30th Anniversary of the Famine Walk

The Afri Famine Walk is a unique and highly significant annual event in Ireland. Recalling a tragic episode from An Gorta Mór, with reverence and respect, it also promotes compassion, action and solidarity with those oppressed and excluded in today’s world.

‘Food for Thought’ in Castlebar and Westport on May 18th

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/.

Spirit Felt During Famine Walk

Nóilín Ní Cholla sings sean nós song An Mhaighdean Mhara to walkers at Famine Graveyard in Dunfanaghy
Nóilín Ní Cholla sings sean nós song An Mhaighdean Mhara to walkers at Famine Graveyard in Dunfanaghy

“We were very pleased with this year’s Afri Famine Walk in Northwest Donegal” said Máire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser. “Participants came from as far away as Dublin.”

Called “Seeds of Hope and Remembrance”, the nine-mile journey originated on Saturday 4th June in Dunfanaghy and ended in Falcarragh. Walkers stopped along the way to lay flowers at a Famine mass grave. “When Noleen Ní Cholla sang a beautiful sean nós song at graveside, it stirred something there. Everyone felt the spirit of what we were doing. We carried that spirit with us on our walk” Nic Fhearraigh added. Continue reading “Spirit Felt During Famine Walk”

“Seeds of Hope and Remembrance” connects with Glenveagh National Park

Chocktaw squash

“Seeds of Hope and Remembrance” is the theme of this year’s Afri Famine walk in Northwest Donegal. “Choctaw heirloom squash seeds will be planted at the community garden in Falcarragh to honour the Choctaw, who helped to feed Famine Ireland” explains Maire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser.  The squash is called issito in the Choctaw language and matures into a large, oblong shape that is bright orange, both inside and out. Sean O Gaoithin, head gardener at Glenveagh National Park recently reflected on the planting of Choctaw squash seeds at Glenveagh and on food security, community gardens and how planting seeds helps us to remember our heritages:

“Heirloom seeds connect us with our histories. In the past twenty years at Glenveagh we’ve collected many plant seeds unique to Donegal and the country, like the Gortahork Cabbage and Irish apples. By growing them we become the keepers of these plants and we connect to our heritage directly, to the biodiversity of this particular place and to our ancestors. By bringing these kinds of plants in and highlighting them in a high profile growing venue, Glenveagh in a sense has become the Botanic Gardens of Donegal.

Continue reading ““Seeds of Hope and Remembrance” connects with Glenveagh National Park”

Seeds of Hope and Remembrance – Donegal Famine Commemoration Walk

Tony Dalton Falcarragh community gardener receives Choctaw heirloom squash seeds from AFRI organiser Waylon White Deer
Tony Dalton, Falcarragh community gardener, receives Choctaw heirloom squash seeds from Afri organiser, Waylon White Deer

For hundreds of years, Choctaw Indians  raised corn, beans and squash in vast and fertile flood plains,  until the American army evicted them from their ancient homelands on deadly 500-mile forced marches. Not long after, the Choctaw were asked to donate monies to help feed the victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger. They gave what little they had. Continue reading “Seeds of Hope and Remembrance – Donegal Famine Commemoration Walk”

From Doolough to Dili and back

President Taur Matan Ruak presents Joe Murray with the 'Order of Timor-Leste’ medal on behalf of on behalf of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign
President Taur Matan Ruak presents Joe Murray with the ‘Order of Timor-Leste’ medal on behalf of on behalf of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign

One of the highlights of Afri’s year is the Annual Doolough Famine Walk and 2015 was no exception. The walk encapsulates many elements, from the tragic story which it commemorates to the reality of continuing famine and food inequality today; the local and the global, connecting Ireland, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the world. The breath taking beauty of the landscape and the way in which Delphi Lodge has now embraced the story adds another dimension.  East Timor was the focus of the 1993 walk, which was led by Tom Hyland and Timorese students Dino Rai and Jose Lopez. The walk is also a generator of ideas and images, a place to plant trees and potatoes, to sow seeds to sing songs and recall stories.

