Reflections from Manning Truthfest, January 2014

From Left to Right: Brian Fleming, Ellen Cranitch, Sorcha Fox, Imogen Gunner, Robbie Sinnott, Joe Black and RoJ Whelan
From Left to Right: Brian Fleming, Ellen Cranitch, Sorcha Fox, Imogen Gunner, Robbie Sinnott, Joe Black and RoJ Whelan

Having hosted the Manning Family during their momentous visit to Ireland, Afri was delighted to continue that support for the Manning Truthfest – ‘the return fixture’ – in Wales on the 10th to 12th January 2014.

Donal O’Kelly had met the family, heard their story and, never one to miss an opportunity for offering support and solidarity, came up with the wonderful idea of the Manning Truthfest. This was a voyage of discovery in many ways as musicians and artists were contacted and assembled, car pools sorted and the ferry crossing arranged. From the moment we gathered this group of artists seemed imbued with a special spirit.

On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Genny and the family, provided with excellent accommodation and from then on it was non-stop music. Despite the harrowing nature and the brutal treatment of Chelsea Manning there is much to celebrate in a life marked by courage and truth and it was appropriate that this Truthfest was awash with the sounds of music, song, poetry, drama, dance and drumbeat.

Thank you to all who made it possible.

For a full report of the visit, go here: http://manningfamilyfund.org/2014/01/14/manning-truthfest-report-part-1/

Irish Culture Gang Storms Wales with the Manning Truthfest

This weekend 10-11 January 2014 a gang of Irish musicians, performers and activists will travel to west Wales to present not one, not two, but three events in support of whistleblower and US prisoner Chelsea (Bradley) Manning and her mum and family members in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

Chelsea  Manning is serving a 35-year jail sentence in the US for releasing what was judged to be classified information. It included film of a murderous US helicopter gunship attack on civilians in Baghdad that killed 12 and seriously injured two children. The perpetrators of that crime walk free.

Chelsea Manning’s grandfather Billy Fox emigrated from Rathmines Dublin to Wales in 1948. So Afri invited Chelsea’s family from Wales to Dublin two months ago. His mum Susan, aunts Sharon and Mary, and his uncle Kevin made many friends during that visit, some of whom are among the return visitors to Wales this weekend taking part in The Manning Truthfest in Fishguard and Haverfordwest. Continue reading “Irish Culture Gang Storms Wales with the Manning Truthfest”

Afri Hedge School 2013: Resources, Conflict & Climate Change: The Links

From L-R: William Hederman (Journalist), Liam McGlynn (Lecturer in ITB) and David Horgan (Petrel Resources) participate in a debate: “Natural Resources: Whose Gain, Whose Pain? From Ireland to the Wider World”. Photo: Derek Speirs

In our history, Hedge Schools were places of learning, continuity and resistance, emerging out of the draconian Penal Laws that forbade formal education to most Irish people. Learning about and resisting the causes of poverty is at the heart of Afri’s work and the Hedge School symbolizes the kind of resilience and creativity needed to address the crisis facing our world as a result of climate change and the obscenity of the war industry.

As Joe Murray (Afri’s Co-ordinator) noted in his opening address the crisis facing our world today cannot be over estimated but it also represents an opportunity to bring about the kind of change that is urgently needed. Justine Nantale spoke about the effects of climate change in her country, Uganda. She noted that most people in Uganda are dependent on farming and when the rains don’t come they are very badly affected. For them, climate change is not something to be debated, but a living reality. Continue reading “Afri Hedge School 2013: Resources, Conflict & Climate Change: The Links”

Hedge School 2013 – Resources, Conflict & Climate Change: The Links

Just a SecondAfri 2013 Hedge School organised in partnership with I.T. Blanchardstown

 

Tuesday 5th November 2013

9.30 am – 4.30 pm

Room A57, A Block, I.T. Blanchardstown (for directions click here)

 

Programme for the day

 9.30 am Registration

10 am Opening

10.15 am Natural Resources: Whose Gain, Whose Pain? From Ireland to the Wider World

Debate between David Horgan (Petrel Resources) and William Hederman (Journalist) with Q&A

11.15 am Panel Discussion with Justine Nantale (Uganda), Kevin Murphy (ITB) and a speaker from Shannonwatch

12.30 pm End of Art is Peace

Music and dance by I.T. Blanchardstown students

12.45 pm Gary White Deer (Choctaw Artist): The Art of Campaigning

1pm Lunch

1.45pm Donal O’Kelly’s play “Fionnuala”

2.35pm World cafe

4.30pm Finish

To book a place, call the Afri office 01 8827563 or email admin@afri.ie

Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of Irish Aid and Trócaire

‘Hairy Jaysus’ in the Viking Theatre

Hairy JaysusHairy Jaysus, Donal O’Kelly’s solo show inspired by Frank Sheehy Skeffington, will have its world premiere in the Viking Theatre @ Connollys’ The Sheds, Clontarf, Dublin, at 8pm for five nights from Monday 14th October until Friday 18th October.

