Famine Walk 2024

The Doolough Famine Walk will take place on Saturday, May 18th 2024.

Once again, this year, walkers will gather in Louisburgh for conversation, talks and music before being ferried by bus to the start of the walk. Retracing the steps of several hundred people who made this journey in search of food during An Gorta Mór, walkers will make their way through the spectacular Doolough Valley in the course of this iconic journey.

View the brochure here

Register on Eventbrite here

Please assemble for registration in Louisburgh from 11am. Shuttle buses will bring walkers to the starting point from approx. 12.40pm. A brief ceremony (5 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.

We are delighted to have as our Walk Leaders Faten Sourani, lawyer and advocate for human rights and social justice, with a particular focus on the rights of the Palestinian people and Donal O’Kelly, Dublin-born writer, performer and activist who has been involved in many Afri projects over the years since the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike in Dublin in 1984. Music will be provided by the brilliant Irish-Palestinian artist Roisin El Cherif  accompanied by Katie O’Connor.

Since 1988, our annual Famine Walk has shed light on the interconnectedness of the tragedy of An Gorta Mór in Ireland with modern-day injustices worldwide. For nearly four decades, we have focused on human rights violations all around the world, from Belize, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Africa, to the Niger Delta. As we remember our ancestors, we stand in solidarity with those all over the world for whom the experience of deprivation, destruction and death is a current reality, and use it to struggle for a more just future.

At our first Walk, Niall O’Brien, a Columban priest, just released from a Philipino prison summarised our shared experience with the Philippines stating, “if the difference between famine and starvation is that famine is caused by natural forces, while starvation is man-made, then An Gorta Mór was not a famine but a great and deliberate starvation, because there was no lack of food in Ireland at the time.” He went on to say, “be shocked but be not surprised, the same holds true in much of the global south today.”

This sentiment rings true today, having devastating consequences all over the world. In the Congo, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, millions of people face hunger and starvation at the hands of those who have the power to prevent it. But these crises are not isolated. War anywhere threatens peace and security everywhere. This is evident with the war in Ukraine, with the conflict not only devastating the people of Ukraine, but having a detrimental effect on food availability across the world. In what was once heralded as “the breadbasket of Europe” and one of the largest grain producers in the world, the war has seriously impacted Ukraine’s capacity for food production. More than this, the threat of a strike on a nuclear power plant poses an existential threat on a global scale.

This year, we dedicate the Famine Walk to highlighting and standing against genocide in Palestine. Just as Niall O’Brien highlighted the deliberate starvation of the Irish people, we want to shed light on the ongoing apartheid and colonialism to which Palestine is being subjected. Israel’s brutal bombardment and occupation, the use of imposed starvation and the countless other forms of violence being committed against the Palestinians, are unconscionable. For this Famine Walk, we want to promote action. We know the hearts and minds of the Irish people are with Palestine, but we need our government to put these feelings into political action. In the future, our actions, or lack thereof, will record us as people of courage and action, or as complicit. In the words of Malala, “there’s a moment when you have to choose to be silent or stand up’.

During An Gorta Mór, more than 26 million bushels of grain were exported from Ireland to England. We must never forget the million people who died from starvation or hunger related diseases and more than a million forcibly displaced at the hands of colonial rule. This experience deepens our empathy with people who have faced great injustices since then, including the horrors of the Holocaust and the abomination of the Nakba.

The Famine Walk gives us an opportunity to commemorate, learn and act. It is a poignant journey echoing the past and striving for a more peaceful future, giving us an opportunity to stand for humanity and against injustice. Let’s walk together with purpose and determination.

