Two important events are taking place in Co Mayo in May which aim to remember the Irish Famine and to explore its links with some of today’s sustainability challenges in Ireland and globally. Both events, which are free of charge, will take place on May 18th before Afri’s annual Famine Walk (Saturday 19th May, Doolough Co. Mayo). A daytime event, ‘Conversations on Cultural Resilience – Famine, Food, Energy & Culture’ will take place from 10-5pm in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology Castlebar, Co Mayo. Subsequently, an evening celebration of Cultural Resilience with further conversation, ceol and craic will take place in Blousers public house in Westport from 8-11 pm.
The events have been organised by a number of leading Irish NGOs and groups who have come together including FEASTA (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability), the human rights NGO Afri, the community resilience NGO Cultivate, a recently formed Irish language group, Teacht Aniar, and Food Sovereignty Ireland.
The open format of the events will be based on conversation through culture, using the Great Famine as a backdrop, reflecting on the policies and politics of famines. The events are being held in solidarity with the global justice movement and will cover issues such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, climate action and food sovereignty.
One of the event organisers, Mark Garavan, FEASTA member and lecturer with GMIT Castlebar says:
“County Mayo was one of the counties which suffered most when the great famine hit between 1845 – 1848. The recent extreme weather events in Ireland, international instability and the refugee crisis have focussed many minds on the fragility of the global economy and the vulnerability of ecosystems worldwide. There is a need to build resilience on a grassroots local level whilst also reinforcing global solidarity and justice. Unfortunately there is often a lack of dialogue on how we should go about this. The upcoming events aim to stimulate such a discussion and Mayo is the place where it can begin.”
‘Food for Thought’ will also explore and celebrate the legacy of the radical economist and founder of Feasta, Richard Douthwaite, who is known internationally for his writing on different aspects of sustainability creative and his work with communities in Ireland and abroad.
All events are open to members of the public to attend.
To register for the free events or see the complete schedule visit: https://foodforthoughtmayo.eventbrite.ie/.
Remembering and Solidarity
Saturday 19th May, Doolough Co. Mayo
Registration from 12.45pm in Louisburgh Town hall
Beginning at 1.30pm
Walk Leaders: Richard Moore, Fatin al Tamimi
Music: Lisa Lambe
Famine Walk 1988-2018
Saturday 19th May 2018 will see the 30th anniversary of the Doolough Famine Walk. Afri first organised the walk in 1988 to commemorate the Great Hunger of 1845-50. Regions such as Mayo illustrated how a natural setback such as potato blight can mutate to disaster in the context of unchecked market forces, lack of democratic structures and resources, and a pitiless, moralistic ideology. While some £9.5 million was eventually spent on late and poorly-designed ‘Relief’, £14 million went to sustain the military and police forces.
Our walk retraces a journey of horror which occurred on 30th/31st March 1849. Two poor-law commissioners were to assess people in Louisburgh, entitling them as ‘paupers’ to meagre relief rations. The inspection never happened, but the people were instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge at 7 the following morning. They walked the hilly road in wintry, even snowy, conditions. At Delphi Lodge they were refused food, or admission to the workhouse, and so began their weary return journey, on which many, even hundreds, died.
Afri, drawing on the local history of Louisburgh and Doolough, recalls the dead and displaced of the Great Hunger – and all those facing the same grotesque and avoidable cruelties in today’s world, from the so-called ‘War on Terror’ to the indignities of ‘Direct Provision’. We walk the famine road to remember the causes of hunger and poverty in our world – political, military, economic and environmental – and our failure to learn the lessons of our own history. Our Walk Leaders eloquently represent the spirit of resistance and transformation:
In the twentieth-anniversary year of the Good Friday Agreement we welcome Richard Moore, who was blinded as a 10-year-old child by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He reacted by founding Children in Crossfire, declaring: “I learned to see life in a different way. I may have lost my sight, but I have my vision”.
2018 is also significant in that it marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, and in this context, we are honoured to welcome Fatin Al Tamimi, Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The extraordinary voice of Lisa Lambe will provide the music for this year’s walk. We are delighted to have Lisa as part of this year’s walk line up.
