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.

Date for your diary: 30th Afri Famine Walk

Donncha O Dulaing (centre) leads the first Famine Walk in 1988

Thirty years on the ‘Famine Road’ have generated many memorable moments and iconic images.  On the first walk in 1988, walk leader Donncha O Dulaing arrived by helicopter to join Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison in the Philippines, and Mayo woman Caitriona Ruane, recently  returned from  Central America, before leading us off  on the first ‘chapter’ of this extraordinary journey.

The following year, Brian Willson, having lost both legs while attempting to stop a train delivering arms from the US to Central America, was applauded as he bravely crossed the finishing line.

Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were almost blown away with the force of the gale that blew up when they led the walk in 1991.  It helped us all to understand a little better how it would’ve been for the hungry poor of 1849.

The voices of Juana Vasquez and Dario Caal, representing the Maya from Guatemala, echoed off the mountains as they spoke at the edge of Doolough about the importance of solidarity and how they believed they were walking with the spirits of our ancestors through the sacred Doolough valley in 1995.

And then the gates of Delphi Lodge were opened to the walk in 2013.  We walked through the gates solemnly carrying the names of those who had died in the tragedy of 1849 and the names of those who died of hunger in our own day, in our world of plenty.  We planted an oak tree, we planted potatoes supplied by Willie Corduff of Rossport and we listened to the deeply emotional rendition of ‘Connacht Orphan’ sung by its author, Declan O’Rourke.

Join us for the 30th Walk on May 20th 2017 where more extraordinary moments are sure to be generated.

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Afri’s annual Doolough Famine Walk was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ show and was selected as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Pick of the Week’ on Sunday 19th February.  Listen to the show here.

To register online go here or check out our facebook event page.  If you  are planning on doing the Famine Walk please contact the Afri office for a sponsorship card – admin@afri.ie or 01 8827563.

 

General Information

  • Please assemble in Louisburgh for registration at 12.45pm. 
  • There will be an approximately 15 min opening ceremony, including speakers and music – this is a very important part of the Famine Walk and we would encourage all participants to be present for this part of the event.
  • Buses will bring walkers to start point from 1.30pm. 
  • A tree will be planted at the start of the walk at the Famine Memorial in Delphi Lodge before walkers return to Louisburgh. 
  • There is no parking available at Delphi Lodge. 
  • The walk is approximately 11 miles (18 km) and a shuttle car will be available along the route if needed.
  • Comfortable shoes, raingear and water are strongly recommended.
  • Tea/coffee (but not food) will be provided at a halfway point along the way.  There will also be toilet facilities at the halfway point as well as along the lake.
  • IN THE INTEREST OF HEALTH AND SAFETY, PLEASE WALK ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD FOR THE DURATION OF THE WALK.

Sponsorship

We are asking participants to consider raising sponsorship for Afri, so that we can continue our important work.  If you would like to do so, please get in touch with the Afri office and we will post you out a sponsorship card.  If you would prefer not to raise sponsorship you can register online here or pay €24 on the day – which includes the registration fee and cost of the bus to the start of the walk.

Blood Fruit

At the premiere of "Blood Fruit" in Galway: (from left to right) Theresa Mooney, Karen Gearon, Sinead O'Brien (film director), Cathryn O'Reilly, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Sandra Griffin, Joe Murray (Afri) and Mary Manning.
At the premiere of “Blood Fruit” in Galway: (from left to right) Theresa Mooney, Karen Gearon, Sinead O’Brien (film director), Cathryn O’Reilly, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Sandra Griffin, Joe Murray (Afri) and Mary Manning.

 

Blood Fruit will be shown on TG4 on Wednesday 22nd October at 9.30pm and Sunday 26th October at 11.30pm

 

Blood Fruit  recounts the story of ten exceptional young workers in Dunnes Stores in Henry Street who took the courageous decision to refuse to handle ‘the fruits of apartheid’ in 1984. This decision was to have major consequences for the workers themselves – being locked out for more than 2 years – and internationally as the story became known around the world. It resulted in a rare and amazing victory when the Irish Government banned the importation of fruit and vegetables from South Africa.

The film relays the experience of the daily drudgery on the picket line as well as their invitation to address the UN, their meeting with Desmond Tutu en route to receive the Nobel Peace prize and their abortive visit to South Africa where they were held by armed police before being sent home on the next plane. This is a compelling and inspiring story which should be compulsory viewing for people of all ages, reflecting what is best in human nature – the ability to empathise with the suffering of others even in faraway places and to express solidarity to the point of making a real and significant difference.

