Féile Bríde Gathering 2021

Please register here

The brochure can be viewed here

This year’s Féile Bríde notice comes to you with the unsurprising news that we will not be able to gather this February in the lovely surrounds of Solas Bhríde in Kildare. We will miss the fáilte and the hospitality that we’ve experienced from our Brigidine friends and Cáirde Bríde, there – and elsewhere in Kildare – every year since our first event, Brigid, Prophetess, Earthwoman, Peacemaker, back in 1993.

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Afri Calendar 2021

We have compiled a Calendar for 2021  with some suggestions as to how we can work towards a more sustainable world.

To order (at €7 per calendar including postage) please go to www.afri.ie/donate/ and click the donate button at the bottom of the page ‘donating’ the cost of your purchase and indicating the number of calendars you would like to purchase in the message box. Please make sure to include a return address and we will post your gift to you as soon as possible.

The Celtic Alphabet Tree Planting Project

At many of our regular events, such as Féile Bríde, our Famine Walks and Hedge Schools, Afri has planted a tree to reflect our commitment to living in peace and justice with our species and our planet.  In 2021 we plan an exciting new chapter in this decades-long tradition, this will involve planting 18 trees or plants, corresponding with the 18 letters of the ancient Irish alphabet.

For more information about the project and how to get involved, please see our Alphabet Avenue brochure here.

Acquitted! Colm and Dave found not guilty of charges brought against them.

The trial of two faith-based peace activists ended in October 2020 with an acquittal of all charges – over four years after the two men entered the airfield at Shannon Airport to protest the presence there of the “murderous machinery” of the US military.

After a nine-day trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the jury of eleven men and one woman took a little under two hours to return unanimous verdicts of not guilty on the two charges of criminal damage of the airport perimeter fence and runway.

Colm Roddy, aged 78, and Dave Donnellan, 60, had defended themselves and Judge Karen O’Connor commended them both for running their own cases in a dignified and courteous manner.

At the heart of their actions was the men’s belief that their actions were a reasonable response to the use of Shannon Airport by US troops and this belief would form the main plank of their defence.

Colm Roddy of Bayside Walk, Dublin and Dave Donnellan of Reuben St., Rialto, Dublin were stopped on the runway after they had walked towards a US Learjet and asked army and garda officials guarding the plane to search it.

The officials declined to do so and Dave Donnellan later told gardaí in interview that he believed that by doing so they were in gross dereliction of their duty to prevent the further loss of innocent life.

Before being stopped by officials the pair had spray-painted a number of red crucifixes on the airfield tarmac and on the walls of a substation building. These 45 minutes during which the men had walked around unchecked was cited by Dave Donnellan as evidence that the security at the airport was a “laughable joke”.

The charges facing the men alleged that they damaged the fence and runway without lawful authority or lawful excuse, in contravention of section two of the Criminal Damage Act, 1991.

Section six of the Act provides for a defence of lawful excuse where a defendant acted in order to protect himself or another and his actions were reasonable in the circumstances as he believed them to be.

In moving and heartfelt closing speeches both men spoke of their need to respond to the war mongering of the US military.

Dave Donnellan said hat he believed his prosecution for allegedly cutting the fence shows that “we have lost perspective on what’s really important.”

“I believe what’s really important is life itself. The life we share with our loved ones and the life we share with people we don’t know; people in Iraq and Libya and Syria and all the other places affected by US led wars.

“Their lives are as important as our own. That’s what took me into Shannon Airport four years ago,”.

He described how he felt that his journey to Shannon Airport began when as a younger man he listened to the stories of victims of the Nicaraguan civil war.

Colm Roddy told the jury that the US military has been using Shannon as an “effective forward operating base” for over 17 years and he has been protesting about this since then.

He said in that time around 2.5 million US troops have transited through the airport “on way to wars” and that taxpayers money is being used to pay overtime for army and garda officials to guard US military planes at the airport.

He noted that many of these US soldiers have come back “in bits and in boxes” and are as much victims as the people who die in the wars in countries in north Africa and the Middle East.