Find out about our ‘Music From A Dark Lake’ CD, a compilation of songs from past Famine Walks.
In 2017 the Department of Geography in co-operation with Afri organised the first Food Sovereignty Assembly in Maynooth University. We are happy to work together on the second such event this year. Come and join us on Saturday, April 14 2018.
For more information go to: www.maynoothuniversity.ie/geography/events/festival-food-sovereignty
Sonia, ‘Sunny’ Jacobs and Peter Pringle are both death row survivors. Sunny was exonerated in 1993 after 17 years in Prison while Peter had his conviction quashed in 1995, having spent 14 years in prison. They met in Galway while campaigning against the death penalty and are now married and living in Connemara, where they’ve established The Sunny Centre to help other death row survivors and those who’ve been wrongfully convicted. They spoke at Afri’s Féile Bríde ‘Light out of Darkness’ in Kildare on February 3rd, 2018.
Students and Lecturers from IT Carlow, páistí agus múinteoirí from Gaelscoil Eoghain as well as members of Carlow County Council and of the general public attended the 5th Carlow Famine Walk in February 2018. A moving ceremony, featuring music, reflections and a moment of silence took place in the Famine Graveyard where about 3000 people are buried .
Afri’s 2018 Féile Bríde took place on Saturday 3rd February in Solas Bhríde in Kildare town. It was a rich and full day with contributions from Peadar Kirby about caring for our global village, Hanny Van Geel (Via Campesina), Rose Hogan (Trócaire) on ‘food for life’, John Maguire on ‘Peace Meal Change’ and wrongfully imprisoned Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle, as well as music and poetry. You can get a flavour of the day in a short film made by RoJ.
Here is a report from Sr Patricia Mulhall, who attended the conference:
This is the twenty-sixth year of another well-attended Afri conference hosted at Solas Bhríde Centre, Kildare. As visiting speaker, Peadar Kirby named it, the Ard fheis of Afri. Some 200 people attended in the beautiful setting of the Centre & Hermitages, a centre of hospitality, brightness radiating a warm welcome. Brigidines – Mary, Phil and Rita – organise and manage the Centre with Cairde Bhríde, faithful friends and staff.
‘Light out of Darkness’ was a fitting theme for a day punctuated by music and message of hope. Speakers with academic presentations and personal stories enlightened and entertained the participants. The day began with a presentation from Peadar Kirby, entitled ‘Caring for our Global village.’ Peadar is Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the University of Limerick, Ireland. He is associated with the eco-village of Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, a 67-acre site with 50 acres of land for allotments, farming and woodland as well as 50 low- energy homes. (more…)
Bill to end offshore drilling licences passes first legislative hurdle
The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has described the Dáil vote in favour of the Climate Emergency Measures Bill on the 8th February 2018 as “historic”. The Bill, proposed by People Before Profit TD Brid Smith, would end the issuing of licences to explore for oil and gas in Irish waters. It passed the second stage debate and was referred to the Climate Action Committee by 78 votes to 48, with cross-party support emerging to overcome Government opposition to the Bill. (more…)
Saturday 3rd February 2018
Solas Bhríde, Kildare Town
Registration at 10.20am
“Life has given me many challenges, which I choose to take as opportunities to learn and grow. This is my choice. I learned this on death row. I chose life, health, forgiveness, and love. That choice saved me from bitterness and hatred that would have destroyed me from within. I have dedicated myself to an end to violence – in all its forms. This is the way I honour the lives that were sacrificed along the way. This is the way I give back to the universe. Love is the answer. Fear is the enemy. We must choose the world we want and work towards making it happen every day in our own lives.”
These are the inspiring words of death row survivor, Sunny Jacobs, whose life reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, with injustice heaped upon further injustice, creating circumstances that would have crushed many people. An innocent woman wrongfully convicted of murder, her husband was executed, she lost other family members and she spent many years awaiting her own execution. But Sunny came shining through it all with dignity, strength, courage, compassion and hope. She is the perfectly encapsulation of this year’s Féile Bríde’s theme: ‘light out of darkness’.
