Shannonwatch Press release
The Department of Transport has revealed that in 2014 a total of 272 flights were given permits to take weapons or explosives through Shannon Airport. In response to a freedom of information request by Shannonwatch they confirmed that the majority of the flights were taking US troops between military bases and locations in the Middle East. The information also shows that US troop carriers and aircraft with machine guns, rocket motors and other war material are routinely allowed to fly through Irish airspace. Again the majority of these are flying to or from US military bases around the world.
The permits are requested by airline operators under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order. Close to twenty requests were refused in 2014 but the Department would not reveal where these were from or why they were refused. It would only state that they were refused on the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The information provided by the Department shows the alarming level of support that Ireland is giving to US military operations overseas” said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. “Over 550 permits were granted to airlines carrying troops, weapons and explosives to their forward operating bases. There would seem to be an overwhelming bias towards facilitating flights from the US and other NATO countries. How can our government claim we are in any way neutral when this is happening?” (more…)
Around thirty people gathered at the Guild Hall on Friday, July 31st 2015 to take part in Derry’s first Famine walk.
Deputy Mayor of Derry city and Strabane District council, Thomas Kerrigan of the DUP officially launched the walk which was also addressed by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Helen Henderson, director of St. Columb’s Park House, spoke about the importance of the walk and the danger of history repeating itself. She warned especially about the dangers of TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, regarding things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations and has been described as “an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Following the opening speeches, walkers proceeded from Guildhall Square across the Peace Bridge to the Londonderry Poor Law Union Workhouse, located on Glendermott Road, the Waterside. First opened in 1840, Derry’s workhouse didn’t close its doors until 1948. The Walk had been called “The Longest Walk”, referring to the 13 steps to the workhouse master’s quarters that starving families once had to climb to ask for admittance. (more…)
Report by Gary White Deer
They began in late May of this year on a Saturday afternoon, 85 walkers starting from the old Famine storehouse in Falcarragh, the Afri banner carried by a South African and Ghanian living in Donegal, people all flowing together through the town and then surging on past the edge of things, out by Saint Finian’s. Minutes before, a flower basket had been lowered from the same storehouse window that grain had once been sold from during Famine times, grain sold to waiting families who were starving.
The flowers were meant for the mass Famine grave at Dunfanaghy, a small yellow bouquet passed from hand to hand. The air was cool and thick and the clouds brimmed with the smell of rain. The walkers proceeded in a long and winding line as they came onto the back roads and laneways, curving and twisting before Muckish Mountain, moving slowly out of the Gaeltacht toward a distant Famine workhouse. They were from all over Ireland, but many were from Northwest Donegal and so Ulster Gaelic was spoken up and down the winding line. (more…)
Dublin launch of an Afri development education resource by
featuring 5 short plays on global justice themes with suggestions for follow up activities suitable for school groups, youth theatres, college students and others
And release of ‘Turned Away’ – a specially composed instrumental piece by the multi-talented
“A beautifully evocative melody” – Tom Sparkes
Live music with Imogen Gunner & Friends and reflections by Pete Mullineaux
Imogen’s CD and Pete’s book will be available to buy on the night.
Please book in advance: Tel: 01 8827581 or email: email@example.com
Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools
Afri recently launched an appeal to artists to help raise awareness about global warming and climate change – especially in the lead in to the UN Summit on Climate in Paris in December 2015. Artists responded including Damien Dempsey, Liam O’Maonlai, Donal O’Kelly, Noirín Ní Riain, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan, Pete St. John and many more.
As part of this call Afri brought together Pete St. John, composer of the famous song ‘The Fields of Athenry’, Ugandan singer, Justine Nantale, and the children and teachers of Gaelscoil Cholmcille in Dublin to perform Pete’s song ‘Waltzing on Borrowed time’. This video (filmed by Dave Donnellan and RoJ Whelan) captures some of the magic of the occasion.
Please share widely.
Stop Climate Chaos welcomed the statement by Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly TD, that he will bring forward amendments to the Government’s Climate Bill. The Minister was speaking during the Committee Stage debate, where the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill passed without amendment. Several opposition amendments were withdrawn following assurances from the Minister he will consider the issues raised by TDs ahead of the next stage in the Dáil.