Nelson Mandela had said that the action of the strikers had helped him during his imprisonment and, in a message sent to the strikers via Afri for the premiere, Archbishop Tutu saluted them, describing them as ‘a beacon of hope’ and ‘part of the history of South Africa’s struggle for freedom’.

Blood Fruit

At the premiere of "Blood Fruit" in Galway: (from left to right) Theresa Mooney, Karen Gearon, Sinead O'Brien (film director), Cathryn O'Reilly, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Sandra Griffin, Joe Murray (Afri) and Mary Manning.
At the premiere of “Blood Fruit” in Galway: (from left to right) Theresa Mooney, Karen Gearon, Sinead O’Brien (film director), Cathryn O’Reilly, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Sandra Griffin, Joe Murray (Afri) and Mary Manning.

Members of Afri were delighted to attend the premiere of ‘Blood Fruit’ in Galway recently. Director Sinead O’Brien has ensured that the eventual telling of this extraordinary story on the big screen was worth the long wait. The film recounts the story of ten exceptional young workers in Dunnes Stores in Henry Street who took the courageous decision to refuse to handle ‘the fruits of apartheid’ in 1984. This decision was to have major consequences for the workers themselves – being locked out for more than 2 years – and internationally as the story became known around the world. It resulted in a rare and amazing victory when the Irish Government banned the importation of fruit and vegetables from South Africa.

The film relays the experience of the daily drudgery on the picket line as well as their invitation to address the UN, their meeting with Desmond Tutu en route to receive the Nobel Peace prize and their abortive visit to South Africa where they were held by armed police before being sent home on the next plane. This is a compelling and inspiring story which should be compulsory viewing for people of all ages, reflecting what is best in human nature – the ability to empathise with the suffering of others even in faraway places and to express solidarity to the point of making a real and significant difference.

Nelson Mandela had said that the action of the strikers had helped him during his imprisonment and, in a message sent to the strikers via Afri for the premiere, Archbishop Tutu saluted them, describing them as ‘a beacon of hope’ and ‘part of the history of South Africa’s struggle for freedom’.

Call for a Public Inquiry into the Policing of the Shell/Corrib Gas Project

We support the recent demands for an inquiry into allegations of systemic Garda corruption and violence. We believe any such inquiry should include the Shell/Corrib pipeline police operation in North West Mayo. This is one of the longest running police operations in the history of the Irish state and has drawn critical attention from national and international human rights organisations [1] since 2006 over the alleged violence and intimidation used by Gardaí against campaigners.

In 2007, campaigners submitted complaints en masse against the Gardaí to the newly established Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). Out of the 111 complaints received by GSOC between May 2007 and November 2009, 78 were deemed admissible and 7 sent to the DPP. The DPP rejected prosecution in all 7 cases. The majority of campaigners have since stopped submitting complaints to GSOC. In 2010, complaints from 400 Kilcommon residents were submitted to Shell’s Belmullet office detailing the “escalating physical and psychological harassment” continuing in the area. In 2012, residents again submitted a mass complaint, this time to Mayo County Council, outlining serious grievances arising out of the project, including experiences of private security and state policing, with no result. Any inquiry into the policing of the Shell/Corrib Gas Project cannot ignore the following extract from the minutes of the Shell Committee of Managing Directors meeting held in London 22/23 July 2002: “It was noted that development of the Corrib field may be delayed until 2004 as planning consent had been refused for the terminal. The committee queried whether the Group had sufficiently well placed contacts with the Irish government and regulators. Paul Skinner undertook to explore this issue further in consultation with the Country Chairman in Ireland”. [2]

In 2007, GSOC requested to conduct a “practice, policy and procedure” investigation into the police operation but this was turned down by the then Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan. In 2009, the then Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy ignored recommendations from GSOC that a senior Garda on the operation face disciplinary action. The following year, two officers on secondment to GSOC tasked with addressing the body of complaints in relation to the policing of the Shell/Corrib gas project gave their apologies to campaigners before returning to New Zealand. In 2011, following the tape controversy, in which members of the Gardaí were recorded joking about raping and deporting female protestors, campaigners publicly stated that they believed GSOC’s response to the controversy amounted to “blame the victim” tactics through a campaign of spin and misinformation. Quite understandably, there is now no faith in GSOC as it currently exists and any inquiry by GSOC into the Shell/Corrib gas police operation would be dysfunctional, particularly as this inquiry should include the failings of GSOC. Continue reading “Call for a Public Inquiry into the Policing of the Shell/Corrib Gas Project”

Nobel Peace Laureates Call for Preemptive Ban on Autonomous Weapons

Statement by Nobel Peace Laureates

In April 2013 in London, a group of nongovernmental organizations – most associated with the successful efforts to ban landmines and cluster munitions – publicly launched the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.” Their efforts have helped bring the issue of fully autonomous weapons to a broader audience and spur governments to begin discussions on these weapons this May in Geneva.