Sunny and Peter Pringle, the last person to have been on death row in Ireland, have devoted themselves to promoting healing, peace and reconciliation. Together they have established The Sunny Centre – a sanctuary for others who suffer injustice, especially people who are wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit and have spent time under sentence of death. We will hear their extraordinary stories at Féile Bríde this year.
Other speakers include the distinguished academic and activist Peadar Kirby, who plays a leading role in the Cloughjordan Eco-Village; UCC Professor Emeritus and life-long peace activist John Maguire; Hanny Van Geel of La Via Campesina, which promotes the rights of peasant communities around the world, and who describes herself as ‘rooted in farming’; and Rose Hogan who has a life-long commitment to agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture.
In a world marred by war and the woeful destruction of our exquisite planet, Féile Bríde is but one example of the many, many people and groups throughout our world who hope for and work towards a better future, a more just world and for the light to overcome the darkness.
And as the Spring birdsong heralds the end of another winter, we will also have music because, as Hans Christian Anderson said, “where words fail, music speaks”.
10.45am Fáilte, Solas agus Ceol: welcome, light & music
11.00pm Caring for our Global Village – Peadar Kirby
12.00pm Food for Life – Hanny Van Geel & Rose Hogan
1.00pm Lunch and tree planting
2.00pm Peace Meal Change– John Maguire
2.50pm Tea break
3.15pm Light out of Darkness
The Sunny Centre
To see who’s going on facebook go here.
Afri’s Féile Bríde conference is part of a week long events being held in Kildare organised by the Brigidine Sisters and Cairde Bríde. For information about the other events that week visit the Solas Bhríde website or download their programme Feile Bride Programme.
Reflections by Joe Murray, Afri’s co-ordinator
Every now and then, life throws up some extraordinary surprises!
Such a moment occurred during Afri’s annual Hedge School in IT Blancharstown in November in the context of Michael Doorly’s explanation of the origins of Concern. Concern was founded in response to the Biafran War, following a series of meetings in the kitchen of John and Kay O’ Loughlin Kennedy. The new organisation’s first act was to send three ships loaded with food to the beleaguered people, caught up in the war and the poverty and hunger, which it exacerbated. When Michael had finished his presentation, Philip Uzomo stood up and identified himself as a survivor of the Biafran war and said that he’d been a recipient of the food sent on those very ships!
The Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike has become iconic in the pantheon of great acts of resistance around the world – but it wasn’t always so.
The young strikers had to endure hardship, rejection, demonization and more in the course of this extraordinary act of solidarity.
Mary Manning’s book, ‘Striking Back’ , written with Sinèad O’Brien not only provides a first-hand account of the strike from start to finish but also interweaves her own story – exemplifying her great courage and integrity – at a personal and political level.
Afri are proud to have supported the Dunnes Stores Strikers and to promote this excellent book by Mary Manning.
Just A Second! Teacher Training for Secondary School Teachers
Monday 26th February 2018, 11am-3pm in the Irish Writer’s Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
Afri’s annual teacher training for secondary school teachers takes place in February 2018. The training is an energetic, creative and informative experience, demonstrating effective ways of bringing global issues into the classroom. The training is led by global education expert Gráinne O’Neill together with Pete Mullineaux, a leader in the field of combining drama and global education, and author of Just A Second! Exploring Global Issues Through Drama and Theatre.
“I enjoyed the workshop very much. What was most valuable to me was demonstrating how necessary participative methodologies are in teaching Dev Ed (global education). This is something that I haven’t really explored before and it will be very useful to me in the future.” – Participant in the 2017 Afri Teacher training workshop.
This year’s training takes place in the Writer’s Museum, Parnell Square in the heart of the city on February 26th 2018. Teacher substitution cover is available – be sure to book early to ensure a place on this important training event. Contact Afri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01 8827563.
Afri Hedge School 2017
The Right to Food and Shelter
Tuesday 7th November, 9.45am- 3.30pm
Room A47, I.T. Blanchardstown
The 2017 Hedge School will look at some of the causes of hunger, homelessness and displacement. Organised in partnership with third year students from the Community and Youth Development course in I.T. Blanchardstown.
Free entry to all – donations welcome to cover costs. Lunch, and tea/coffee is provided.
