Famine Walk 2019

We were delighted to have Pete St John on hand to introduce his great song about climate change – “Waltzing on Borrowed Time” – on the 2019 Famine Walk.  ‘Waltzing on Borrowed Time” was performed by Imogen, Sinead and Rose and accompanied by dancers from the locally-based Cresham Academy.

The song includes the following great lyrics:

“Across the world in every land, let a new awareness grow

that nations must protect the earth

As the seeds of hope we sow

A hope, a dream, a way of life when man and nature rhyme

And creatures of the earth won’t need to waltz on borrowed time”

Walk leaders Oisín Coughlan from Friends of the Earth and Hanny Van Geel from ‘La Via Campesina’ expanded on this theme. Oisin pointed out that the Dáil had passed a Bill declaring a climate emergency and, following the ‘green wave’ in the recent elections now needed to take urgent  action to tackle this emergency. Among these actions is the urgent need to stop issuing licences for further exploration of fossil fuels off the coast of Ireland.

Hanny pointed out the urgent need to support sustainable means of food production rather than allowing control of the food we eat to be more completely controlled by corporations whose only concern is profit.  Walkers were then ferried to Delphi Lodge, where we planted a tree before setting  off for Louisburgh.  Tea and coffee was provided along the route by Glenkeen Farm and as usual, we gathered in Teach na n-Ól in the evening for more music, chat and conversation.

Reflections from Féile Bríde 2019

Caoimhe de Barra at Feile Bride 2019

‘We’ve won campaigns and had successes and we must celebrate and remember these as we take on the challenges that lie ahead’, so said Trócaire Director Caoimhe de Barra, setting the tone for  Afri’s Féile Bríde Conference, 2019.

She recalled East Timor’s long campaign, and the genocide perpetrated against it, and how it eventually gained its independence, with much support from around the world, especially in Ireland. 

Caoimhe also referred to other successful campaigns, like for example creating market access for Fair Trade products, whereby you can now find fair trade tea, coffee and bananas in many supermarkets –something that was unthinkable 25 years ago.  

She recalled the success of the Jubilee campaign, which brought about the cancellation of debt, lifting the burden off the backs of some of the poorest countries in the world. She recalled how significant advances have been made in poverty reduction; in participation by children in Primary education; in gender equality; in access to clean water and in reducing the mortality rate for children. ‘This shows us that progress can be achieved in a generation’. In concluding her talk, she quoted from the founding document of Trócaire which states: ‘Let us never get accustomed to the injustices in this world…and let us never grow weary in the work of setting it right.’ ‘’My wish for everyone here is that we never grow weary; that we see the successes; we see the progress; we see the challenges but that we never grow weary of the work in hand’.

Next up, Richard Moore, spoke about ‘Educating the Heart’ – the cultivation of the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary… for a compassionate citizen’. Richard spoke about ‘educating the heart’ through the prism of his own story.   He said his aim was to acknowledge the things in his life that made it possible for him ‘not only to survive being shot and blinded at the age of ten but to actually see blindness as a positive experience’. ‘When you are blind you meet people in a different way’. You experience kindness and love, at first hand. Having experienced such tremendous love and compassion in his own life, as a result of being blinded he wanted to share that experience with others. ‘What I wanted to do was give back the kindness and compassion that was shown to me. He has done this in many ways, including through the work of Children in Crossfire, which he founded in 1998.

Michael Doorly began by asking us to ‘press pause’ on our fears and frustrations and consider some positive news from recent years. For example, every day, last year, another 305,000 people were able to access clean water for the first time; never has child deaths been less common; never before have so many people been literate or lived such long lives. Quoting the journalist Nicholas Kristoff he said ‘despite all the information out there, never have people been so misinformed. And he went on to say that ‘a failure to acknowledge progress leaves people feeling hopeless and ready to give up, while recognising  gains made will show us what is possible and spur us on to more’.

Looking at ‘education for liberation’, Michael said that the problem with elitist education is that we are teaching ‘more and more to less and less’. The purpose of education should be ’to empower and liberate’ and we should start by listening. We need to recognise the strengths and resources that people already have and work with them to develop more’.

He referred to the funding deficit for education – there is a $39 billion shortfall in the budget to provide good quality primary education for all. Though this might sound substantial, it is less than half the budget for just one weapons system – the stealth bomber, which is $90 billion.

Meghan Carmody represents a new generation of activists with passion and determination to see our world transformed. Meghan said that the energy for action among young people is really growing and she profiled many young activists to emphasise this point.  Under the Schools Climate Action Network, young people are mobilising and striking out for real change in policies and political priorities. Meghan spoke about her work in Friends of the Earth which includes the solar schools project – persuading and supporting schools to place solar panels on their roofs to demonstrate the value of this form of alternative energy. Already schools in every province are involved in a pilot scheme which will be built on in coming years.  Meghan’s role is to build activism and leadership to bring about the political will to implement the solutions that exist.

