“Since we can’t do the Famine Walk this year…could we do a virtual famine walk, instead”, when the question was raised, it seemed almost farcical. How could we re-create on-line the unique and extraordinary atmosphere that thousands of people have experienced on ‘the famine road’ in County May over more than 30 years? But we are living in unusual times and unusual times require unusual responses!
And so the Afri team – Larysa, RoJ and I linked up with Ruairi McKiernan to explore the possibility. Ruairi had a very successful launch of his excellent new book ‘Hitching for Hope’ on line recently and he was confident that the ‘Famine Walk’ concept, as well as Afri’s network and reputation could bring a community of people together to mark this important date in the calendar. The walk began in 1988 and for many years it has taken place on the 3rd week-end in May – this third week-end in May has now become the ‘official’ date for the National Famine Commemoration in Ireland.
When we went on air on Saturday, May 16th at 7pm – there was an immediate sense that this would be a memorable event. The easy and friendly personality of our host, Ruairi, set the tone for a remarkable two hours of recollection, reflection, insight, conversation, inspiration and beautiful music. The wonderful music was provided by Colm Mac Con Iomaire, who spoke powerfully about the ‘collective vulnerability’ that we are experiencing during the pandemic, before playing a stunning version of RoisIn Dubh. Emer Lynam spoke about an oil spill affecting the Kichwa tribe in the Amazon Rainforest before playing a beautiful piece by O’Carolan. And RoJ Whelan, who has just released his new album ‘Sacred Moods’ brought the curtain down with the ‘Afri anthem’, ‘The Arc of solitude’ – he was accompanied by singer songwriter Paul O’ Toole.
Many friends from the ‘Afri community’ joined in from around Ireland and around the world – from eleven countries including Brazil, India and El Salvador and 23 counties – as far as we can ascertain! We saw familiar names coming up on screen as well as new people learning about the Famine Walk for the first time. Between 200 and 300 people were ‘present’ for the duration, while there were almost 2000 ‘views’ within 24 hours!
Following some reminiscences from more than three decades of the walk, John Maguire, spoke about the Doolough Tragedy as being “an exemplary tragedy, within a huge catastrophe”. He also pointed out that more money was spent on maintaining the military than on food relief during the period of An Gorta Mór; how in one example, two guns and fifty soldiers were used to escort a shipment of food – not into – but out of Waterford harbour to feed the colonial economy.
Clare O’Grady Walshe described this as ‘such a hopeful time’ during her powerful input. She said the Covid 19 pandemic, amidst the sadness and grief, also provides a monumental opportunity for ‘restoration, recovery’ revitalization, remembering and putting things back together so that we can have the sovereignty to grow in our own place’. Mother Earth needs to breathe and we need policies to be put in place to support ‘conservation through use’. “We cannot allow ourselves to be caught again in the trap of mono-culturism, we need poly-culturism, and hubs of seed sovereignty all around the country and the world”
Donnah Vuma, speaking from Limerick, said that she hoped the Covid 19 pandemic has shown that the Direct Provision system is totally unfit for purpose. The pandemic has highlighted all the major flaws with the system. She expressed the hope that we would soon see a move away from DP to a more humane system, where people are accommodated within the community and where the ‘profit model’ has been totally abolished. There is hope, she believes, in the sense that the campaign to end DP is louder and stronger and public opinion is more informed. ‘if we are able to come together to fight the pandemic, why can’t we do the same to fight other injustices”
Our youngest speaker, Gráinne Malone got the opportunity to take part in a climate action while in France and it was a pivotal moment in her life. Since then, the issue of climate change has been a priority for her. She was chosen as one of the delegates to represent Offaly in the Youth Assembly and was one of over 150 young people who took over the Dáil for a day and came up with a series of recommendations for Government on climate change. She strongly believes that change is possible, “we can do things in our own lives that make a difference and we must keep up the pressure for action on this most critical issue”.
We were delighted to include messages from Michael Doorly of Concern and Caoimhe de Barra of Trócaire
Michael said that ‘we honour the memory of those who died in our own ‘Famine’ by striving to end famine, hunger and injustice everywhere in our world today.’ He added that the World Food programme has warned that the Coronavirus crisis will push more than a quarter of a billion people to the brink of starvation, unless swift action is taken. “Meanwhile in Kenya and ten other countries in East Africa a swarm of locusts have been decimating crops since December last year, so the challenges are great “. Michael concluded: “as we emerge from lock-down, many of us are asking how do we not return to the old normal. How can we press the re-set button on so much of the old world that led to so much waste and unfairness and inequality? I believe that it is at forums like this that we will begin to find the answers”.
