The 2013 Famine Walk will long remain in the memory of those who were there to experience it. The opening of the gates of Delphi Lodge and the welcome extended by proprietor Michael Wade to walkers carrying the names of those who died on the original walk in 1849 was particularly poignant. The planting of an oak tree and potatoes supplied by Willie and Mary Corduff were powerful symbols of new life while the hauntingly moving words of Declan O’Rourke’s Famine song echoed: ‘you Connacht orphans, bare of foot, who walked ten miles at 7 years/ you took your little sister’s hand and walked her to the poorhouse door/ and when they had but room for one/ you left your little sister there/ and feint with hunger all day long/ you walked the ten miles back again”. There was a profound sense of history being made, of those who had died being fittingly remembered, of at least some wounds being healed.
Earlier we heard moving words from Salome Mbugua recalling recent famines, including in Somalia where over 200,000 died virtually unnoticed by the outside world in the period 2010-2012, and we were inspired by Gary White Deer’s reflection that “as we retrace the steps of the people whose names we bear, we believe that they will be with us on our journey”.
Fergal Anderson foreshadowed the theme of this year’s walk when he spoke of food sovereignty as an idea which “offers us a response to the failure of food systems motivated and driven by profit”. Fergal reminded us that we live in a world where a billion people are hungry and a billion obese; where food has become primarily a ‘business’, controlled by transnational corporations while causing great environmental damage and significantly contributing to climate change. Food, in its current form, is killing us, just as the lack of it kills people in Somalia and elsewhere.
This year we continue this theme with Paul Nicholson from the Basque Country who was part of the core team that established La Via Campesina, an international movement which coordinates peasant organizations of small producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities from Asia, Africa, America, and Europe.
Luis Jalandoni, who supported the mass struggles of sugar workers and peasant settlers in Negros, Central Philippines, in the 1960s and 1970s and spent time in jail as a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship, will speak about the situation in the Philippines. And Emanuela Russo who has years of experience in the food sovereignty movement in Europe and in Ireland will speak about ‘walking the talk’ and putting food sovereignty into practice.
- Joe Murray, Afri Co-ordinator
As in last year’s Walk, walkers will be welcomed at Delphi Lodge where a memorial will be unveiled, a tree planted and a moment’s silence observed in memory of those who died on the original Famine Walk in 1849. Gary White Deer will speak at the unveiling of the memorial.
We are asking each participant to raise at least €20, in sponsorship for this event, to ensure that Afri can continue its important work.
To register online: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/famine-walk-2014-tickets-10659353413
Famine Walk 2014 on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/607067212705715/
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.
Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement in the University of Sheffield and Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control
Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention, raising numerous ethical, legal, moral, policy, technical, and other concerns with fully autonomous weapons. Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield is an unacceptable application of technology. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an international coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to ban fully autonomous weapons.
Organised by Afri in association with the International Peace Studies Programme, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin
In light of ongoing controversies concerning lack of accountability of the Gardaí, and serious shortcomings on the part of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), Afri, supported by the undersigned, wishes to draw renewed attention to serious concerns around the policing of the Corrib Gas Project. Local residents have exhausted all available means of redress – including reports to GSOC, the Minster for Justice and the Garda Commissioner – without receiving satisfactory responses. Therefore, we now call for an independent and comprehensive enquiry into all aspects of the policing of the Corrib Gas Project to seek redress and accountability in relation to abuses which are, sadly, ongoing.
These concerns include, for example, the verbal and physical abuse of Willie Corduff by Gardaí as he took part in a peaceful protest in Glengad on April 22nd and 23rd 2009.This was followed by an attack by a group of men in dark clothes with their faces covered. During this attack Mr. Corduff was struck on the head by a blunt leather-covered object and then beaten until he lost consciousness. Mr. Corduff was removed to hospital and suffered serious pain and distress for many weeks afterwards. This attack occurred while Gardaí were in close proximity and no satisfactory investigation into the attack has ever taken place.
There are concerns also about the sinking of Pat O’Donnell’s boat the Iona Isle, which was boarded by masked men in June 2009. Pat O’Donnell, recipient of a state bravery award in 2013, and his crewman Martin O’Donnell were attacked and held down while the Iona Isle was holed and sunk under cover of darkness. Some hours later men fitting the description of those who boarded the boat were reported to have been picked up in Killala harbour by a transport vehicle used by the Shell Corrib Gas project. Both Mr. O’Donnell and his crewman were later admitted to Castlebar General hospital. (more…)
An Afri film on fracking by award winning film-maker Dearbhla Glynn
The distinguished Guardian and Observer journalist, Ed Vulliamy, paid warm tribute to the community in Erris who have been resisting the imposition of the Gas Corrib project on their community since 2000, when he spoke at Airing Erris 2 in Ceathrú Thaidhg on Sunday, March 16th. Mr. Vulliamy, the journalist who broke the story of Shell’s supplying large quantities of alcohol to Gardaí in Belmullet, said he was inspired by the courage and commitment of the community and the way in which they have ‘ joined the dots’ in terms of the project and its wider implications. He also described the alcohol to Gardaí in Belmullet story as an interesting bagatelle in context of UN Rapporteur’s claim of excessive use of force by Gardaí against peaceful protesters.
Journalist William Hederman outlined examples of media distortion in relation to the project. For example, the ‘rape tapes’ issue was shamefully mishandled by Gardaí and GSOC and those against whom rape was ‘jokingly’ threatened were utterly failed, let down and undermined by elements of the media.
Richie O’Donnell, whose company Atlantic Stream broadcast the event on line, spoke about plans to ‘be our own media’ of which ‘Airing Erris’ is a very good example.
The Future For Shale?
Sunday evening March 9th saw the launch of a short documentary by award winning film maker Dearbhla Glynn in an event organised by Afri. Dearbhla’s work as an independent documentary maker has previously shone a spotlight on human rights injustices in the Congo and Gaza.
Members of Love Leitrim Eddie Mitchell and Chair Susan Carton were at hand for a Questions and Answers session after the film. The audience were also treated to a traditional music session from well known musicians Steve Cooney and Paddy Keenan in the Glens Centre venue.
An unexpected highlight of the evening was when renowned Choctaw artist Gary White Deer made a presentation of his painting entitled “Fracking Mother Earth” to Love Leitrim.
By Dervilla Keegan, Love Leitrim
Sunday, March 16, 2014 – 3pm – 6pm – An Seanscoil, An Ceathrú Thaidhg, Erris, Co. Mayo
This is the second installment of “Airing Erris”, a seminar on the media treatment of the Shell Corrib issue.
The discussion is evolving to examine the relationship between vested interests and the media and their increasing control and interference in civil issues.
Furthermore, could technological advances spell the end of traditional media and our reliance on them for our news?
- Ed Vulliamy (The Observer/Guardian)
- Richie O’ Donnell (Director, The Pipe)
- William Hederman (Journalist)
- Andy Storey (Afri chairperson)
You can also join the conversation by tuning into our livestream event at https://new.livestream.com/AtlanticIRL/AiringErris and follow the event on twitter using #atlantic.
More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1385124438428044/