Derry’s First Famine Walk

Crossing Derry's Peace Bridge during the Famine Walk on the 31st July 2015

Crossing Derry’s Peace Bridge during the Famine Walk on the 31st July 2015

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…)

‘In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors’

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Walkers at the Falcarragh to Dunfanaghy Famine Walk. Photo: Máire Nic Fhearraigh and Moses Alcorn

 

“They walked to carry the message of food sovereignty, a warning to not ever depend on a single crop, nor a crop seed that carries calculated impotency.”

 

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.

Gaelic was also the language of the Famine, and the walkers were following in the footsteps of ancestors to remember the victims of Ireland’s Great Starvation, as well as all those who still suffer from hunger and oppression. And they walked to carry the message of food sovereignty, a warning to not ever depend on a single crop, nor a crop seed that carries calculated impotency. These were the thoughts and feelings that held the thin line together and kept it going forward.

Then a group of walkers in the quiet of the day, placed the yellow flowers beneath a Celtic cross that stands upon the mass Famine grave at Dunfanaghy, the small bouquet lying bright against grey rock, an act of remembrance that had traveled nine miles and almost two hundred years. The walkers finished up at the Famine workhouse, now a museum, where there was tea and food and music. Two Church of Ireland ministers gave talks there about the time when families weakened by hunger and disease had entered the workhouse, or the old fever hospital nearby.

Photo: Máire Nic Fhearraigh and Moses Alcorn

Photo: Máire Nic Fhearraigh and Moses Alcorn

As people dispersed, the skies opened and there was rain. The journey of healing was complete.

(Special thanks: John Cognaghan, Máire Nic Fhearraigh, Sian McCann, Paul Kernan, Letterkenny Inter-Cultural Club, Isabel Ní Chuireain,  Andrew Roddy, Sweeney Bus in Falcarragh, Dunfanaghy Over 50 Club, Falcarragh Seniors, Rev. David McDonald, Rev. John Merrick, Sean Ó Gaoithin, James Woods, Sally and her wonderful family, Cordelia Nic Fhearraigh, Mary Grain, Conor Ó Braonain, Pobail le Chéile An Fál Carrach and the staff of the Dunfanaghy Workhouse Museum)

Just A Second!

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Dublin launch of an Afri development education resource by

Pete Mullineaux

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

Imogen Gunner

“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.

When:  Wednesday August 5th 2015

Time:   6.30pm – 8pm

Where: Liberty Hall, Dublin 1

Please book in advance: Tel: 01 8827581 or email: admin@afri.ie

Find out who’s going on facebook here

 

Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools

Waltzing on Borrowed Time

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 welcomes the Minister’s commitment to amend Climate Bill

scc_logo_highresStop 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…)

From Doolough to Dili and back

President Taur Matan Ruak presents Joe Murray with the 'Order of Timor-Leste’ medal on behalf of on behalf of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign

President Taur Matan Ruak presents Joe Murray with the ‘Order of Timor-Leste’ medal on behalf of on behalf of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign

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.

 

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This could be our last chance to fix the Climate Bill

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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.

Donegal Famine Walk: A Portal of Hope

Rosemary Grain

Rosemary Grain

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…)

Reflections on the 2015 Famine Walk

Walkers leaving Delphi Lodge.  Walk leaders this year included Maitet Ledesma from the Philippines as well as Sharon Staples, the aunt of imprisoned whistleblower and US soldier Chelsea Manning.  Abjata Khalif was unable to attend due to visa difficulties. Photo: Derek Speirs

Walkers leaving Delphi Lodge. Walk leaders this year included Maitet Ledesma from the Philippines as well as Sharon Staples, the aunt of imprisoned whistleblower and US soldier Chelsea Manning. Abjata Khalif was unable to attend due to visa difficulties. Photo: Derek Speirs

 

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…)

‘In The Footsteps of Our Ancestors’ Famine Walk

Choctaw Gary White Deer

Choctaw Gary White Deer

‘In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors’

Famine Walk, Saturday 30th May 2015, 1pm

Starting at The Yard, Falcarragh (The Old Famine Storehouse)

To the Dunfanaghy Workhouse Museum (approximately 9.5 miles)

 

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

Just A Second! Afri’s Schools Project

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 (admin@afri.ie 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

Food Sovereignty Assembly 2015: A New Vision for Food and Agriculture

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Mill Times Hotel, Westport, Co. Mayo

15th May 2015, 11am – 6pm

Admission free but booking essential

 

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 admin@afri.ie or phone 01 8827563.

Find out who’s going on facebook here.

Organised by Afri and Food Sovereignty Ireland

Supported by Trócaire

‘Just A Second’ Book Launch in Galway

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Famine Walk 2015: Food Sovereignty, Global Warming and Resisting Militarism

Photo: Kerstin Hellman.

Photo: Kerstin Hellman. Photo shows famine memorial on grounds of Delphi Lodge.

 

Food Sovereignty, Global Warming and Resisting Militarism

Saturday, May 16th 2015

From  Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo.

Registration from 12.45pm; Walk beginning at 1.30pm

Walk Leaders: Abjata Khalif (Kenya), Maitet Ledesma (Philippines) and Sharon Staples (Wales)

Music: RoJ Whelan

 

 Please park cars in Louisburgh: no parking available at Delphi Lodge – a shuttle bus will be provided.

 

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.

