Thirty years on the ‘Famine Road’ have generated many memorable moments and iconic images. On the first walk in 1988, walk leader Donncha O Dulaing arrived by helicopter to join Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison in the Philippines, and Mayo woman Caitriona Ruane, recently returned from Central America, before leading us off on the first ‘chapter’ of this extraordinary journey.
The following year, Brian Willson, having lost both legs while attempting to stop a train delivering arms from the US to Central America, was applauded as he bravely crossed the finishing line.
Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were almost blown away with the force of the gale that blew up when they led the walk in 1991. It helped us all to understand a little better how it would’ve been for the hungry poor of 1849.
The voices of Juana Vasquez and Dario Caal, representing the Maya from Guatemala, echoed off the mountains as they spoke at the edge of Doolough about the importance of solidarity and how they believed they were walking with the spirits of our ancestors through the sacred Doolough valley in 1995.
And then the gates of Delphi Lodge were opened to the walk in 2013. We walked through the gates solemnly carrying the names of those who had died in the tragedy of 1849 and the names of those who died of hunger in our own day, in our world of plenty. We planted an oak tree, we planted potatoes supplied by Willie Corduff of Rossport and we listened to the deeply emotional rendition of ‘Connacht Orphan’ sung by its author, Declan O’Rourke.
Join us for the 30th Walk on May 20th 2017 where more extraordinary moments are sure to be generated.
Afri’s annual Doolough Famine Walk was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ show and was selected as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Pick of the Week’ on Sunday 19th February. Listen to the show here.
White Silence Equals Violence: Awaiting a Verdict
by Kathy Kelly
January 25, 2017
This morning, here in Minneapolis, I’ll learn whether six jurors believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Dan Wilson and I are criminals. The court case stems from an action protesting the execution of Jamar Clark, age 24, who died in the early morning of November 15, 2015 outside a north Minneapolis apartment complex. Two Minneapolis police officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were involved in the shooting. Jamar Clark died after a bullet was fired directly into his head. Several witnesses say that he was handcuffed and motionless when he was shot dead. The police officers have been cleared of all charges and are back on the job.
Dan and I are among 25 defendants charged with obstructing a Minneapolis Metro transit vehicle on April 11, the opening day of the Minnesota Twins baseball season. The Legal Rights Center lawyers working with us arranged a calendar so that small groups would be tried weekly. Earlier this month, two people were acquitted of all charges and one person has been convicted. Two days ago, Andrew Gordon and Priyanka Premo, lawyers from the Minneapolis Legal Rights Center who are representing Dan and me, began the jury selection process. Yesterday, evidence was presented and the six-person jury was asked to determine a verdict. The jury didn’t arrive at a verdict last night. We felt grateful they are not rushing to judgement on what many would see as a cut and dry case. The prosecution presented, as evidence, a photo of me standing, arms linked with others, in front of a bus. (more…)
Chelsea Manning was never one to take the popular or easy route in life. The decision to release classified information that would rock the world of military secrecy and murder would lead to her vilification and brutalization. But Chelsea did it because she believed in the truth: ‘I want the people to see the truth…because without information you cannot make informed decisions.’
Afri became involved in the ‘Free Chelsea Manning’ campaign when peace activist Ciaron O’Reilly organised for Chelsea’s family, who have strong Irish connections in Kerry and Dublin, to make a visit to Ireland. We organised a programme of events including a public meeting in Trinity College attended by Chelsea’s mother, aunts and uncle and addressed by Chelsea’s aunt Sharon as well as by the former Guildford 4 member, Gerry Conlon.
That was an evening of deep emotion: Gerry Conlon, tragically no longer with us, spoke with his trademark passion, principle and anger at how legal and political systems in Britain had crushed his own life and extinguished the life of his father, Guiseppi Conlon. He praised the courage of Chelsea Manning and lamented the fact that there was no similarly brave whistle-blower in the British system when he and his father and Maguire relations were incarcerated on completely spurious charges.
As a result of that visit to Ireland, Donal O’Kelly was inspired to initiate the Manning Truthfest, consisting of artists, musicians and activists who crossed the Irish sea in the Spring of 2014 and 2015 and again in the Autumn of 2016 to sing songs and play music in solidarity with Chelsea and her Welsh-based family and to protest the inhumanity of the 35 year sentence imposed upon her. Afri was a central part of this extraordinary seaborne solidarity!