Commenting, Ciara Kirrane, Coordinator of Stop Climate Chaos Coordinator, said
“The Minister’s commitment to amending the Climate Bill is welcome. Now we need to see his proposed changes. The final Bill needs to make clear how much we’ll reduce emissions by 2050, guarantee the independence of the Advisory Council, and ensure Ireland pursues the principle of climate justice.”
Before the Committee’s debate Stop Climate Chaos presented the Minister with a petition from more than 5,000 people calling on him to bring forward amendments that would strengthen the Climate Bill and to ensure it is passed into law before the summer recess. (more…)
One of the highlights of Afri’s year is the Annual Doolough Famine Walk and 2015 was no exception. The walk encapsulates many elements, from the tragic story which it commemorates to the reality of continuing famine and food inequality today; the local and the global, connecting Ireland, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the world. The breath taking beauty of the landscape and the way in which Delphi Lodge has now embraced the story adds another dimension. East Timor was the focus of the 1993 walk, which was led by Tom Hyland and Timorese students Dino Rai and Jose Lopez. The walk is also a generator of ideas and images, a place to plant trees and potatoes, to sow seeds to sing songs and recall stories.
In May 1994, Don Mullan and I left from the walk to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. On that occasion Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and his wife Sunandra had just led the Famine Walk and unveiled a memorial to Mahatma and Michael Davitt in the famine graveyard in Swinford. Gandhi, of course had strong links with South Africa, spending many of his formative years there before returning to India to lead the independence movement.
In 2015, I left the Famine Walk to fly to Dili, capital of the first newly independent state of the 21st century, Timor Leste. I last visited Timor in 1999, as part of a human rights delegation including Fr. Michael Lapsley and Robbie McVeigh from Derry. We met with many groups and individuals on that occasion including the leader of the resistance Xanana Gusmao, who was in prison in Jakarta at that time. Soon after he was released and a referendum was held in which the people overwhelmingly voted for independence.
In less than a week’s time the Climate Bill will go through another crucial stage in the Dáil. This is make or break…. It could be the last chance we have to fix the Bill before it becomes law. Tell Minister Alan Kelly you want to see the amendments he promised now.
The Minister has told the Dáil he is considering possible amendments to the Bill. We need to make sure the changes he makes are the right ones, by clearly indicating how much we plan to reduce emissions by 2050, by ensuring that the independence of the Expert Advisory Council is explicitly guaranteed and by committing to climate justice as a guiding principle.
Last week UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Ireland to do more to tackle climate change. He called on Ireland to “align its climate effort with its admirable engagement on hunger”. It’s time fo r the Minister to step up to this challenge. Ask Alan Kelly to strengthen the Climate Bill and keep his promise to have the Bill passed into law before the summer break.
It’s almost three months since the draft law was first debated in the Dáil and we’re still waiting for the Government’s proposed changes. Time is ticking and the crucial UN summit in Paris is now less than six months away. Countries like Ireland, with high emissions and higher historical responsibility, have to demonstrate a credible commitment to climate action if we are to build the trust required for a global deal in Paris.
The only thing that has kept the Climate Bill on track to become law at all is the continuous pressure from campaigners like you. We need one last push to make it a climate law we can be proud of. Please sign the petition now and share it with your friends.
Afri is a member of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. For more about Stop Climate Chaos, visit their website here.
Whenever Rosemary Grain looks out her office window, she steps through a time portal. Below her third storey office, hungry families once gathered holding half a crown. A bag was lowered from the window, and the coin was placed inside. Then food was lowered back down through the same window. Why the bag? So workers wouldn’t catch Famine fever.
Now called The Yard, previously Mc Carthy’s store, the building in Falcarragh where Rosemary works was once a Famine storehouse. “The starving waited anxiously at a spot near the front door for the food to be lowered in a bag from where my office is on the top floor. Those distributing the food were terrified of catching any diseases from the poor famine victims of the parish. I often look out the window and think of the desperation our ancestors must have gone through.and how fortunate we are to live here now,” says Rosemary, administrator and Information worker at The Yard, which houses Pobail le Cheile Community Development (LCDP).