Frank Sheehy Skeffington was James Joyce’s friend in UCD. When he professed to be an atheist, Joyce dubbed him ‘Hairy Jaysus’. He married Hanna Sheehy, they shared each other’s surnames, and campaigned for votes for women. He was a pacifist and a socialist. Close to James Connolly, he was active in support of the locked-out workers of Dublin in 1913. He served time in Mountjoy Jail for opposing recruitment for the First World War. He was summarily executed in Portobello Barracks Rathmines, on Wednesday of Easter Week 1916. He is rarely remembered among those executed.

Donal O’Kelly recently won a Fringe First in Edinburgh with his solo show about the Shell Corrib gas project, Fionnuala, also nominated for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award, and The Stage Best Solo Performer award. His 3-part musicdrama radio series, Francisco, which he wrote and directed, is nominated for Best Radio Fiction Series in the Prix Europa. Fishamble: The New Play Company will present his play, Little Thing Big Thing, on tour in Ireland early next year.

Hairy Jaysus will be broadcast on RTE Radio at 8pm on Sunday 1st December.

To book tickets (€10) contact The Viking Theatre: 087 1129970.

Donal O’Kelly’s “Fionnuala” wins Fringe First Award

Donal O'Kelly Fringe 1st (Willie Corduff)
Donal O’Kelly dedicates the Fringe First Award he received for “Fionnuala” to Willie and Mary Corduff

Afri are delighted to announce that Donal O’Kelly’s play about the Corrib Gas Project, “Fionnuala” has won a Fringe First award during the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Joyce McMillan described “Fionnuala” in the Scotsman as “Gripping, funny and full of a rich sense of Ireland’s great tradition of myth and legend… ruthlessly precise in its analysis of the deep malaise of 21st century Ireland in its subservient relationship with global corporate power and the threats faced by all of us in an age of ever more desperate energy extraction.”

“Fionnuala” is about the Corrib Gas fiasco foisted on a small rural community in County Mayo. Ambrose Keogh works for Shell. When the Tunnel Boring Machine he named Fionnuala sinks into the bog in Erris Co. Mayo, he is magically confronted by Fionnuala of the Children of Lir. Fionnuala puts a geas on him – he’s bound to tell the truth – about Shell. That brings to light some stark truths that Shell management would prefer wasn’t in the public arena. And it brings Ambrose back to his old primary school desk-mate, now an anti-Shell campaigner.

At the awards ceremony in Edinburgh, Donal dedicated the Fringe First to Willie and Mary Corduff and also thanked the people of Kilcommon for their support. Donal stated, “[I] hope that Fionnuala playing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival can be used to highlight the severe abuse of their basic civil rights for over a decade.”  Donal also thanked Afri and the 84 people who crowd funded the visit to Edinburgh for their support.

Article about Donal winning the Fringe First in Hotpress: here

Also, Donal speaking on RTE’s Arena show on Friday about the win (starting at 16 minutes in), click here.

Shamrock Shame and Shannon: Short film

A short film made by Dave Donnellan on behalf of Afri to highlight the volume of military traffic through Shannon and the implications this has for Ireland as a supposedly “neutral” country. Afri board member, John Maguire, describes Shannon: “as much a war port as an airport”.

Shamrock Shame and Shannon

There was a dramatic photo-call at Dáil Éireann on Easter Monday highlighting opposition to what the justice and peace organisation Afri is calling “the shameful handing over of Shannon Airport by the Irish Government to the US war machine”.  Actors Donal O’Kelly, Raymond Keane and Dylan Tighe – dressed as a US soldier, a Guantanamo detainee and an Irish politician – marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by dramatically enacting outside the Dáil what Afri coordinator Joe Murray calls “Ireland’s fawning welcome to illegal warriors and its cold indifference to illegal rendition for torture”.

Speirs010413Afri3-1
From left to right: Donal O’Kelly as an Irish politician, Dylan Tighe as a Guantanamo Bay prisoner and Raymond Keane as a US marine in a protest action to highlight the use of Shannon airport by the US military on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. Photo: Derek Speirs

The actors dramatised how ‘official Ireland’ warmly embraces the US military, while turning a blind eye to the kidnap and torture of civilians.  “This may seem like a ‘stunt’”, said Mr Murray, “but its aim is deadly serious – to use the medium of drama to highlight what standard media coverage of the issue now routinely ignores, namely that we have made ourselves complicit in war crimes and the worst violations of human rights”.