Faten Sourani is a lawyer and advocate for human rights and social justice, with
a particular focus on the rights of the Palestinian people. Coming from the Gaza
Strip, Faten has pursued her studies and professional endeavors in Galway and
Dublin. Over the past few years, she has collaborated with dedicated
individuals in the felds of international law, human rights research, and
advocacy to amplify the voices of those affected by confict and oppression in
the MENA region. Currently, she supports the work of the NGO Front Line
Defenders by supporting human rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian
territory.
Donal O’Kelly is a Dublin-born writer, performer and activist who has been
involved in many Afri projects over the years since the Dunnes Stores
anti-apartheid strike in Dublin in 1984. He considers the genocidal attack on
the Palestinian people a culmination of the repressive forces operating since
then, such as the arms industry of the rich white world, the beneficiary in
money and political infuence of the slaughter in Gaza. He is writing a book on
twenty-five years of Direct Provision in Ireland and the criminalisation of
migration.
The brilliant Irish-Palestinian artist Roisin El Cherif hails from Galway and draws
influence from Tracy Chapman, Stevie Nicks and Daughter to create a sound
that blurs the boundaries between folk, country and indie-pop. She recently
sang at the National day of Action for Palestine in Dublin and also at the ‘Artists
for Palestine’ concerts in the Olympia and the 3 Arena last year.

Registration and opening ceremony

  • Registration begins at 11.00am in the local town hall (€25 registration fee per adult participant – this includes payment for the shuttle bus). Even if you have pre-registered you will need to go to the registration desk to collect a ticket to board the bus.
  • This will be followed by a short opening ceremony. WE ASK ALL WALKERS TO PLEASE BE PATIENT DURING REGISTRATION AND THE OPENING CEREMONY. The opening ceremony is a very important part of the Famine Walk experience with inspirational speakers and wonderful music.
  • Shuttle buses will bring walkers to the starting point from approx. 12.40pm. BUSES WILL NOT DEPART UNTIL THE OPENING CEREMONY IS COMPLETED, SO PLEASE DO NOT APPROACH THE BUSES UNTIL INSTRUCTED TO DO SO BY THE ORGANISERS.

Please see the Information Leaflet for Further information

Register on Eventbrite here

Death at Doolough by James Barry

14.04.24. Afri joined thousands of people protesting at Shannon Airport against Ireland’s complicity in war crimes and the genocide in Palestine.

#Gazagenocide #warcrimes #Shannon airport

Photo credit: Joe Buckley Photography

‘When Starvation is a Weapon, The Harvest Is Shame’ by Kathy Kelly

March 14, 2024

In a work entitled “Irish Famine 4,” Palestinian-American journalist and artist Sam Husseini combined grass and paint to commemorate a bitter time in Irish history when starving people died with their mouths stained green because, according to historian Christine Kinealy, their last meal was grass. Shamefully, British occupiers profited from exporting out of Ireland food crops so desperately needed. Over a seven year period, beginning in 1845, one million Irish people died from starvation and related diseases. It was a conscious mass killing. One of the most horrific means of execution we can read about or imagine was employed. The result, an excruciating descent into despair, delirium and bodily immobility while one’s attention, and character, is gradually reduced to extreme hunger and pain.

Now, in the occupied Gaza Strip, weapons dealers benefit from increasing  military shipments to Israel. Palestinians, like the Irish, have resorted to eating mixtures of grass and animal feed. The past five months of Israeli siege, bombing, and displacement have killed more than 31,000 people – mostly women and children. The onset of famine will expand that number exponentially, particularly among children.

Human Rights Watch says the Israeli government is starving civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip. Aiding and abetting this war crime, the U.S. government has approved 100 military sales to Israel over the past five months. U.S. bullets, bombs and guns have helped prevent crucially needed aid from reaching millions of Palestinians. The bombs have buried or destroyed much of the food supplies which could have partially mitigated this horror. Continued attacks have forced vast populations to flee, huddling in the occupation force’s next target, Rafah. The United States continues providing resources and support for this genocide.

On March 11, eight U.S. senators signed a letter to President Biden insisting that ongoing weapons shipments to Israel violate U.S. laws forbidding military aid to regimes obstructing U.S. humanitarian aid.

Additionally, 25 prominent humanitarian and human rights organizations delivered a letter to the President echoing the Senators’ message.