Caoimhe added that Trócaire and Afri share a common set of values and beliefs; belief in a just world; belief in peace and human rights. TheFamine Walk is and expression of compassion, and human rights. Afri’s Famine Walk has reminded us, for example of the Choctaw donation given to Ireland during An Gorta Mór. Such solidarity resonates strongly in our memory and connects us to the present day when Covid 19 is creating untold misery in many parts of the world. Participating in the Famine Walk is a way of showing solidarity with the people around the world affected by Covid 19.” It’s a great way to exercise our common human spirit, our love for humanity. Through reflection, analysis and action, Afri is on a path to creating a better world and Trocaire is proud to be a partner with Afri in this endeavour”, she concluded.
So, though not like ‘walking the walk’, the virtual famine walk was a great experience that re-connected the ‘Afri family’ around important issues at this critical time. Thanks to all who joined us and supported us and please continue to do so in the time ahead.
We look forward to getting back on the road in 2021 – if not before!
On May 16th at 7pm – the day on which the annual Doolough Famine Walk was due to take place, Afri will host a virtual Famine Walk Forum with distinguished guest speakers, great conversation and live music. Our host will be campaigner and author Ruairí McKiernan. He will be joined by renowned violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire, harpist Emer Lynam and singer-songwriters RoJ Whelan and Paul O’Toole, as well as guest speakers including Emeritus Professor John Maguire, author and Lecturer Dr Clare O’Grady Walshe, MASI member Donnah Vuma and student climate activist Gráinne Malone.
The event promises insight, inspiration and extraordinary music as we gather together to mark the iconic annual Famine Walk, which is now in its 4th decade. The event is free to all and will be broadcast live to Afri’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/afriireland/ and also to Afri’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vonwTZuLV5U
Afri appreciates participants and friends for your support for the Famine Walk, over many years.
If you would like to contribute you can donate online at www.afri.ie Or you might consider doing a sponsored walk (even within 5km limit) or other fundraising activities. All other help appreciated including spreading the word. We hope to ensure the 2020 walk takes places at a later date this year and will keep people posted.
Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of Irish Aid, Trócaire and Concern
Discussions on government formation are taking place in the wake of a demand by the electorate for a serious reshaping of priorities and policies. Issues of housing, education, climate change and of course health are to the fore.
One other topic, so far absent from the debates, must finally and urgently be aired if democracy and sustainability are really to be achieved: the massive realignment of our defence and military policies over recent decades.
Successive Irish governments have covertly enabled the EU’s NATO-linked militarisation, shamefully and implausibly claiming that ‘nothing is happening here’ while trotting out the incoherent notion of ‘military neutrality’ to conceal the reality.
We have had a Green and a White Paper on Defence, which never once mention more than 3.5 million troop movements, along with torture-related flights, through Shannon since 2003, all within a catastrophic, open-ended ‘War on Terror’.
This is totally at odds with the fundamental principles of Article 29 of Bunreacht na Éireann, which so vitally informed the Peace Process on this island. Yet those who try to retrieve that heritage are demonised as trouble-makers and worse.
War – ‘organised murder’ in the words of Harry Patch, last survivor of World War I – is not an answer; it is the problem, perpetuating a merciless cycle of aggression and retaliation. It is also wasteful –‘a theft’ from true human priorities in the words of US President Eisenhower – and environmentally destructive.
Yet in 2015 our then Chief of Staff foresaw our defence forces as ‘an investment centre’. Significant recent moves towards ‘defence-related research and investment’ were put on hold only by the calling of the General Election.
Smaller parties have now been invited to discuss government formation with the two large parties that have for decades undermined our defence and foreign policy values and thwarted the right and duty of the Irish people, under Article 6 of the Constitution, fundamentally to shape our society.
Commitments to the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) are incompatible with an adequate response to our needs in health, housing, education, climate change and other policy areas. We call on any party that enters into negotiations with FF/FG to demand a change in the policy of selling-out Irish neutrality, to bring neutrality into line with Article 29 of Bunreacht na Éireann and with the clearly expressed wishes of the majority of citizens (as confirmed in a Red C poll at the time of the 2019 European Parliament elections). If the parties do not squarely confront this issue, they will from the start have abandoned any serious prospect of achieving a decent, democratic, peaceful and sustainable society.
We should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic: only through international cooperation and not confrontation can global issues be solved. Indeed, by nations peacefully working together we can also prevent the next emergency that is hurtling towards us, climate change. Militarism and the ongoing arms race are a major contributory factor in the cause of climate change. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report that $1,917 billion was squandered on weaponry and other military expenditure in 2019. The Irish Government should become pro-active in pursuing an international peace agenda.
With this in mind, we, the undersigned, demand that the following become part of Government policy.
Joe Murray, Action from Ireland (AFRI)
Niall Farrell, Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW)
Michael Youlton, Irish Anti War Movement (IAWM)
David Edgar, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Roger Cole, Chair, Peace & Neutrality Alliance (PANA)
Frank Keoghan, People’s Movement
John Lannon, Shannonwatch
Edward Horgan, Veterans For Peace Ireland
Barry Sweeney, World Beyond War Ireland
 10th October 2015
7th May 2020
At Afri’s 2020 Féile Bríde gathering, former Chelsea flower show winner, Mary Reynolds, issued an urgent call to all to become guardians of our planet and of all living species.