At the end of this month, the old Famine storehouse will host “In the Footsteps of our Ancestors” a Famine commemoration walk, which will leave from The Yard and head to the Workhouse Museum in Dunfanaghy. “It’s a great way to commemorate the famine. The involvement of Waylon Gary White Deer is very symbolic because Choctaw Indians, sent money to the Irish during the famine. The Choctaws themselves had suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s – the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland.” Rosemary adds. (more…)
By Maitet Ledesma
They called it the GREAT IRISH FAMINE. But there was nothing great about the 1850s famine in Ireland. The famine was a man-made disaster. People died of starvation because the landlords owned the land. The local population who tilled the land did not own it, and therefore, had no access to it in order to grow food to feed themselves and their families.
And while the landlords enriched themselves and lived in the lap of luxury by exporting the food produced from their land by disenfranchised peasants, more than 1 million people were left to die of starvation or disease – to put that in today’s context, an equivalent loss of around 40 million people in the US.
The population at that time was further decimated as entire families, even whole villages left the country en masse because this was their only survival option. In 1847 alone 250,000 people left the country and over a six-year period, more than 2 million were forced to migrate.
The Great Irish Famine must be remembered as the ‘Genocide Famine’ and the keepers of this collective memory, the people of Ireland, must call on those historically responsible to render just retribution. (more…)
The purpose of the walk is to honour the sacred memory of Ireland’s Famine dead; to heal the wounds of Ireland’s Famine through living remembrance; to raise food sovereignty awareness; and to place the Great Famine in solidarity with those who yet suffer from lack of food, water, shelter and other human rights.
With guest speakers, music, poetry. Tea, coffee and refreshments on arrival (bring own water and snacks for the walk). Shuttle bus available for the return journey.
Social afterwards in The Gweedore Bar, Falcarragh, Saturday 30th May from 9pm.
To see who’s going see facebook event page here
The Irish-Choctaw Famine Link
In the spring of 1847, ordinary Choctaw people donated $170 (€8,000) from ‘meagre resources’ to the victims of an Gorta Mór, the Great Irish Famine. Described as an act of ‘one poor, dispossessed people reaching out to help another’ the money was used to buy wheat for Ireland. This unique Famine link is an ongoing legacy of solidarity and remembrance between the Irish and Choctaw peoples.
Famine History Presentation Talk on Friday 29th May, 8pm in The Yard, Falcarragh (The Old Famine Storehouse)
Organised by Afri and supported by Concern
The theme of our education programme is ‘Just a Second’ and it focuses on the absurdity of the choices that we make – or that are made on our behalf by governments and corporations. For example, it is a fact that in excess of €40,000 is spent every second on war and weapons while a billion people suffer from hunger, lack of clean water and adequate housing. Recently the Afri team visited Galway as part of the ‘Just A Second!’ schools project, holding a number of events including a Famine Walk to the Celia Griffin Memorial in Salthill, a book launch and a development education seminar. This short film (above) produced by Dave Donnellan gives a flavour of that visit.
A second film (below – also by Dave Donnellan) focuses on the launch of an educational resource (Just A Second! Exploring Global Issues Through Drama and Theatre written by Pete Mullineaux in the course of the project) which offers teachers, school groups and facilitators an accessible guide to exploring global issues through drama and theatre. This book is available to buy from Afri – please contact Afri (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01 8827563) to find out more.
The third film in the Just A Second! series is made by RoJ Whelan and this takes a look at an event held at the Celia Griffin memorial in Salthill as well as a development education workshop, which was the finale of the project. It includes contributions from Mark Kennedy (who championed the idea of the Celia Griffin memorial), Choctaw artist Gary White Deer, Sakhile Heron (South Africa), music, graphic harvesting, the words of Malala Yousafzai, as well as reflections from teachers and students involved in the project.
Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools
Crisis comes from the Greek – krisis – which means “decision”. Our world is currently experiencing a nexus of crises – climatic, economic, financial, social and political, which are forcing us as citizens and human beings to decide in what kind of world we want to live.
