Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of environmental, development and faith-based organisations, has today said the Government is operating double standards when it comes to the draft climate legislation. The Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, tasked with consulting and reporting on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill before it goes through the Houses of the Oireachtas, is failing to provide stakeholders and the public with an inclusive and transparent process.
Stop Climate Chaos, as well as some members of the Committee, has been calling for the publication of the submissions received by the Committee at the end of April, a request that has been flatly rejected by the Chair of the Committee. With the hearings due to be held in two weeks time, there is no indication of who will be invited to present to the Committee or what their proposals are.
Ciara Kirrane of Trócaire said ‘We understood that the Joint Committee was eager and enthusiastic to work on the Climate Bill, that they looked forward to engaging with a range of stakeholders and having a real impact on the legislation. However, the impression we are now getting is very different, as if meaningful debate on the Bill is no longer a goal of the Committee. This process lacks any transparency and is without credibility.’
David Healy of Oxfam said ‘Making the submissions publicly available would allow a greater level of engagement and scrutiny by interested parties and the public. The whole point of this process is to encourage positive and fruitful dialogue with the range of views that exist on this issue across society. It is an opportunity to build consensus, understanding and a sense of participation.’
Last Friday, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government launched a public consultation on the Aarhus Convention. The Convention is about ensuring meaningful public participation in environmental decision-making. Judith Turbyne of Progressio said ‘In his statement Minister Hogan recognised the role the public, including environmental NGOs, can play in environmental protection and decision-making. If the precedent being set by the current process is anything to go by, the prospects for the implementation of Aarhus are dismal’.
Stop Climate Chaos also point to the lack of interest the Government has shown in listening to public opinion on climate legislation to date. Last year 623 citizens responded to a public consultation, over 80% of whom felt it was very important to set statutory emission reduction targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050. No such targets have been included in the draft legislation, confirming what Stop Climate Chaos say is a ‘disregard for peoples’ views on how to tackle the climate crisis’.
Report by Andy Storey
The words of the Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam came to mind as I listened to the contributions here today:
‘I think despair has to be earned. If you were to say to me the world is damaged beyond repair, suitable only for the rubbish heap, I would want to see a record of what you did to change things, to repair it. You are not allowed to make that statement unless you have tried a hundred times to make things better — if you have failed again and again and again I might be willing to respect your opinion. I can’t take empty complaints seriously. The fact of the matter is that if you are the kind of person who has tried to alter things a hundred times, you would still say, “Let me try one more time.” You would never give up. Only the complacent ones, the bourgeoisie, the privileged ones, would say, “Throw this thing called life onto the rubbish heap.” ‘
I was also reminded of the words of a relative of mine who, upon hearing that I was spending much of yet another weekend doing campaigning work, asked: ‘why do you keep doing this, when it doesn’t change anything?’. Well, as we have heard here today, it does change things, sometimes at least. But even if it did not, the journey itself is often its own reward – for many of us here today this is where we enjoy being, where we feel at home. And we are here to, as Rose Kelly put it today, help find out how better to traverse that journey safe and well. We agree then with Abjata Khalif when he says that ’activism is a calling’, albeit few of us have been called to do anything that requires his courage and his ability (again using the words of Rose) to ‘live in right relation’ with his community and his environment.
Catherine O’Reilly, when recounting her experience of the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike of the 1980s, said today that ‘I would do it again in the morning’. Thinking back on the various campaigns I have been involved in, I would also certainly do most of them again (though I might want to do some of them better), albeit none of them demanded Catherine’s fortitude – her perseverance in wearing a ‘cloak of integrity’ (another of Rose’s images). And Catherine is living proof that the struggle can be won, that a small group of people can make an enormous difference. One way to sustain our activism is to celebrate such victories, a point made also today by Molly Walsh, especially when they are victories against the odds.
And today we have heard much about the scale of those odds – the strength and size of the barriers that confront us. These may be internalized barriers that arise, as Michael Ewing put it today, when we become so immersed in our own issues that we can no longer work well with other people. These may be the barriers created by the attenuated nature of democracy here in Ireland, a point also emphasized by Michael. Or these may be the extreme barriers described by Abjata in Kenya – appalling state violence and other human rights abuses.
But we have all here today been inspired by the way in which Abjata drew his own inspiration from even those dire circumstances and found ways to defuse conflict through simple communication techniques and resource sharing arrangements. Abjata talked of the usage of solar lamps in northern Kenya, a practical tool to boost health, education and human development in general. But the lamp also has symbolic value (akin, perhaps, to Tolkein’s Light of Arundel, as invoked by Rose) – it is a symbol of hope, sustainability and solidarity. Today we also planted a tree and that is likewise both a practical step and a symbolic action, symbolizing life, commitment and the leap of faith that is always necessary to stave off a despair that may be ever-looming but is never earned.
