Afri organised two events on the 21st and 22nd of May in Co. Mayo that addressed fundamental issues of economic and political justice in the world today.
The first was the annual Famine Walk from Doolough to Louisburgh, on Saturday 21st, commemorating the death of Irish people during the ‘great famine’ of the nineteenth century and highlighting the reality of hunger and food insecurity in the world today, the causes of which include war and obscene levels of military spending. This year the Famine Walk focused especially on the question of food sovereignty, including the threats to it from increasing corporate control of the food chain and the treatment of food as just another commodity to be bought and sold. The theme of corporate power also dominated at the second event, a public meeting in Erris on Sunday 22nd, where activists from India exchanged their stories of oppression by multinational companies (especially Union Carbide and its devastation of Bhopal) with the tales of local campaigners against Shell’s unwanted and dangerous Corrib Gas pipeline.
It is ironic, but perhaps also appropriate, that these events occurred between the visits to Ireland of the British Queen and the US President. Queen Elizabeth represents not only the absurdity of hereditary privilege (the notion that some people are born to rule over others) but also the British state – which oversaw the Irish famine but also oversees wars and occupations, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the world today. These wars not only kill countless thousands of people directly, they also heighten hunger and food insecurity through diversion of resources to military ends and through population displacement. The role of the US state in these wars (and in associated activities such as torture and illegal detention) is even greater – to take just one example, US ‘drone’ attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan have slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians. Tragically, the Irish state facilitates these outrages through the provision of Shannon airport to the US military. The US government also strongly backs corporate agribusiness in its attempt to colonise and commercialise the food chain, thus undermining food sovereignty.
To be in Mayo on Sunday, 22nd meant to be on the side of justice, peace, people’s right to food and to freedom from corporate abuse. To welcome the British Queen or the US President is to endorse injustice, war, hunger and corporate power. We know which side we are on.