A highlight of the day was an intervention by 10-year old Ruby Jo, who is part of a climate action group in her school called ’There is no Planet B’, which, appropriately was launched on Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day.

Finally we had Brigidine sister Kay Mulhall who set up the Tallaght Intercultural Drop-in Centre in 2003, the focus of which is to welcome migrants and refugees who are seeking to make their home here. The Brigidine community supported the setting up of this centre. The Centre aims to be a warm and welcoming place where new communities can meet and get to know one another. Kay started her work by listening to the needs which the migrants expressed.  Kay says she firmly believes that societies are enriched by sharing cultures, language, food, art and music. The aim of the centre is to build bridges…not walls. Language was identified by migrants as an extremely important skill to have.

When there was an attempt to close down the centre, a great cohort of volunteers organised and resisted and managed to reverse the decision. Kay concluded by saying: ‘we are all part of the one web of life and this web includes our Planet.’

Yemi Ojo, said her experience of the Drop in Centre was that the door was always open and people were always made welcome. It was a place where you could relax and be yourself. Finally, Yemi said that ‘welcoming the stranger’ can be a collective or an individual act: but we all must do our part’


The Water Protectors

Chas Jewett, Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Water Protector. Photo by Derek Speirs

Chas Jewett, from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and Standing Rock Water protector, spoke in the Teacher’s Club on Monday evening at an event supported by Afri, Comhlamh, Feasta and Friends of the Earth.  This public meeting was part of a tour around Ireland visiting Cork, Galway, Cloughjordan, Leitrim and Dublin.  Chas is a tribal organiser who lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, and aims to encourage people to engage and mobilise.

Since 2016 the Standing Rock Reservation has been the scene of a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline which aims to bring oil from Canada into the US through Native American lands over fears of contamination of drinking water supplies.  The existing Keystone 1 pipeline has leaked 26 times.  

Chas spoke about the legacy issues of the 19th century treaties between the U.S. government and the First Nations people.  In 1873 General Custer found gold in the Black Hills which led to people being moved – without compensation – and separated into various different reservations, one of which is the Standing rock reservation.   Continue reading “The Water Protectors”

The Water Protectors

Venue: The Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square

Date:  Monday, June 26th

Time: 8pm

Standing Rock was a beacon of hope for the world where indigenous people from all over the United States came together to resist corporate power and protect the water that is their life.  Chas Jewett is one of those protectors.  This public meeting will draw out the links between the Standing Rock action and threats to water in Ireland and worldwide and the need to continue protecting our water and our planet.


Chas Jewett, Standing Rock Water Protector & Cheyenne River Sioux

Oisín Coghlan, Director, Friends of the Earth, Ireland

Speaker (tbc) from anti-fracking group, Love Leitrim


Organised by Afri, Comhlamh, Feasta and Friends of the Earth Ireland

A Time of Opportunity: Reflections from Féile Bríde 2016

Imogen Gunner and Hajjime play during Afri's 2016 Féile Bríde.
Imogen Gunner and Hajjime play during Afri’s 2016 Féile Bríde.

“I became a vegetarian and I started using ‘Ecosia’ as my search engine”, was how Keziah Keenan O’Shea, one of the youngest ever speakers at Féile Bríde described her response to becoming aware of the urgent threat posed by climate change. Keziah was one of two students from Mount Temple School, with which Afri had worked in advance of the Paris Climate Change Conference in order to send a  message to world leaders on young people’s concerns about the welfare of our planet.

Short film by RoJ

The other student was Ruairí Atack, who spoke about the link between climate change and militarisation – an often missed link in public discourse.  Ruairí spoke about the” incredible levels” of military spending – $1747 billion worth in 2014.  The military impact of this was shown in a recent report in the Guardian newspaper stating that: “The Iraq war was responsible for 141m tonnes of carbon releases in its first four years… On an annual basis, this was more than the emissions from 139 countries in this period, or about the same as putting an extra 25m cars on to US roads for a year.” Continue reading “A Time of Opportunity: Reflections from Féile Bríde 2016”

Further Calls for Investigation into Allegations of Alcohol Bribes to Gardaí

McGrath's Pier, Pollathomais, 2007Pobal Chill Chomain Press Release 

As a community group committed to solving the continued difficulties with the ongoing Shell/Statoil Corrib Gas controversy, we are extremely concerned with the most recent developments regarding allegations of bribery and deception involving senior members of An Garda Siochana and agents acting on behalf of the Corrib developers; i.e. the long-term bribery of Garda members with gifts of alcohol, and misleading a Garda Ombudsman investigation.

These allegations strike at the heart of our community, but strike also at the basic notion of democracy and transparency in this country, and must be rooted out at their foundation if we are to move on from conflict and mistrust.

Various statements have been issued in recent days by Shell E&P Ireland and our police force, and we note with dismay that neither group has yet denied the accusations, but merely pushed them away with talk of repeated internal investigations with no possibility of independence. Continue reading “Further Calls for Investigation into Allegations of Alcohol Bribes to Gardaí”

Sustaining Activism’s Fire: Caring, Campaigning, Creating

Sustaining Activism's Fire

Sustaining Activism’s Fire: Caring, Campaigning, Creating

Saturday 20th April, 10am – 6.15pm, Mount Druid, Castletown Geoghegan, County Westmeath.