A short film made by Dave Donnellan on behalf of Afri to highlight the volume of military traffic through Shannon and the implications this has for Ireland as a supposedly “neutral” country. Afri board member, John Maguire, describes Shannon: “as much a war port as an airport”.
There was a dramatic photo-call at Dáil Éireann on Easter Monday highlighting opposition to what the justice and peace organisation Afri is calling “the shameful handing over of Shannon Airport by the Irish Government to the US war machine”. Actors Donal O’Kelly, Raymond Keane and Dylan Tighe – dressed as a US soldier, a Guantanamo detainee and an Irish politician – marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by dramatically enacting outside the Dáil what Afri coordinator Joe Murray calls “Ireland’s fawning welcome to illegal warriors and its cold indifference to illegal rendition for torture”.
The actors dramatised how ‘official Ireland’ warmly embraces the US military, while turning a blind eye to the kidnap and torture of civilians. “This may seem like a ‘stunt’”, said Mr Murray, “but its aim is deadly serious – to use the medium of drama to highlight what standard media coverage of the issue now routinely ignores, namely that we have made ourselves complicit in war crimes and the worst violations of human rights”.
Note: Afri Statement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War
“As we embark on Ireland’s own decade of remembrance it is crucial to reflect on the last decade and more of complicity in disastrous and immoral onslaughts on Afghanistan and Iraq. Even if these wars were not illegal – lacking UN authorisation – they have proved catastrophic for the populations and environments involved and in their bitter legacy of resentment and enmity. As a Security Council member in 2001-02 Ireland failed utterly to express our Constitution’s commitment to “the pacific settlement of international disputes” (Art. 29.2), thus abetting the undermining of UN authority on foot of unfounded claims about weapons of mass destruction. Our failure to confront the so-called War on Terror is also revealed in the indifference of successive governments, and the Garda, to the evidence of Ireland’s involvement with illegal rendition flights for torture.
This complicity has been detailed by Shannonwatch, and criticised by the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and, this year, the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative. The call from our own Human Rights Council in 2007 for an effective inspection regime for all relevant flights has been met with callous indifference. The new Chief Executive of Shannon Airport has recently declared that military traffic “has been in the DNA of Shannon for many years… [;] it’s lucrative and we are certainly going to go after it as much as possible.” This obscene metaphor blithely ignores the real genetic legacy of war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam. And no-one checks whether equally appalling weaponry, such as depleted uranium, currently flows through Shannon’s bloodstream.
Official Ireland’s line is ‘whatever you do, say nothing, hear nothing, see nothing.’ But in the real world, DNA is a complex of different strands. Ireland’s ‘DNA’ contains a vital strand of peacekeeping, non-aggression and friendly co-operation. This has been shamefully suppressed by our political establishment and police authorities, all-too-conscious of their imagined role among the high and mighty, all-too-contemptuous of basic human rights at home and abroad. Our conniving in illegal aggression and the denial of human rights is a lamentable stain on Ireland’s role in world affairs. The continuing pressure for further aggression in Iran and elsewhere makes it urgent that we as Irish citizens hold our government to account, not merely to correct a vast historic injustice but to prevent even more death, destruction and denial in the future.”
Saturday 20th April, 10am – 6.15pm, Mount Druid, Castletown Geoghegan, County Westmeath.
This event is aimed at activists and those interested in the preservation of the planet and seeks to explore the elements that enable sustainable activism at a personal, group and movement level; and to promote an increased awareness of the global and justice dimensions of environmental issues.
It will take place in Castletown Geoghegan, County Westmeath, in a venue close to the Hill of Uisneach, traditionally believed to be the place where the four provinces of Ireland meet. There will be contributions from activists from previous campaigns – such as the Dunnes Stores Strike and the anti-nuclear campaign – together with an input from Abjata Khalif from Afri’s partner organisation, the Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network. There will be space for participants to share their own stories and examine what helps to keep the fires of activism burning.
In order that we can arrange food and transport we are asking participants to book in advance. You can do this by booking online at uisneach.eventbrite.com or by downloading the brochure here and returning the booking form (last two pages) to Afri.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion, a new report has highlighted continuing uncertainties over the impact and legacy of the use of 400 tonnes of depleted uranium (DU) weapons in Iraq. The report reveals the extent of DU’s use in civilian areas for the first time.
In a State of Uncertainty published by Dutch peace organisation IKV Pax Christi, has sought to do what the US has so far refused to do – reveal how widely the weapons were used in Iraq, and in what circumstances. It also analyses the costs and technical burdens associated with DU use, arguing that a decade on, many contamination problems remain unresolved – leaving civilians at risk of chronic DU exposure.