We, the undersigned Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, applaud this new global effort and whole-heartedly embrace its goal of a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons that would be able to select and attack targets on their own. It is unconscionable that human beings are expanding research and development of lethal machines that would be able to kill people without human intervention.

Not all that long ago such weapons were considered the subject of science fiction, Hollywood and video games. But some machines are already taking the place of soldiers on the battlefield. Some experts in the field predict that fully autonomous weapons could be developed within 20 to 30 years; others contend it could even be sooner. With the rapid development of drones and the expansion of their use in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and beyond, billions of dollars are already being spent to research new systems for the air, land, and sea that one day would make drones seem as quaint as the Model T Ford does today. Continue reading “Nobel Peace Laureates Call for Preemptive Ban on Autonomous Weapons”

Shatter rejects Corrib policing probe

An Afri statement, supported by Desmond Tutu, Denis Halliday, Ed Vulliamy and others, calling for an urgent and comprehensive enquiry into the policing of the Corrib Gas project has been rejected by Minister Shatter. Despite what Archbishop Tutu described as the “many disturbing incidences” highlighted in the statement and growing concern in relation to Garda activity in general, Minister Shatter has claimed that a public enquiry is unnecessary.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/alan-shatter-rejects-corrib-policing-probe-264258.html

 

Call for Independent Enquiry into Policing of Corrib Gas Project

Afri International Patron, Desmond Tutu.  Photo: Derek Speirs
Afri International Patron, Desmond Tutu. Photo: Derek Speirs

In light of ongoing controversies concerning lack of accountability of the Gardaí, and serious shortcomings on the part of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), Afri, supported by the undersigned, wishes to draw renewed attention to serious concerns around the policing of the Corrib Gas Project. Local residents have exhausted all available means of redress – including reports to GSOC, the Minster for Justice and the Garda Commissioner – without receiving satisfactory responses. Therefore, we now call for an independent and comprehensive enquiry into all aspects of the policing of the Corrib Gas Project to seek redress and accountability in relation to abuses which are, sadly, ongoing.

These concerns include, for example, the verbal and physical abuse of Willie Corduff by Gardaí as he took part in a peaceful protest in Glengad on April 22nd and 23rd 2009.This was followed by an attack by a group of men in dark clothes with their faces covered. During this attack Mr. Corduff was struck on the head by a blunt leather-covered object and then beaten until he lost consciousness. Mr. Corduff was removed to hospital and suffered serious pain and distress for many weeks afterwards. This attack occurred while Gardaí were in close proximity and no satisfactory investigation into the attack has ever taken place.

There are concerns also about the sinking of Pat O’Donnell’s boat the Iona Isle, which was boarded by masked men in June 2009. Pat O’Donnell, recipient of a state bravery award in 2013, and his crewman Martin O’Donnell were attacked and held down while the Iona Isle was holed and sunk under cover of darkness. Some hours later men fitting the description of those who boarded the boat were reported to have been picked up in Killala harbour by a transport vehicle used by the Shell Corrib Gas project. Both Mr. O’Donnell and his crewman were later admitted to Castlebar General hospital. Continue reading “Call for Independent Enquiry into Policing of Corrib Gas Project”

Afri’s February Brigid Peace Cross Campaign

Brigid CrossBetween now and the end of February, invest €10 or more in Afri’s peace, justice, human rights and sustainably work, and you will receive a special Brigid’s peace cross. You can donate online at www.iDonate.ie/afri or via post or bank deposit. Please also consider a monthly contribution that will go a long way towards our important work, which we do with minimal resources. To find out more about our work you can visit our website at www.afri.ie or on Facebook (afriireland) or Twitter (@afripeace).

Message from Afri patron and Nobel Peace Laureate, Desmond Tutu

“Afri is a small organisation with a global reach, whose creativity and imaginative approach give it an ability to punch above its weight. Afri represents a dissenting voice that sometimes goes against the grain, an extremely important role in society, especially at a time when the dominant approaches have brought us to a situation of grave inequality and crises. I reaffirm my support for Afri,…organisations like Afri are now needed more than ever and that they should be supported and encouraged by all who believe in democracy in Ireland and beyond.” Continue reading “Afri’s February Brigid Peace Cross Campaign”