In May 1994, Don Mullan and I left from the walk to attend the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. On that occasion Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and his wife Sunandra had just led the Famine Walk and unveiled a memorial to Mahatma and Michael Davitt in the famine graveyard in Swinford. Gandhi, of course had strong links with South Africa, spending many of his formative years there before returning to India to lead the independence movement.

In 2015, I left the Famine Walk to fly to Dili, capital of the first newly independent state of the 21st century, Timor Leste. I last visited Timor in 1999, as part of a human rights delegation including Fr. Michael Lapsley and Robbie McVeigh from Derry. We met with many groups and individuals on that occasion including the leader of the resistance Xanana Gusmao, who was in prison in Jakarta at that time. Soon after he was released and a referendum was held in which the people overwhelmingly voted for independence.


Continue reading “From Doolough to Dili and back”

Canadian Scientist to speak in Dublin about risks of hydraulic fracturing

Jessica ErnstThere will be a public event on Fracking on Monday the 11th of March at 6.30pm in the Smock Alley Theatre, Exchange Street, Dublin 2, with Canadian scientist Jessica Ernst, organised by Friends of the Earth, No Fracking Dublin and Afri.

Jessica Ernst, a 55-year-old Canadian scientist with 30 years oil and gas industry experience, is suing the Alberta government and gas producer EnCana for unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing. She is in Ireland on a speaking tour that includes visits to areas that will be potentially affected by fracking in the North and West of the country.

Jessica’s presentation is a thorough and shocking story of regulators failure to protect health and the environment. Her lawsuit methodically details how Alberta’s two key groundwater regulators, Alberta Environment and the ERCB, “failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicised.”

This event is relevant to those who want to prevent fracking in Ireland, and who would like to find out more about the issues involved.

To book for this event, go here: http://www.eventbrite.ie/event/4001927874

Audit Report on Ireland’s Debt launched

Today, a team of researchers from University of Limerick led by Dr Sheila Killian, released the results of an audit of Ireland’s debt. The audit, commissioned by NGOs Action from Ireland (Afri), Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI) and the trade union UNITE, will provide a credible and explanatory picture of Ireland’s debt. The audit was carried out by Dr Sheila Killian, Dr John Garvey and Francis Shaw.

Continue reading “Audit Report on Ireland’s Debt launched”

Comhlámh’s “Stop the EU’s resources grab!” Campaign

The EU’s new trade policy on raw materials is undermining the effort of the world’s poorest countries to develop their economies for the benefit of their population and to fight against inequality and poverty. This policy will prevent developing countries from exercising control over their natural resources, and from ensuring they get a fair price for their raw materials. Continue reading “Comhlámh’s “Stop the EU’s resources grab!” Campaign”

Dalai Lama and John Monaghan Attend ‘POSSIBILITIES Civic Summit’

Joe Murray of Afri is introduced to the Dalai Lama by Richard Moore
John Monaghan is congratulated by Des Brannigan, following his address at the Possibilities Civic Summit

On Wednesday, April 13th, two thousand people gathered in Dublin’s Citywest Hotel for the sold-out POSSIBILITIES 2011 civic summit. POSSIBILITIES was organised by three Irish non-profit organisations: Afri, Children in Crossfire and SpunOut.ie and aims to inspire people, young and old, to become vocal and active in transforming our country and our planet for the better.

The event was attended by the exiled and soon to retire Tibetan leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who accepted a personal invitation to come to Ireland from his close friend, Derry man Richard Moore. Richard was blinded by a rubber bullet at the age of 10, and went on to seek out and befriend the British soldier who shot him.

The Dalai Lama spoke on the subject of ‘Universal Responsibility’ and how taking action for change is something we all have a duty to do. Following the Possibilities Summit, the Dalai Lama went on to speak at events in Kildare and Limerick as part of his third visit to the Republic.

Continue reading “Dalai Lama and John Monaghan Attend ‘POSSIBILITIES Civic Summit’”