Note: Afri Statement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Iraq War

“As we embark on Ireland’s own decade of remembrance it is crucial to reflect on the last decade and more of complicity in disastrous and immoral onslaughts on Afghanistan and Iraq.  Even if these wars were not illegal – lacking UN authorisation – they have proved catastrophic for the populations and environments involved and in their bitter legacy of resentment and enmity.  As a Security Council member in 2001-02 Ireland failed utterly to express our Constitution’s commitment to  “the pacific settlement of international disputes” (Art. 29.2), thus abetting the undermining of UN authority on foot of unfounded claims about weapons of mass destruction.  Our failure to confront the so-called War on Terror is also revealed in the indifference of successive governments, and the Garda, to the evidence of Ireland’s involvement with illegal rendition flights for torture.

This complicity has been detailed by Shannonwatch, and criticised by the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and, this year, the US-based Open Society Justice Initiative.  The call from our own Human Rights Council in 2007 for an effective inspection regime for all relevant flights has been met with callous indifference.  The new Chief Executive of Shannon Airport has recently declared that military traffic “has been in the DNA of Shannon for many years… [;] it’s lucrative and we are certainly going to go after it as much as possible.”  This obscene metaphor blithely ignores the real genetic legacy of war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam.  And no-one checks whether equally appalling weaponry, such as depleted uranium, currently flows through Shannon’s bloodstream.

Official Ireland’s line is ‘whatever you do, say nothing, hear nothing, see nothing.’  But in the real world, DNA is a complex of different strands.  Ireland’s ‘DNA’ contains a vital strand of peacekeeping, non-aggression and friendly co-operation.  This has been shamefully suppressed by our political establishment and police authorities, all-too-conscious of their imagined role among the high and mighty, all-too-contemptuous of basic human rights at home and abroad.  Our conniving in illegal aggression and the denial of human rights is a lamentable stain on Ireland’s role in world affairs.  The continuing pressure for further aggression in Iran and elsewhere makes it urgent that we as Irish citizens hold our government to account, not merely to correct a vast historic injustice but to prevent even more death, destruction and denial in the future.”

Play now running in Dublin deals with themes taken up by UN Report

Tunnel Boring MachineAfri welcomes the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, in which she said she was concerned about “the situation faced by defenders and activists defending the right to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, particularly those peacefully protesting against the Corrib Gas project … There is tangible frustration amongst local residents who are standing up for their rights and feel powerless, isolated and have lost trust in public institutions”, she said.

Her report is strongly critical of the way in which the Gardai are policing the project and of the lack of adequate redress via the Garda Ombudsman’s office.

Coincidentally, a play dealing with the social and civil rights issues surrounding the Shell Corrib gas project is running this week, Thursday to Saturday in the Viking Theatre @ Connollys The Sheds, Clontarf, at 6.30pm (6pm Sat). In it, Ambrose Keogh, the Shell PR executive who named their Tunnel Boring Machine Fionnuala, is put under geas (spell) by Fionnuala of the Children of Lir to tell all he knows about Shell’s operations in Erris. The play is a combination of bog magic realism and factual documentary, set against the background of the installation of the TBM Fionnuala in the Shell site in Aughoose, Co. Mayo, in August last year.

“Cuts a swathe through Shell/State propaganda” Hot Press; “O’Kelly performs superbly” Sunday Independent.

One of the information sources used by the Special Rapporteur was the Ailliliú Fionnuala programme/booklet issued by Afri.

Notes:

1. To read the UN Special Rapporteur’s Report see here: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-47-Add-3_en.pdf especially page 13 onwards.

2. To book “Ailliliú Fionnuala” contact Viking Theatre Dublin on 087 112 9970 or email vikingtheatre@dublin.com

New Run of Ailliliú Fionnuala

Ailliliu_WEB
Afri is proud to be associated once again with the new run of Ailliliú Fionnuala, written and performed by Donal O’Kelly, directed by Sorcha Fox, designed by Robert Ballagh and presented by Benbo Productions.

Ailliliú Fionnuala takes place on the shore of Sruwaddaconn Estuary in Erris, North Mayo, where the Shell high-pressure raw gas pipeline is under construction.

Ambrose Keogh works for Shell. When the Tunnel Boring Machine he named Fionnuala sinks into the bog, he comes face to face with Fionnuala of the Children of Lir herself in a fairy fort. Fionnuala puts a geas (spell) on him – he’s bound to tell the truth about Shell’s operations in Erris, such as the attack on Willie Corduff in the Shell site at Glengad. During his ordeal, Ambrose comes face to face with his primary school classmate, Malachy Downes, now an anti-pipeline activist, and echoes from the past resound.

Ambrose Keogh was the silent minion in Donal O’Kelly’s international success Bat The Father Rabbit The Son, premiered by Rough Magic in 1988, and touring to acclaim in Edinburgh, New York and Australia. A quarter of a century later, Keogh’s found his niche in the corridors of power, at the heart of the Shell/Corrib gas project. Continue reading “New Run of Ailliliú Fionnuala”