During one of those visits, Chelsea’s uncle Kevin, a life-long Manchester United supporter, said it would have been easier had Chelsea chosen any other name than that of a rival football club to mark her female identity! Chelsea never dodged difficult decisions…
The commutation of Chelsea’s sentence is perhaps the best thing that Barack Obama will have done in office. But Chelsea, together with tens of thousands of other US soldiers, should never have been in Iraq, where they have succeeded only in laying waste to the country and its people. And Chelsea should never have been in prison in the first place. (more…)
We are all overjoyed that Chelsea will soon be free.
Chelsea exposed wrongdoing and was punished for being a whistleblower. We regret that it has taken so long for President Obama to commute the sentence and are outraged that Chelsea has been forced to endure such abusive treatment in prison. We agree with the UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez that some of this abuse amounted to torture.
We sincerely hope that Chelsea will now be able to get on with the rest of her life and that she finds happiness and fulfilment in whatever she chooses to do. There will always be a welcome for her here in Wales.
Among the issues to be explored at this year’s conference will be forced migration – the inevitable consequence of war and climate change.
Speakers will include distinguished peace activist and author Kathy Kelly and Scottish writer and campaigner Alastair McIntosh. Find out more in our brochure.
To see who’s going on facebook go here.
As an organisation promoting justice and equality at home and abroad, Afri supports the ‘Home Sweet Home’ group who have taken over the empty Apollo house in central Dublin, in order to provide accommodation for homeless people. This is a sensible, generous and effective response to the homelessness crisis, and it has caught the imagination and garnered the support of tens of thousands of people throughout Ireland.
This action not only provides urgently needed accommodation for homeless people but it also shows up the scandal of policies pursued by successive governments, who have created this crisis by not providing sufficient social housing and by instead pandering to ‘developers’ and big business interests.
It also demonstrates the scandalous behaviour of NAMA, which has intensified the effects of the economic crash by selling properties to vulture funds instead of fulfilling the basic needs of people for housing and shelter.
People have grown weary of the hand-wringing about the issue of homelessness, often by those whose policies brought it about, and are invigorated by the sight of people taking practical action to address the crisis.
Short film of gathering outside Dáil Eireann on Thursday 15th December 2016, calling
for imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning to be pardoned.
Read more here.
With thanks to all those who sent in their photos and messages of solidarity and to RoJ for filming
TDs, Senators and human rights campaigners will gather outside the Dail today at 4pm for a photocall with a birthday cake and candles for imprisoned U.S army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, hosted by Senator David Norris. Manning marks her 29th birthday on Saturday December 17th. It is set to be her 7th birthday and Christmas in prison.
Irish supporters joining global calls for President Obama to pardon Manning include Afri, Amnesty International Ireland, TDs Mick Wallace, Joan Collins, Maureen O’Sullivan, Catherine Murphy, and Clare Daly, Senators David Norris and Alice Mary Higgins, member of the Council of State Ruairi McKiernan, and actor and playwright Donal O’Kelly. (more…)
The 2016 Hedge School took place in Blanchardstown on November 8th, the same day as the US presidential election. To our surprise, the latter event seemed to overshadow the former! However, we are confident that the outcome of the Hedge School will be much more positive and beneficial to people and planet than that of the election! The election was a contest between two corrupt multi millionaires supported by arms companies and oil companies while the Hedge School was organized on a shoe string and with the good will of many people.
Sorcha Pollak opened proceedings with a powerful talk on Roger Casement. Casement was a great humanitarian and internationalist, who, having carried out an investigation into atrocities on Belgium rubber plantations in the Congo, was sent by the British government to the Amazon jungle to investigate atrocities committed by the Peruvian Amazon Company, which collected rubber in the region of the river Putumayo. Casement was executed four years later for his participation in the 1916 Rising.
John Maguire further explored Casement’s work in the context of his deepening awareness of the evils of Empire and of its implications for his beloved country and characterised him as an ideal symbol for today.