He became overwhelmed with emotion as he told the court: “As a citizen of Ireland I’m made complicit in this destruction and torture.

“My actions show that I will not meekly allow the State to make me complicit in the murder. This is both a rational and reasonable position to hold,” he said.

He said that he believes his actions had lawful excuse by raising awareness of these issues.

“Lawful or reasonable excuse is a house with smoke coming out it. It is the screaming of a child within. It is the right to enter. Shannon Airport is the house on fire and the screams of dying children can be heard all over the planet,” he said.

Dave Donnellan noted the evidence was that the hole in the fence measured 400 by 350 in millimetres and said these were “reasonable” dimensions.

“The presence of the U.S. Military at Shannon Airport is not a problem that can be measured in millimetres.

“The breach of Ireland’s neutrality and the transformation of Shannon into a legitimate military target under International Law is not a problem that can be measured in millimetres,” he said.

He submitted to the jury that “the forces of law and order are being used in favour of those who place no value on life and against those like Mr Roddy and myself who seek to protect human life”.

Later directing the jury on this law Judge O’Connor reminded jurors of the evidence of the defendant’s motivations.

Dave Donnellan told gardaí that “our faith based intention is the prevention of further loss of life”.

Colm Roddy told gardaí, “I had lawful excuse, I was trying to prevent a much greater illegality which is going on in Shannon Airport”.

He said that he came to the airport to act according to his conscience and “sense of duty to fellow human beings”, to “try to stop damage…to innocent lives”.

Judge O’Connor told jurors they must decide if the behaviour of the accused was reasonable in the circumstances as each of them believed them to be.

“It does not matter if the belief is justified or not as long as Mr Roddy and Mr Donnellan honestly hold the belief,” ” she said.

In his closing speech Colm Roddy further told the jury that the evidence of two Shannon Airport police officers was that they were previously unaware that the airport is, under international law, a legitimate military target because of the presence of the US military.

He said the State “dare not contradict that fact”.

“Our action has at least made some of the people who are taxed with protecting life limb and property in Shannon Airport aware of danger to life limb and property that they were previously unaware of”.

“That for me is lawful excuse for my actions,” he said.

DATE FOR YOUR DIARY

FOOD FOR THOUGHT – SEEDS OF CHANGE
 
September 11th, 12 noon to 2pm
 
A lunchtime on-line gathering and discussion on topics such as food, seeds and loss of social space in the context of the Covid pandemic.
 
With guest speakers, music, commentary, imagery and reflection as we approach harvest time and look towards harvests of the future.
 
Hosted by Afri and Feasta in partnership with Irish Seed Savers Association and Maynooth University.
 

Reflections from Afri’s First-Ever “Virtual Famine Walk”

“Since we can’t do the Famine Walk this year…could we do a virtual famine walk, instead”, when the question was raised, it seemed almost farcical.  How could we re-create on-line the unique and extraordinary atmosphere that thousands of people have experienced on ‘the famine road’ in County Mayo over more than 30 years? But we are living in unusual times and unusual times require unusual responses!

And so the Afri team – Larysa, RoJ and I linked up with Ruairi McKiernan to explore the possibility. Ruairi had a very successful launch of his excellent new book ‘Hitching for Hope’  on line recently and he was confident that the ‘Famine Walk’  concept, as well as  Afri’s network and reputation could bring a community of people together to mark this important date in the calendar. The walk began in 1988 and for many years it has taken place on the 3rd week-end in May – this third week-end in May has now become the ‘official’ date for the National Famine Commemoration in Ireland.

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Virtual Famine Walk – Forum, Conversation and Music

On May 16th at 7pm – the day on which the annual Doolough Famine Walk was due to take place, Afri will host a virtual Famine Walk Forum with distinguished guest speakers, great conversation and live music. Our host will be campaigner and author Ruairí McKiernan. He will be joined by renowned violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire, harpist Emer Lynam and singer-songwriters RoJ Whelan and Paul O’Toole, as well as guest speakers including Emeritus Professor John Maguire, author and Lecturer Dr Clare O’Grady Walshe,  MASI member Donnah Vuma and student climate activist Gráinne Malone.