Even as Israel faces mounting pressure from world leaders to stop attacking people in Gaza awaiting relief and stop impeding humanitarian relief shipments, Israel turned back another aid truck. The reason? The shipment included children’s medical kits with scissors useful for applying bandages or cutting away clothing to reach shrapnel.

The Israelis forbid the scissors as a potential dual use weapon. Meanwhile the United States keeps sending Israel guns and bombs which present a far greater threat.

Each day brings new reports of Palestinians, 40 percent of them children, succumbing to disease and death because they are deprived of food, fuel, clean water, medicines, and shelter. Hellish conditions worsen as infectious contamination spreads from decomposing bodies and the chemical contaminants from the shell casings of thousands upon thousands of Israeli and western-supplied bombs dropped on Gaza.

In Northampton, Massachusetts, six activists are on day three of occupying the office of Representative Jim McGovern. They are demanding he call on the president to immediately halt all weapons shipments to Israel, even if Israel allows humanitarian aid into Gaza. And they want Rep. McGovern to publicly call for the  United States to stop vetoing U.N. cease-fire resolutions.

Occupiers in Rep. Jim McGovern’s office
Photo credit: Leahy Fast for Palestine Committee


“These are desperate times,” says one of the occupiers, Peter Kakos. “We must call for immediate action, and nothing less.” He’s particularly mindful of 17,000 Palestinian children in Gaza who are estimated by UNICEF to be currently unaccompanied or separated from their parents.

Save the Children’s March 12, 2024 report questions what five months of carnage, flight, starvation and disease, on top of nearly 17 years of  apartheid blockade, will do to the children in Gaza who survive the brutality now afflicting them.

During a recent visit to Amman, Jordan, I witnessed the anguish and frustration felt by many Palestinians denied any means of relieving the suffering of loved ones.

They had this response to photo-ops taken of U.S. aid drops.

“Are you going to feed starving people so that they can then face genocide from the Israeli Army with a full stomach?” asked my host. “What’s the logic in that? The only humanitarian thing to drop would be to drop all support for Israel’s war on the people of Gaza.”

In May of this year, an Irish NGO called AFRI (Action From Ireland) will hold an annual “famine walk ” to commemorate when hundreds of desperate people trekked in cold and stormy weather to beg mercy from British officials designated to assess who would qualify for small portions of food or tickets to enter a workhouse.

“The weather was terrible,” notes County Mayo’s official record, “with wind and hail beating down upon them. When they arrived in Delphi the Guardians refused them food or their tickets to the workhouse. Needless to say many of them perished on the return journey as fatigue and exhaustion from hunger took hold. Some of those that had energy to start the journey back to Louisburgh were swept into the lake by the heavy squalls.”

“An Gorta Mór” mural on Whiterock Road, Belfast, Ireland, April 2007
Photo Credit: Miossec, CC BY-SA 3.0

Each year, the organizers of AFRI’s famine walk focus on a place in the world afflicted by famine. “This year’s famine walk will focus on the unspeakable horrors being visited on the population of Gaza,” says AFRI’s coordinator, Joe Murray, “with ‘Irish’ President Biden forgetting his history and playing the part of a ‘Black and Tan’ in providing the means to obliterate an entire population.”

It’s heinous to ignore the plight of starving people as was done by the British relief officials in the spring of 1847. But how much crueler is it to bomb the people you are deliberately starving, forcing people to wonder if they will face a quick death or a long and tortuous one?

Yes, these are desperate times. People in the United States ought to occupy local offices of every elected official, denouncing all forms of violence, insisting on an immediate end to any support for Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza. It’s time to acknowledge the futility of war and call for a collective home to be shared by Muslims, Jews, Christians, Bahais, Druze and many others in a secular democratic state encompassing Israel and Palestine. Similarly, the elected representatives should occupy the Oval Office until the President takes action.


Main photo: Irish Famine 4, reproduced with permission from Sam Husseini

Photo credit: Sam Husseini

 This article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine.

Kathy Kelly (kathy.vcnv@gmail.com) co-coordinates the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal and is board president of World BEYOND War

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Afri hiring new Coordinator

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