All over Ireland, people are also thinking about how the last twenty years have transformed us, and of what the next twenty may bring. On the ground people are already putting into practice alternatives which offer a really sustainable future for our people and our planet.
Above all, this is true in our food and agriculture systems. We are finding better ways of producing food for people, of nurturing our land and our animals. Of putting life back into communities by rebuilding food systems which have been lost between the many links of the industrial and corporate food chain. Of providing livelihoods, of working with and not against nature. We are doing this in the knowledge that across the world, people are coming together to do the very same thing, and that we are not alone.
We know that the future of our society on this planet will be defined by the choices made by its people. It is up to us to define the kind of future we want for our land and our food.
This 15th of May, we want to build a vision for a new direction for food and agriculture in Ireland, and beyond, including:
How our food is produced – how we farm, who farms, how we eat, what we farm, what we eat, who eats it
How our food is distributed – where we get our food, who controls our food supply, who buys it, who sells it, who processes it
How we manage our commons – who owns our land, our water, our seeds, our resources, who manages them, who benefits
How we shape our public policies – how are they formed, where are they formed, how do they impact us, who benefits, who doesn’t
Admission free but booking essential. Tea/coffee will be provided – lunch not included.
Please confirm attendance by emailing email@example.com or phone 01 8827563.
Find out who’s going on facebook here.
Organised by Afri and Food Sovereignty Ireland
Supported by Trócaire
Many themes have been explored in the Famine Walk over the past 27 years. The Philippines was the focus of the first ever famine walk as Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison, outlined the experience of living under the Marcos military dictatorship. Significantly, the Philippines is again a focus of this year’s walk as Maitet Ledesma updates us on the current situation there, with particular reference to the devastating impacts of militarism and global warming.
The issue of food and famine has always been a central theme of the walk, as it is this year. As nations continue to turn to war as a first resort, in many cases, food security is further threatened, global warming is intensified and corporate control of food is extended, despite the fact that small-scale producers remain the mainstay of global food supplies. Food sovereignty is the common ground on which the realities and hopes of many of these small producers meet. (more…)
Stop Climate Chaos has today expressed deep disappointment at the government’s refusal to take on board concerns about the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, which today passed Second Stage. This is the first time a Bill designed to tackle climate change has passed Second Stage.
Commenting this evening, Ciara Kirrane, Coordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, said:
“We are deeply disappointed at the government’s unwillingness to listen to concerns expressed not only by Stop Climate Chaos but by their own party colleagues. Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers have voiced their concerns with aspects of the Bill in the Dáil in recent weeks but the Minister’s statement today clearly shows that none of these issues will be addressed.
“The Government is also ignoring the advice from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Seven of the ten proposals made by the Committee which require changes to the Bill have been disregarded by Government.
“These include some of the most important proposals for actually tackling climate change, such as a long term emissions reduction target and an independent advisory council. Minister Kelly has argued that setting national targets would interfere with the EU process but this just doesn’t stand up. Other member states have managed to pass climate laws with long-term targets, the most recent of which is Finland which passed a climate law earlier this month with an 80% emissions reduction target for 2050. If the Government is going to reject such important recommendations they must find a stronger rational for doing so.”
As the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill now progresses to Committee Stage Stop Climate Chaos is hopeful that amendments that will strengthen the Bill will be accepted by government. (more…)
Film produced & edited by Dave Donnellan, also including filming by Muireann De Barra
“I feel it is my duty as an Irish artist to follow the example of Margaretta D’Arcy and make a stand against the shocking situation of Shannon’s continuing use as an instrument of war.
As St. Patrick’s Day looms I want to help focus attention on the fact that the shamrock is stained with the blood of hundreds of thousands of lives taken by the U.S military campaign, of which Shannon is an essential component. Is this the kind of Ireland we want to celebrate?
The sight of Irish politicians celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S is grotesque while human rights abuses and death continue to be facilitated by the Irish government’s gift of Shannon airport to the U.S war machine. I hope my actions can in some way draw attention to the shameful complicity of the Irish government in mass murder”.
