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…)
As part of Afri’s work in promoting sustainable development we have, for the past year and a half, adopted a policy of not just planting a native tree at each of Afri’s signature events, but of supporting the development of a small, native woodland forest, near Laragh, in County Wicklow. Accordingly, we have developed a partnership with the Native Woodland Trust which is dedicated to the preservation of Ireland’s ancient woodlands and to the planting of new trees and woods all over Ireland. Afri staff members recently visited the Laragh site to view the burgeoning forest! You can support this work by sponsoring a tree via the Native Woodland Trust’s website (please indicate that you would like your tree to be part of the Afri ‘forest’).
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
Developmenteducation.ie and the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) have created a new, online space to showcase projects, advocacy, campaigns and actions in development education for schools, community and youth groups. Afri’s 2013 Famine Walk is one of the case studies that you can now read about: http://www.developmenteducation.ie/taking-action
‘From Famine to Food Sovereignty’ was the theme of the 2014 Afri Famine walk in The Doolough valley in May. Here is a short film about the Walk made by Dave Donnellan
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.
While many are aware of Afri’s work through our annual Famine Walk, Féile Bríde and Hedge School as well as our solidarity work with the Kenya Pastoralists Journalist Network and the community under siege in Erris County Mayo among many other activities, perhaps less are aware of Afri’s ongoing ‘education for liberation’ work with secondary schools. This work is supported by the WorldWise Global Schools and is carried out mainly by our development education manager Rose Kelly and dramatist Pete Mullineaux.
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, the 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.
The film below, made by Dave Donnellan, is a snapshot of the development education work that went on in the ‘Just A Second’ project.
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.
A six minute film about the world we live in and the choices we make based on Afri’s ‘Education for Liberation’ programme with schools in Galway.
Directed by distinguished film-maker Dave Donnellan
Plus, the first public showing of a dramatic, evocative painting by Choctaw artist Gary White Deer
At Galway City Museum, Spanish Arch
Wednesday, June 11th and Thursday June 12th only
More information from Afri 01 8827563
Share this event on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1386226938332112/
Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of WorldWise Global Schools and Concern
Where can you start in talking about the Afri Famine Walk? Well, 1849 is the best point because the Famine Walk is the re-enactment or retracing steps of a real tragedy that happened to people who died walking that way 165 years ago. There is a sense in which the ground we walk on is sacred, holy, or marked because we know some of the terrible things happened in that very place.
But the Afri Famine Walk is not some ethereal revisiting of a past, if tragic, time. It very directly links past, present – what is happening in the world today with causes similar to or the same as what caused and exacerbated the Great Famine in Ireland – and future – and asks us to recommit ourselves to ending famine. There was food, there is food, the question is who controls the food and what happens to it. Some walkers carried posters of the names of individuals who died in that and more recent famines.
The theme this year, “From Famine to Food Sovereignty”, was well explored by the walk leaders, Emanuela Russo, Luis Jalandoni and Paul Nicholson. Luis Jalandoni spoke of the 70% of Filipinos who struggle to get by on €1.70 a day in a country fertile and rich in natural resources; he spoke of the mass resistance to government policies which support big landowners and multinationals.
All of the speakers emphasised the right to adequate food as a human right, and opposing the multinational viewpoint of food as a commodity. The latter is the pseudo-economic ideology which leads to the obscene shortages of food, the terrible struggle to survive, and to malnutrition, starvation and even death. They might as well try and control the air we breathe – in many cases they already control the water we drink. And food sovereignty and security should be an issue for Ireland.
For the second year in a row the weather unleashed buckets of rain on walkers, but those who were fit and well were totally undaunted by such trifles. By Doolough itself I witnessed one young woman, already saturated, not seek the narrow bank to avoid water up over her trainers, but plough right through the middle of a flood. That was the attitude; is féidir liom/linn.
The unveiling of a stone memorial at Delphi Lodge to the Doolough Famine Walk of 1849, linked of course to the present, was the highlight of the end of the journey. But the playing by Imogen Gunner, and friends, of her specially composed piece, ‘Turned away’, while participants struggled to keep musicians and their instruments dry through a canopy of umbrellas, was haunting and beautiful. It also brought to mind the old proverb Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine / People live in one another’s shelter.
Although it is a serious occasion there are many lighthearted moments as participants meet old and new friends and share together. Of course the day’s events, and others, require detailed analysis with the aid of liquid refreshments in the evening, a task this year made memorable for those who could stay by music from Imogen Gunner and friends.
- Rob Fairmichael