There will be a public event on Fracking on Monday the 11th of March at 6.30pm in the Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street, Dublin 2, with Canadian scientist Jessica Ernst, organised by Friends of the Earth, No Fracking Dublin and Afri.
Jessica Ernst, a 55-year-old Canadian scientist with 30 years oil and gas industry experience, is suing the Alberta government and gas producer EnCana for unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing. She is in Ireland on a speaking tour that includes visits to areas that will be potentially affected by fracking in the North and West of the country.
Jessica’s presentation is a thorough and shocking story of regulators failure to protect health and the environment. Her lawsuit methodically details how Alberta’s two key groundwater regulators, Alberta Environment and the ERCB, “failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicised.”
This event is relevant to those who want to prevent fracking in Ireland, and who would like to find out more about the issues involved.
To book for this event, go here: http://www.eventbrite.ie/event/4001927874
Afri welcomes the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, in which she said she was concerned about “the situation faced by defenders and activists defending the right to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, particularly those peacefully protesting against the Corrib Gas project … There is tangible frustration amongst local residents who are standing up for their rights and feel powerless, isolated and have lost trust in public institutions”, she said.
Her report is strongly critical of the way in which the Gardai are policing the project and of the lack of adequate redress via the Garda Ombudsman’s office.
Coincidentally, a play dealing with the social and civil rights issues surrounding the Shell Corrib gas project is running this week, Thursday to Saturday in the Viking Theatre @ Connollys The Sheds, Clontarf, at 6.30pm (6pm Sat). In it, Ambrose Keogh, the Shell PR executive who named their Tunnel Boring Machine Fionnuala, is put under geas (spell) by Fionnuala of the Children of Lir to tell all he knows about Shell’s operations in Erris. The play is a combination of bog magic realism and factual documentary, set against the background of the installation of the TBM Fionnuala in the Shell site in Aughoose, Co. Mayo, in August last year.
“Cuts a swathe through Shell/State propaganda” Hot Press; “O’Kelly performs superbly” Sunday Independent.
One of the information sources used by the Special Rapporteur was the Ailliliú Fionnuala programme/booklet issued by Afri.
1. To read the UN Special Rapporteur’s Report see here: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-47-Add-3_en.pdf especially page 13 onwards.
2. To book “Ailliliú Fionnuala” contact Viking Theatre Dublin on 087 112 9970 or email email@example.com
Thursday Feb 28th is a date that could be etched in Irish memory. It is the deadline date gas companies have to submit applications for an exploration licence. Currently two of these companies have applied. If they are granted rights for an exploration license, many commentators advise that this would pave the way for the introduction of hydraulic fracturing into Ireland. The nature of the licensing terms are difficult to get out of. Companies also gain the opportunity to build their fracking infrastructure for this controversial industry.
To mark this date, a delegation from Love Leitrim are coming to the Dail to ask the ministers instead, to make a positive stance on behalf of their people and grant a licence not to frack Ireland. They will be outside the gates from Midday to 3pm. The Frack Free Ireland campaign has been rolled out and people have been asked to send in their licence request for their right to have unpolluted water, their right to live in a rural area, right to maintain and safeguard indigenous industry, and fundamentally the right to their health and the health of future generations. The campaign has captured the imagination of the public and high profile artists with backing of Christy Moore, Steve Wickham, and Glen Hansard who have pledged their support. Eleanor Shanley of De Danann fame, Rossa O Snodaigh Of Kila and Leitrim GAA stars are others who have signed the Application not to frack Ireland.
At the moment the decision currently lies with the government whether to frack Ireland or not. While research has been commissioned it does not consider public health and does not have public health expertise on the steering group guiding it.
The brainchild of Irish tourist provider Nuala Mc Nulty, the Application for a frack free Ireland pleads with the government to make a powerful positive choice on behalf of its people and immediately halt any further licences.
“Throughout this process people have been forgotten about. We want to put people back into the centre of decision making. It’s as simple as this. We are asking the Irish government, Are you with your people or not? We need them to show us they are with us by halting any further licenses’
Love Leitrim wants Feb 28th to be the beginning of a show of solidarity by the government to its people at home and abroad, and that date to be remembered for all the right reasons.
or for further background on the campaign
Justice and peace organisation, Afri, today called the government publication of the heads of a Climate Bill as deeply disappointing as it fails to meet key requirements for the effective tackling of climate change.
Afri is a member of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition which has repeatedly called on the government to publish a strong bill which has legally binding emission reduction targets, five-year carbon budgets that meet up to these targets; carbon targets to be met domestically, without purchasing overseas carbon credits, and the establishment of an independent climate change commission to advise Government, with the power to publish its own reports. (more…)