Conflicts are raging in many places throughout the planet – fed largely by the military/corporate nexus in its insatiable appetite for expansion and exploitation. The unremitting aggression of Western capitalist greed has led to growing anger and resentment in many parts of the world, leading to violence which is met by further violence and to the development and deployment of ever more cruel and inhumane  weaponry, a burgeoning growth in what is  euphemistically titled the ‘security industry’.

Then, out of the darkness a light shines! Chelsea Manning sees from the inside the horror of war and the extent of the lies used to justify it, and, taking her courage in her hands, exposes the truth to the world. For her troubles she is called a traitor and given a sentence of 35 years in prison. Chelsea’s courage has now won her a committed solidarity group here in Ireland.  We are delighted that Chelsea’s aunt, Sharon, will be one of the leaders of this year’s Famine Walk.

Abjata Khalif is well acquainted with conflict, global warming and food insecurity on the borders of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. He also knows about conflict resolution, about tackling global warming and about empowering people to resist, to build community and to work together in solidarity. Abjata has used the experience of surviving a massacre as a child in his village as motivation for his life’s work of building peace, promoting development, supporting food sovereignty and resolving conflict. He too will be among our walk leaders this year in Doolough.

Please help Afri to continue its work by getting sponsorship and taking part in this walk.  We are asking each participant to raise at least €20 in sponsorship to ensure that Afri can continue its important work.

To book/donate online go here.  You can share this event with your friends on facebook here.

 

Further Information:

Please assemble in Louisburgh for registration at 12.45pm.  Shuttle buses will bring walkers to start point from 1.30pm.  A brief ceremony (2 minutes) will take place at the Famine Memorial in Delphi Lodge before walkers return to Louisburgh.  Please note there is no parking available at Delphi Lodge.  The walk is approximately 11 miles and a shuttle car will be available along the route if needed.

Tea/coffee (no food) will be provided at a halfway point along the way.  There will also be toilet facilities at the halfway point as well as along the lake.

IN THE INTEREST OF HEALTH AND SAFETY, PLEASE WALK ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD FOR THE DURATION OF THE WALK.

Gather in Teach na nÓl, Louisburgh, for ceol agus craic with RoJ Whelan and the ‘Manning Street Preachers’ on Saturday night from 9pm.

Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of Irish Aid, Trócaire and Concern.

Government rejects calls to change Climate Bill as it passes Second Stage

scc_logo_highresStop 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…)

Shamrock, Shame and Shannon

A protest at Shannon Airport took place on 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. It was preceded by a ‘cycle of nonviolence’ from Dirty Nellies at Bunratty Castle to Shannon Airport. Organised by Afri and supported by PANA.

 

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.

Famine Walk in I.T. Carlow

Sakhile Heron speaks at tree planting ceremony during the Famine Walk held in I.T. Carlow on the 11th February.  Photo: Lisa Patten

Sakhile Heron speaks at tree planting ceremony during the Famine Walk held in I.T. Carlow on the 11th February. Photo: Lisa Patten

“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

Shamrock1

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

Peace and Neutrality: International and National Perspectives

From left: Carol Fox (Peace and Neutrality Alliance), Roberto Zamora, Joe Murray (Afri)

From left: Carol Fox (Peace and Neutrality Alliance), Roberto Zamora, Joe Murray (Afri)

“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.

(more…)

Reflections from Féile Bríde 2015

From left to right: Bruce Kent, Emanuela Russo, Joe Murray, Salome Mbugua and Colin Archer.  Photo: Pauhla McGrane

From left to right: Bruce Kent, Emanuela Russo, Joe Murray, Salome Mbugua and Colin Archer. Photo: Pauhla McGrane

Imagination and celebration were the order of the day at our 22nd annual Féile Bríde gathering in Kildare. ‘Occupy the imagination’ was the theme and the new Solas Bhríde a cause for celebration – built with the utmost attention to detail, as explained by Rita Minehan, in the teeth of the recession – a prizewinning example of a sustainable building in the heart of the Curragh. Warmth and welcome is added in abundance by Mary, Phil, Rita and members of Cairde Bríde who continue the tradition of hospitality for which Brigid was renowned.

Bruce Kent and Colin Archer, who have devoted most of their lives to promoting peace and – daringly – to the abolition of war, gave dynamic and thought provoking presentations on the extent to which ‘the world is over armed and peace is underfunded’. Bruce, who is in his 8th decade is an inspiration, with his indomitable spirit, his great sense of humour and his constant commitment to the cause of peace.


Film of Féile Bríde by RoJ

The essence of Bruce’s presentation was that ‘unless war is eliminated, the human race will be’ and so he has founded the Movement for the Abolition of War. This may seem like a far-fetched idea but so did the elimination of the slave trade when small groups of Abolitionists met in various parts of the world in the 17th century. (Of course we now have a new slave trade in the form of human trafficking but – unlike the slave trade – it is generally  regarded as the odious crime that it is).

Emanuela Russo spoke about the urgent need to wrest control of food production from the hands of profit-driven, environmentally destructive corporations and to establish food sovereignty, defined as “the right of people to grow and consume food that is socially, culturally, ecologically and economically appropriate to local conditions.” She went on to say: “the current global food system creates hunger and obesity at the same time. There are 900 million hungry people in the world and almost the same amount of obese people. One of the reasons why this is happening is that all around the world, more and more food systems are controlled by big corporations and agribusinesses with the support of national governments and international institutions (such as IMF and WB, WTO), these food systems regard food as a commodity and their main goal is not to feed the people but to make profit.” (more…)