Gary’s memoir “Touched by Thunder” was published in 2012 and Afri is pleased to co-host its first launch outside Dublin in association with the Glens Centre, Manorhamilton. Simultaneously, there will be an exhibition of his paintings featuring among others “An Arrow Through Time”, an artistic representation of the Choctaw donation, “When Corporate Spuds Came to Ireland” and “Fracking”, a graphic illustration of the potentially devastating effects of shale gas exploration.
Gary White Deer has represented the Irish-Choctaw Famine link on many occasions in Ireland and beyond.
To book: http://www.theglenscentre.com/
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.
Famine Walk 2013: Opening The Gates – Sowing New Seeds
For the first time since its inception in 1988, the Afri Famine Walk will complete the journey from Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge – the exact route of the original ‘journey of horror’ of March 30th/31st 1849. The immediate cause of what became known as ‘the death march’ was the news that two ‘commissioners’, Colonel Hogrove and Captain Primrose, would arrive in Louisburgh and certify as paupers the people who had gathered to meet them, thus entitling them to a small ration of meal each. Several hundred people assembled in Louisburgh but the commissioners failed to appear, having decided to see the people in Delphi Lodge instead. The people set out on their 11 mile walk along mountain road and pathway in driving snow and bitter cold. When they finally did manage to meet the commissioners they were refused either food or tickets of admission to the workhouse and so they began their weary, dispirited return journey. Many – some say hundreds – died along the way, many of whom were buried where they fell.
On May 18th, 2013 people will again assemble in Louisburgh and walk to Delphi Lodge carrying with them the names of those definitely known to have died on the same route in 1849 – Catherine Grady, Mary McHale, James Flynn, Mrs. Dalton and her son and daughter and the Dillon family – as well as the names of people who have died in modern famines throughout the world. This time the gates of Delphi Lodge will open in welcome. Symbols of life, a tree and potatoes (of the non-genetically modified variety), will be planted.
The Famine Walk is a solemn act of respect, remembrance and solidarity with the forgotten people who died as a result of poverty and hunger in Ireland and continue to die throughout the world today. The welcome being extended to walkers by Delphi Lodge this year is rich in symbolism – representing a much needed ‘opening of the gates’.
In the words of Michael Wade, Manager of Delphi Lodge, “By opening our gates to the Famine Walk, Delphi Lodge is acknowledging our part in what happened in 1849, instead of ignoring it, while showing to the world what we are today: an Irish country house which offers a warm welcome to all.”
Governments, corporations and financial institutions continue to close their gates to the poor and needy of our world. Excess of wealth sits incongruously alongside extreme poverty throughout the world, including in Ireland. Monumental and often illegitimate debts are loaded onto the shoulders of those least able to pay. A grossly dysfunctional economic system ensures the consumption of 80% of the world’s resources by 20% of its people. There is no lack of food in our world today, nor was there in the Ireland of the 1840s – rather the problem is who has access to it. The profit motive continues to ensure that cash crops for export often take priority over the production of food for people in need. In addition, 30% to 50% of the food that is produced never gets eaten and half the food purchased in Europe and the US is thrown away.
In 1849 the gates of Delphi Lodge were closed to the Famine walkers. In 2013 these gates will open to walkers bearing the names of those who died. The walk will represent a demand to governments and institutions in Ireland and around the world to ‘open the gates’ to the marginalized and excluded of our world and to make food sovereignty, the elimination of poverty and hunger and the preservation of the planet our number one global priorities.
- Joe Murray, Afri Coordinator
Walkers will be welcomed at Delphi Lodge where a tree will be planted and a moment’s silence will be observed in memory of those who died on the original Famine Walk in 1849.
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 download the 2013 brochure, go here: Famine Walk Brochure 2013
High levels of European military spending played a key role in the unfolding EU debt crisis and continues to undermine efforts to resolve the debt crisis, alleges a new report by Transnational Institute and the Dutch Campaign against the Arms Trade.
The report, Guns, Debt and Corruption: Military spending and the EU crisis, demonstrates how military budgets across Europe have been largely protected, at a time of severe social cuts. EU’s military expenditure totalled 194 billion euro in 2010, enough to pay off Italy, Greece and Spain’s annual deficit. The latest data released today by the Stockholm International Peace Institute suggests little change in these overall trends.
The report unveils how high levels of military spending in countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Spain at the epicentre of the euro crisis played a significant role in their debt crises. Much of the military spending was tied to arms sales by creditor countries like Germany and France.
In Portugal and Greece, several major arms deals are being investigated for serious irregularities. Yet creditor countries continue to hawk new arms deals to debtor countries whilst demanding ever more stringent cuts in social services.
The report argues that resolving the debt crisis will require cancellation of the debt tied to corrupt arms deals and a redirection of military spending towards social needs. It highlights research that spending on education and mass transit creates double the number of jobs as investments in defence.
Report author Frank Slijper said: “Global military spending was still at a record €1.3 trillion in 2011 despite the global economic crisis. Even in Europe most countries still spend more than ten years ago. The only austerity that Europe really needs is one imposed on the military and the arms industry.”
“It is time for Brussels and EU member states to publicly acknowledge the elephant in the current EU debt crisis and that is the role of military spending. At a time of harsh cuts in social services, it is morally unjustifiable to spend money on weapons that should be invested in creating jobs and tackling poverty.”
The report Guns, Debt and Corruption has been released in the EU as campaigners in around 30 countries held over 100 events worldwide to protest record levels of military spending and to call for resources to be reallocated to anti-poverty and environmental sustainability programmes. For details of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, see: http://www.gdams.org
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