Other speakers included Kay Mulhall and, the highlight of the day, Miriam, a former asylum-seeker from Uganda. Miriam spoke about the gruelling circumstances of her life in Uganda before being forced to leave her country and seek refuge in Ireland. In Ireland she experienced the Direct Provision system which poured salt in the wounds of her previous suffering.
The students made a tremendous contribution to the day in terms of both organisation, and input. They interwove workshops, music and the writing of a Proclamation into the fabric of the day. Special thanks to Liam McGlynn whose support, collaboration and enthusiasm adds to the very positive experience of working in ITB.
Anti-War Activism in the Trump Era
Tuesday 15th November, 7.30pm
The Teachers’ Club, Dublin 1
Public Meeting in Solidarity with War Resisters. Now the U.S. has chosen its new Commander-in-Chief…….. we gather to remember its victims and support our resisters!
– Dave Donnellan & Colm Roddy awaiting trial for anti-war resistance at Shannon Airport.
– Harry Browne on “What can we Expect from the New U.S. President?”
– Ciaron O’Reilly on the late Dan Berrigan, imprisoned Chelsea Manning and pursued Julian Assange.
“The Chelsea Manning Support Band” Joe Black, Robbie Synnot & RoJ Whelan
Entry free – donation to cover costs of staging the event.
In our history, Hedge Schools were places of learning, continuity and resistance, emerging out of the draconian Penal Laws that forbade formal education to most Irish people. Learning about and resisting the causes of poverty is at the heart of Afri’s work and the Hedge School symbolizes the kind of resilience and creativity needed to address the crisis facing our world as a result of climate change and the obscenity of the war industry.
One of the major consequences of war and climate change is forced migration and what has become known as the ‘refugee crisis’. The 2016 Hedge School will explore this theme and will include input on Roger Casement, the great internationalist, humanitarian and executed 1916 leader as well as provide an opportunity to hear from refugees & asylum seekers in Ireland.
This year’s Hedge School is organised in partnership with the students from I.T. Blanchardstown.
To register for the conference, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is an emotional condition that most of Ireland doesn’t know it’s being affected by, experts are saying. Malignant shame, or post colonial stress disorder is ever present in Irish society today. “It’s important to keep in mind that we are only beginning to understand inter-generational trauma. This type of trauma is often unknown or unrecognised by those who endure it” says Maeve Peoples, a Dublin psychotherapist. Increasing evidence is showing that the untreated effects of holocaust are passed on to future generations.
“By looking at inter-generational trauma in societies as diverse as third generation Jewish holocaust survivors and aboriginal tribes people in Australia, we now know that recovery is possible. From these studies we learn to find the source of issues as diverse as food addiction, eating disorders, increased levels of suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction to name but a few. Identifying the source of the problem allows us to begin to address it” Peoples added.
“I first became familiar with the idea of inter-generational trauma when I was living in America” says Waylon White Deer, a seminar organiser. “There are many similarities between First Nations peoples in America and Irish society as a result of historic emotional damage. This Saturday, we will explore some of these issues”
Maeve Peoples will be leading a discussion about Famine trauma at “Samhain Harvest: Food, Famine and Growing Within” organised by the Afri Choctaw-Irish Famine Landscape Project. The seminar is sponsored by Action from Ireland (Afri) and Concern Worldwide and begins Saturday at 11:00 AM in The Yard, Falcarragh. The afternoon session will highlight food sovereignty, security and solidarity. Admission is free and the seminar will end with a Samhain celebration.
Afri is delighted that Donal O’Kelly’s radio adaptation of his award-winning show Fionnuala, produced by the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK in Norwegian, made the shortlist of five for the famous Prix Italia in Radio Drama, whittled down from an original 35 productions.
Next week, Fionnuala competes as NRK’s nominated entry in the Radio Fiction category at the Prix Europa in Berlin with results to be announced on Friday 21st October.
On that night, October 21st, the production will be played, with dialogue in English projected on a screen, in Glenamoy Parish Hall, Erris Co. Mayo starting at 8pm sharp, duration one hour. Doors 7.30pm.
Afri is proud to host this event in Glenamoy Hall, where the first reading of Fionnuala took place during the Afri Hedge School in August 2012. News from Berlin will be communicated as it happens and refreshments will be provided.