This event is aimed at activists and those interested in the preservation of the planet and seeks to explore the elements that enable sustainable activism at a personal, group and movement level; and to promote an increased awareness of the global and justice dimensions of environmental issues.

It will take place in Castletown Geoghegan, County Westmeath, in a venue close to the Hill of Uisneach, traditionally believed to be the place where the four provinces of Ireland meet. There will be contributions from activists from previous campaigns – such as the Dunnes Stores Strike and the anti-nuclear campaign – together with an input from Abjata Khalif from Afri’s partner organisation, the Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network. There will be space for participants to share their own stories and examine what helps to keep the fires of activism burning.

In order that we can arrange food and transport we are asking participants to book in advance. You can do this by booking online at uisneach.eventbrite.com or by downloading the brochure here and returning the booking form (last two pages) to Afri.

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

Six Tests for the Government’s Climate Change Bill

Friends of the Earth Press Release

Friends of the Earth today launched an analysis of what stakeholders think are the key elements of effective climate legislation. Last week the Government delayed the publication of its draft climate Bill by two weeks. The environmental justice organisation launched its “Six Tests for the Government’s Climate Change Bill” to coincide with a briefing for TDs in Leinster House on the threat of climate change locally and globally.

Speaking before the event, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan said:

“The Government seems unsure of the merits of its own Bill and has delayed publication. In the interests of clarity and fairness we’re laying out today the six things stakeholders have identified as essential to an effective climate law”

“Many of them appear in the Labour Party Bill from 2009 and the All-party Bill from 2010. They have the backing not only of environmental organisations but many overseas aid agencies and the Irish Corporate Leaders on Climate Change”.

The six tests and who supports them are as follows:

1. Is there a 2050 target? Is it 80%?

Supported by:

Friends of the Earth Stop Climate Chaos Environmental Pillar Irish Corporate Leaders on Climate Change Labour Party Bill 2009 All-Party Bill 2010 FF/Green Bill 2010

2. Are there interim targets? Are they “Carbon Budgets”?

Supported by:

Friends of the Earth Stop Climate Chaos Environmental Pillar Corporate Leaders

Labour Party Bill All-Party Bill

3. Is there an independent expert advisory council?

Supported by:

Friends of the Earth Stop Climate Chaos Environmental Pillar Corporate Leaders

Labour Party Bill All-Party Bill FF/Green Bill

4. Does the Bill place overall responsibility for climate policy on the Taoiseach? (Or move climate from the Dept of Env. to Dept of Energy?)

Supported by:

Labour Party Bill Corporate Leaders All-Party Bill Friends of the Earth

5. Does the Bill provide for a limit on the use of carbon credits (offsets)?

Supported by:

Friends of the Earth Stop Climate Chaos Environmental Pillar Corporate Leaders

Labour Party Bill All-Party Bill FF/Green Bill

6. Does the Bill cover emissions from the whole economy (including ETS)?

The proposal that the 2050 target cover the whole economy is supported by:

Friends of the Earth Stop Climate Chaos Environmental Pillar Corporate Leaders

Labour Party Bill All-Party Bill FF/Green Bill

That this should also apply to interim targets is emphasised by

Friends of the Earth Environmental Pillar FF/Green Bill



1. Friends of the Earths analysis – “Six Tests for the Government’s Climate Change Bill” can be downloaded here: http://www.foe.ie/download/pdf/6_tests_for_the_governments_climate_change_bill.pdf

2. The speakers at today’s briefing in Leinster House (at 1pm in the AV room) are Robin Hanan, Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland, Ciara Kirrane, Trócaire’s Environmental Justice Policy Officer, and Molly Walsh, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Friends of the Earth. The briefing is being hosted by Brian Stanley TD, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on the Environment.

3. The Irish Corporate Leaders Communiqué on climate legislation can be downloaded here.

Is Labour about to cave on Climate Change Bill?

Press Release from Friends of the Earth

Hogan’s Bill with no targets and no independent council going to Cabinet today 

Friends of the Earth has reacted with astonishment to media reports that Minister Hogan is bringing a Climate Change Bill to Cabinet today (Tuesday) with no targets and no independent advisory council. The environmental campaigning organisation expressed its disbelief that Labour ministers would sign-off on a Bill that was so far removed from the Bill the party developed and championed in the last Dáil.

Commenting on developments, Oisin Coghlan, Friends of the Earth Director, said:

“A Climate Change Bill with no targets and no independent advisory council is simply pointless. What’s more, Labour ministers know that.

“Just four years ago Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte launched a Labour Climate Bill with long-term and interim targets, an independent advisory council and which made the Taoiseach responsible for climate policy. Are Labour ministers really going to sign-up now for a Bill with none of those elements?” Continue reading “Is Labour about to cave on Climate Change Bill?”