– Dylan Tighe, musician, writer and actor
“At this time of year when a bowl of shamrock is handed over in the White House as a symbol of the gombeen attitude of our leaders, it’s vital to challenge the hypocrisy of the neutral Irish state letting its second airport be used as a warport by the US. How many rendition kidnap flights flew through Shannon with prisoners now in Guantanamo for more than a decade without trial, many force-fed for months? We’ll never know because military flights were not and are not inspected.
I feel compelled to use whatever artistic skills I might have to challenge glib acceptance of the use of Shannon by the US army, as a gesture of solidarity with those far-off communities suffering attack by US armed forces with the complicit aid of Shannon Airport. Not in my name, not with my compliance”.
– Donal O’Kelly, writer, actor and director.
“During the 1840’s a new disease was found in the Irish potato crop… By May 1846 the price of potatoes in Carlow had risen to fifteen shillings per barrel. This was about three times the normal rate. The situation continued to worsen rapidly. At the end of 1846 the crop had completely failed and no potatoes were available in the County” – The Famine in Carlow
IT Carlow chaplain, Fr Martin Smith spoke about the profound significance of this famine graveyard, situated in the grounds of the college. He stressed the need to be silent in this sacred place, to become aware of those buried there and to embrace the reality that these were real people, as real as the students who are now attending the college, largely unaware of the extraordinary history associated with the ground on which they tread. Church of Ireland Minister, Reverend Williams lives close to the graveyard and referred to the strong presence that can be felt there. Three to four thousand Famine victims lie buried together in Carlow Town, many of them children. The veil is thin in such places.
“The Poor Relief Extension Act 1847 empowered Guardians to grant relief at their own discretion to the aged and infirm and to widows with two or more dependent children. The Guardians were also empowered to grant food aid to able-bodied persons for limited periods… In Carlow the guardians were firmly against such measures. This attitude gave rise to the overcrowded conditions in Carlow Workhouse from late 1846” – The Famine in Carlow
When the potato blight hit Ireland, only the lumper variety was affected. Over one million men, women and children died because they had been forced to depend on a single crop, the lumper potato, though enough food was being exported out of Ireland to have sustained them. If ignored, such epic human trauma stays trapped within a nation’s soul.
Last February, we gathered again in Carlow Town. Afri partnered with the Carlow Institute of Technology and with Carlow County Council. A pilgrimage was made from the Institute to the cemetery, where a strong spirit was felt and a Famine memorial unveiled. Such healing acts of remembrance let us see more clearly how essential biodiversity is for human survival, that there is still enough to eat in the world and that access to food and water are basic human rights which in solidarity, we must all work to ensure.
Report by Gary White Deer
“Community Pays Tribute to Famine Victims During Walk” in the Carlow People
Shamrock, Shame and Shannon: Reclaiming Ireland’s Pride – A protest at Shannon Airport at 12 noon to 1pm on Sunday, March 15th.
To mark the 12th Anniversary of the 2nd US-led war on Iraq and the Taoiseach’s annual cap-doffing, forelock-tugging exercise before the Commander-in-Chief of continuing wars in Afghanistan and around the world, wars in which Shannon plays a crucial role.
Preceded by a ‘cycle of nonviolence’ from Dirty Nellies at Bunratty Castle to Shannon Airport, starting at 11.00 am.
Organised by Afri and supported by PANA
“Making peace by making war is what we are trying to do – but it doesn’t work”, stated Edward Horgan, former commandant in the Irish Defence Forces and Shannonwatch spokesperson as he addressed the public meeting on ‘Peace and Neutrality: International and National Perspectives’. Peace can only be achieved by positive neutrality.
One country which has pursued the path of positive neutrality is a country with approximately the same population as Ireland: Costa Rica. Costa Rica disbanded their army in the 1940s and the President at that time, Jose Figueras, declared that the military budget would be used on healthcare and education instead. Figueras believed it was pointless for a country the size of Costa Rica to have an army as it would never be able to compete with a larger country. Costa Rica has since become renowned for its neutrality and peaceful stance in foreign affairs.