Afri applauds the courage and dedication of the two US Veterans for Peace, Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, who have been convicted of interfering with the operation of Shannon Airport during their peaceful action three years ago. Continue reading “Afri statement on US Vets for Peace Trial”
Why on earth keep going on about neutrality? Aren’t we in a bizarre twilight zone, where the governments who systematically undermine neutrality declare it alive and well, while its defenders, frustrated by such hypocrisy, are almost tempted to declare it dead and buried? After all, what is so special about ‘Irish Neutrality’?
Afri condemns the Russian onslaught on Ukraine. Nothing can justify such aggressive action, nor can that action resolve any valid grievance. Continue reading “Afri Statement on Russian Invasion of Ukraine”
1.2.22. Dublin, Ireland. ‘Brigid’ marks her day by delivering the Downpatrick Declaration, calling for an end to war and the arms trade to Minister Simon Coveney Continue reading “‘Brigid’ delivers call for peace to Department of Foreign Affairs on St. Brigid’s Day”
We in Afri join with the world in expressing our sadness at the passing of our hero and patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Continue reading “A New Year Message from Afri to coincide with the burial of our patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu”
(L-R) Joe Murray of Afri with Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and Rob Fairmichael of INNATE at the lauch of The Downpatrick Declaration. 07.12.21 (Photo by Roger Whelan) Continue reading “Downpatrick Declaration”
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.
Chelsea Manning was never one to take the popular or easy route in life. The decision to release classified information that would rock the world of military secrecy and murder would lead to her vilification and brutalization. But Chelsea did it because she believed in the truth: ‘I want the people to see the truth…because without information you cannot make informed decisions.’
Afri became involved in the ‘Free Chelsea Manning’ campaign when peace activist Ciaron O’Reilly organised for Chelsea’s family, who have strong Irish connections in Kerry and Dublin, to make a visit to Ireland. We organised a programme of events including a public meeting in Trinity College attended by Chelsea’s mother, aunts and uncle and addressed by Chelsea’s aunt Sharon as well as by the former Guildford 4 member, Gerry Conlon.
That was an evening of deep emotion: Gerry Conlon, tragically no longer with us, spoke with his trademark passion, principle and anger at how legal and political systems in Britain had crushed his own life and extinguished the life of his father, Guiseppi Conlon. He praised the courage of Chelsea Manning and lamented the fact that there was no similarly brave whistle-blower in the British system when he and his father and Maguire relations were incarcerated on completely spurious charges.
As a result of that visit to Ireland, Donal O’Kelly was inspired to initiate the Manning Truthfest, consisting of artists, musicians and activists who crossed the Irish sea in the Spring of 2014 and 2015 and again in the Autumn of 2016 to sing songs and play music in solidarity with Chelsea and her Welsh-based family and to protest the inhumanity of the 35 year sentence imposed upon her. Afri was a central part of this extraordinary seaborne solidarity!
During one of those visits, Chelsea’s uncle Kevin, a life-long Manchester United supporter, said it would have been easier had Chelsea chosen any other name than that of a rival football club to mark her female identity! Chelsea never dodged difficult decisions…
The commutation of Chelsea’s sentence is perhaps the best thing that Barack Obama will have done in office. But Chelsea, together with tens of thousands of other US soldiers, should never have been in Iraq, where they have succeeded only in laying waste to the country and its people. And Chelsea should never have been in prison in the first place. Continue reading “Freedom beckons for Chelsea Manning”
We are all overjoyed that Chelsea will soon be free.
Chelsea exposed wrongdoing and was punished for being a whistleblower. We regret that it has taken so long for President Obama to commute the sentence and are outraged that Chelsea has been forced to endure such abusive treatment in prison. We agree with the UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez that some of this abuse amounted to torture.
We sincerely hope that Chelsea will now be able to get on with the rest of her life and that she finds happiness and fulfilment in whatever she chooses to do. There will always be a welcome for her here in Wales.
Short film of gathering outside Dáil Eireann on Thursday 15th December 2016, calling
for imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning to be pardoned.
Read more here.
With thanks to all those who sent in their photos and messages of solidarity and to RoJ for filming