You can book on Eventbrite by going here
Afri’s focus on An Gorta Mór is about looking at causes and consequences and, especially at its relevance for today. The ‘Great Hunger’ had many causes, including colonialism, blind allegiance to laissez faire economics and loss of biodiversity leading to over-dependence on one variety of potato. These issues remain totally relevant today as, for example, ten large profit-driven corporations control the vast majority of the food we eat. It is in this context that Afri has been campaigning to highlight serious concerns around the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). Not only is this deal about further promotion of intensive agriculture, but most worryingly of all, it includes the toxic ‘Investor Court System’. This short film outlines some of the issues involved.
Sometimes you really do count your blessings. There I was, in November 2016, setting out from Louisburgh Co. Mayo on a cold wet autumn morning, wondering whether my right leg, mildly strained in a recent tennis match, would manage the eleven-mile famine walk to Doolough.
How trivial an ‘injury’ in the context of the 1849 tragedy the walk commemorates. Hundreds of starving men, women and children, ordered to tramp those eleven miles to Delphi Lodge, were denied an audience, let alone the relief they sought, by the men of power. Many died by the roadside on their despairing return trail.
Afri’s Famine Walk happens each May, but this was a re-enactment for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ series. Local historian Mary O’Malley painted a poignant scene around her own family story, and Joe Murray set the context of Afri’s work for justice, human rights and sustainability.
Yours truly was to handle ‘the broader history’; thank goodness for Cork University Press’s superb Atlas of the Great Irish Famine! Its unique blend of scholarly analysis and humane reflection dispelled some of my clouds of ignorance about that great lacuna in our history and culture.
The Atlas breaks the twin silences of the survivors and the scholars, whilst respecting the irrevocable silence of the over one million victims. It allowed me to sketch some of the broader background to Doolough’s tragedy, along with some nuggets of salutary and surprising information.
Things I never knew: fish and seafood did form part of the pre-Famine fare of those who could obtain them. Ireland’s potato-based diet, though fatally precarious, made the pre-Famine population healthier than the European average.
By the Nineteenth Century almost all major Irish towns were ports. Westport had nearly half its population in manufacture in 1821 – but in cottage and artisan production which soon drowned in the tide of new imported factory commodities. (more…)
Below is a short film, made by RoJ, about the Standing Rock Water Protectors, following a visit by Chas Jewett to Dublin. To read more about Chas’ visit go here.
Press Release from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
After a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and 72 years after their invention, on the 7th July 2017 states at the United Nations formally adopted a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons.
Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992.
On adoption of the treaty, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said:
“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security.
No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable – no matter the circumstance – yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do.
Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.
It is time for leaders around the world to match their values and words with action by signing and ratifying this treaty as a first step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.” (more…)
A protest took place today outside Government Buildings to coincide with the visit of Canadian Premier Trudeau. The protest was in opposition to the proposed EU Canadian Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement and to call for the rejection of the deal by the Irish Government.
The protest was organised by Comhlamh and supported by Afri and participants expressed concerns as to how CETA will compromise laws which protect health, the environment, and the rule of law in the EU.
Participants also urged the Government to hold off on any vote to ratify the deal until the European Court of Justice examines the legality of CETA under EU law. Protestors are particularly alarmed by the notorious Investment Arbitration System, included in the deal, which allows foreign big business to sue Governments when their actions impact on their profitability.
Chas Jewett, from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Standing Rock Water protector, spoke in the Teacher’s Club on Monday evening at an event supported by Afri, Comhlamh, Feasta and Friends of the Earth. This public meeting was part of a tour around Ireland visiting Cork, Galway, Cloughjordan, Leitrim and Dublin. Chas is a tribal organiser who lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, and aims to encourage people to engage and mobilise.
Since 2016 the Standing Rock Reservation has been the scene of a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline which aims to bring oil from Canada into the US through Native American lands over fears of contamination of drinking water supplies. The existing Keystone 1 pipeline has leaked 26 times.
Chas spoke about the legacy issues of the 19th century treaties between the U.S. government and the First Nations people. In 1873 General Custer found gold in the Black Hills which led to people being moved – without compensation – and separated into various different reservations, one of which is the Standing rock reservation. (more…)