Donal O’Kelly’s live solo show about the Shell/Statoil gas project in Mayo won a Scotsman Fringe First award in Edinburgh, and has been performed all over Ireland, as well as Edinburgh, Geneva, Oslo and Rapid City, South Dakota.
A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered on the Guildhall steps in Derry on a wet weekday afternoon, 21st September 2016 (International Day of Peace), for a famine walk. They were welcomed by Mayor Hilary McClintock. From the Guildhall the walk went to the former Poor House at Glendermott Road and then on to St Columb’s Park House for refreshments and chat. As a regional and transport hub, Derry would have received many starving incomers during the Great Famine, presenting themselves at the Poor House door where the famine walk stopped and remembered those who suffered and died.
Organised by Waylon Gary White Deer for Afri, with Concern backing, the walk leader was Linda Ervine of the Turas Irish language project at East Belfast Mission, some of whose members came on the walk. Linda Ervine drew attention to the fact that the Protestant community, and she is from a Presbyterian background, also suffered in An Gorta Mór, but that history had been hidden. Other speakers included Waylon Gary White Deer, Rob Fairmichael for Afri, and Helen Henderson of St Columb’s Park House, and sean nós singer Noeleen Ní Cholla performed a couple of songs including Éirigh suas a stóirín.
This Walk was part of Afri’s Famine Landscape Project and was organised in partnership with St. Columb’s Park House.
“The Famine is an awful wound on the Irish psyche and we don’t talk about it enough. I think we should have a national day of grieving when we all go a river bank or the sea or a lake and just grieve for all who died of hunger and as a result of Colonialism.”
These were the words of Damien Dempsey as he spoke at the Famine Walk which began at the Garden of Remembrance and ended at Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, August 27th 2016. The theme of the walk was ‘Gan Bia, Gan Béal, Gan Ainm” (Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name) and it was organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Landscape Project.
The event was introduced by Choctaw Gary White Deer and the context and relevance of the walk was outlined by Joe Murray. There was music from RoJ and Paul as well as David Fury before we headed for Glasnevin in glorious sunshine. (more…)
To mark the national famine commemoration day a famine walk was held in Drumshanbo on Sunday, September 11th 2016. The walk took place from St Patrick’s Church to the famine graveyard a short distance away, where a wreath was laid and a tree planted to the memory of the famine dead. The walk was organised by Bryan Ryan a student of Drumshanbo traditional music school run by Mossie Martin.
The walk consisted of over sixty people which included Sinn Fein councillor Brenden Barry and Nancy Woods of Drumshanbo Comhaltas as well as poets and musicians from around Leitrim, A bass drum played by Ronan McManus of the four Green fields flute band lead the walk as it made its way to the famine graveyard where over 500 victim’s of an Gorta Mor are buried. The graveyard was attached to the old pre emancipation Church of Murhaun which stood there in 1744 before St Patrick’s Church was built in 1851 closer to the village. (more…)
A Great Hunger commemoration walk led by Damien Dempsey will proceed from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, 27 August, at 2:00 PM. The theme of the walk is “Gan Bia, Gan Beal, Gan Ainm” (Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name) and is being sponsored by Afri.
Glasnevin Cemetery has the largest mass grave in Ireland, with tens of thousands of victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger interred. Names of all Famine victims have been kept in the Glasnevin registry, highly unusual for Famine mass burials. “Through remembering, healing happens” said walk organiser Choctaw Gary White Deer. In 1847, the Choctaw donated monies for Irish Famine relief.
“It’s our duty to pass on the true history, brutal and beautiful, to the children, and they might see they have more in common than they thought with less fortunate people around the world now” Damien Dempsey said. “Everyone is very welcome to come along” he added.
Other walk leaders include: Choctaw Gary White Deer, musician RoJ, and Justine Nantale (Uganda).
Film by RoJ
On Monday July 25th Afri and friends gathered in Dublin to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the acquittal of the Pitstop Ploughshares on charges of $US 2.5 million criminal damage of a U.S. Navy War Plane at Shannon Airport en route to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (more…)
Afri staff, volunteers and supporters donned Panama hats on Bloomsday, June 16th, and picketed 30, Botanic Avenue to highlight the fact, revealed in Panama Papers, that a company at this address facilitates commission payments on behalf of major Italian Arms Company Finmeccanica. See below film about the action.
Film by RoJ