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Government Formation – The Peace Issues

Press Release

Discussions on government formation are taking place in the wake of a demand by the electorate for a serious reshaping of priorities and policies. Issues of housing, education, climate change and of course health are to the fore. 

One other topic, so far absent from the debates, must finally and urgently be aired if democracy and sustainability are really to be achieved: the massive realignment of our defence and military policies over recent decades.

Successive Irish governments have covertly enabled the EU’s NATO-linked militarisation, shamefully and implausibly claiming that ‘nothing is happening here’ while trotting out the incoherent notion of ‘military neutrality’ to conceal the reality. 

We have had a Green and a White Paper on Defence, which never once mention more than 3.5 million troop movements, along with torture-related flights, through Shannon since 2003, all within a catastrophic, open-ended ‘War on Terror’.

This is totally at odds with the fundamental principles of Article 29 of Bunreacht na Éireann, which so vitally informed the Peace Process on this island.  Yet those who try to retrieve that heritage are demonised as trouble-makers and worse.

War – ‘organised murder’ in the words of Harry Patch, last survivor of World War I – is not an answer; it is the problem, perpetuating a merciless cycle of aggression and retaliation.  It is also wasteful –‘a theft’ from true human priorities in the words of US President Eisenhower – and environmentally destructive.

Yet in 2015 our then Chief of Staff foresaw our defence forces as ‘an investment centre’[1].  Significant recent moves towards ‘defence-related research and investment’ were put on hold only by the calling of the General Election.    

Smaller parties have now been invited to discuss government formation with the two large parties that have for decades undermined our defence and foreign policy values and thwarted the right and duty of the Irish people, under Article 6 of the Constitution, fundamentally to shape our society.   

Commitments to the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) are incompatible with an adequate response to our needs in health, housing, education, climate change and other policy areas. We call on any party that enters into negotiations with FF/FG to demand a change in the policy of selling-out Irish neutrality, to bring neutrality into line with Article 29 of Bunreacht na Éireann and with the clearly expressed wishes of the majority of citizens (as confirmed in a Red C poll at the time of the 2019 European Parliament elections). If the parties do not squarely confront this issue, they will from the start have abandoned any serious prospect of achieving a decent, democratic, peaceful and sustainable society.

We should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic: only through international cooperation and not confrontation can global issues be solved. Indeed, by nations peacefully working together we can also prevent the next emergency that is hurtling towards us, climate change. Militarism and the ongoing arms race are a major contributory factor in the cause of climate change. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report that $1,917 billion was squandered on weaponry and other military expenditure in 2019. The Irish Government should become pro-active in pursuing an international peace agenda.

With this in mind, we, the undersigned, demand that the following become part of Government policy. 

  • End the use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports and territorial waters by foreign powers preparing for or engaging in war or other armed conflict, and in particular end the US military use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace for such purposes;
  • Commit to ending Ireland’s participation in military exercises and deployments not mandated and operated by the UN, including NATO, EU and other multilateral exercises and deployments;
  • Revoke Ireland’s ratification of PESCO, which we do not believe commands majority support in the new Dail, and cease all involvement in European Defence Agency programmes;
  • Protect and copper-fasten Irish neutrality, by holding a referendum to amend the Constitution to give effect to this, and/or the codification of neutrality in domestic legislation to give effect to the Hague Conventions on the conduct of warfare, including the obligations of neutral states.

Signed

 Joe Murray, Action from Ireland (AFRI)

 Niall Farrell, Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW)

 Michael Youlton, Irish Anti War Movement (IAWM)

 David Edgar, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

 Roger Cole, Chair, Peace & Neutrality Alliance (PANA)

 Frank Keoghan, People’s Movement

 John Lannon, Shannonwatch

 Edward Horgan, Veterans For Peace Ireland

 Barry Sweeney, World Beyond War Ireland

[1] 10th October 2015

7th May 2020