situations.”
Tony D’Costa of Pax Christi Ireland, another Irish NGO involved in the campaign, believes that these weapons cross a totally unacceptable threshold that is most dangerous to our shared morality. “Autonomous weapons have nothing good to offer us”, he says, “They threaten global peace and international security. They can only lead us all further along the path to self-annihilation. They undermine the whole landscape of those basic universal human values which protect innocent civilians from harm in times of war or other conflict.”
The Irish Launch of the Campaign Stop Killer Robots will take place on April 10th 2014, 7pm with a talk about the technical, moral and legal issues by Professor Noel Sharkey.
Irish School of Ecumenics – Loyola Institute building (facing rubgy pitch), Trinity College Dublin. Organised by Afri in association with the International Peace Studies Programme, Irish School of Ecumenics: http://www.afri.ie/news-and-events/irish-launch-of-stop-killer-robots-campaign /
Professor Sharkey will also talk about the issues on Wednesday 9th April at University College Dublin in Lecture Theatre O of the Newman Building, Organised by the UCD Philosophy Society.
An Afri statement, supported by Desmond Tutu, Denis Halliday, Ed Vulliamy and others, calling for an urgent and comprehensive enquiry into the policing of the Corrib Gas project has been rejected by Minister Shatter. Despite what Archbishop Tutu described as the “many disturbing incidences” highlighted in the statement and growing concern in relation to Garda activity in general, Minister Shatter has claimed that a public enquiry is unnecessary.