Afri’s Feile Bride event for 2020 was entitled ‘Rekindling; Revitalising; Rewilding and Restoring’ and was set in the context of the need for urgent action on climate change. Over recent years, many people, of all ages, are getting actively involved in fighting for change. This was reflected at the conference, where we heard from a number of mature activists who have been around for some time but also from Ruby Jo, who set up “There is no planet B” as an 11 year old activist! This shows that we can all be involved in action to tackle climate change – as Greta Thunberg says ‘no-one is too small to make a difference’. This was the 28th year of tending the Brigid flame in Kildare, which as Rita Minehan explained, was lit at the first Afri Conference in 1993 and burns as a “beacon of hope, peace and justice.” It was noted, that one of the trademarks of those who attend Féile Bríde is a spirit of positivity and hope, and a determination, no matter what, to keep on working for a better world for all.
At the beginning of the event we had beautiful music from Cormac Breatnach, Steve Cooney, Emer Lynam and Roger Whelan.
The first speaker of the day was Clare O’Grady Walshe, who recently published her book “Globalisation and Seed Sovereignty in Sub-Saharan Africa”. Clare spoke about why seed diversity matters for our food supply because crops can get wiped out by disease and climate change, which can lead to hunger and death.
“Farming has become an attack on nature” is what our second speaker, Mary Reynolds stated. She spoke about how we need to be aware of biodiversity and habitat loss. She founded a movement called We are the Ark – Ark standing for Acts of Restorative Kindness. This happens when a green space is allowed to grow freely, so it can restore itself back to the way it was.
Our third speaker Nelly McLaughlin explained that “every day is earth day.” Nelly spoke about Green Sod Ireland which works with local communities to restore habitats and enhance biodiversity. In some cases, land has been given to Green Sod Ireland where it is held in trust for the future welfare of people and planet. “We live in a planet of abundance, not scarcity”, she said.
After lunch, we had wonderful lively and energetic music from the Dublin Ukulele Collective, which had the participants on their feet to the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ among other classics.
Ruby-Jo then spoke about “There is no planet B” – a club that she and her friend Isabella set up when they were in fourth class. Ruby-Jo wants to inspire others to stand together to make a change and raise awareness of climate change. She certainly inspired those of us lucky enough to hear her speak on February 8th.
Shivam O’Brien then spoke about how he was involved in allowing 200 acres of Welsh forest to return to its wild nature. This is an extraordinary example of what can happen when land is allowed to heal and restore itself. See a clip of the work they do here.
Micheal Long of Cabragh Wetlands was our final speaker and said that “each person’s awareness is important”. He explained how wetlands are rich in biodiversity. And how the Wetlands where he works have up to 15 different habitats including ponds, reed swamps, hedgerows, streams and wild flower meadows. It is frequented by walkers, photographers, artists, families and children in search of knowledge. It is a great place to educate future generations about the importance of conservation, preservation and biodiversity.
The day concluded with RoJ Whelan singing the great Pete St John song about Climate Change – ‘Waltzing on Borrowed Time’ – including the verse:
“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”
Adapted from report written by Katelyn Lyons.
Climate Change was the theme of the 2020 Famine Walk which began in IT Carlow and concluded in the nearby Famine graveyard. Approximately 70 young people attended from schools including Gaelscoil Eoghain and Tyndale College. Each year an oak tree is planted as part of the ceremony of remembrance and solidarity and this year the tree was supplied by two Transition Year students – Eimear and Abbie – who had set up a company to grow and sell trees as part of their course. Thanks to Eimear and Abbie for this excellent initiative and generous gift.
Among the speakers was Lynne Whelan, who is Design Strategist at Design+ Technology Gateway, in IT Carlow. She gave a moving account of the history behind the Famine Graveyard in which she estimated that 3000 people are buried.
Sinead Doyle, who works to promote the Sustainable Development Goals with Carlow County Council spoke about what Carlow Co. Co. is doing to tackle climate change. Their areas of concern include land-use and natural resources and the Famine Graveyard provides opportunities in this regard.
Joe from Afri spoke about re-wilding and the great importance of preserving sites such as the Famine Graveyard in Carlow and of treating them with dignity and respect. He raised the possibility of the Famine Graveyard – a symbol of hunger and death – becoming a sign of hope and of life by becoming a place of abundant biodiversity. He referenced the work of Mary Reynolds, founder of ‘We are the ark’ and advised participants to check out her website http://wearetheark.org/
Martin Smith from IT Carlow also spoke about how mass hunger still happens in the world and how An Gorta Mór is an important part of our history. He then asked for a moment’s silence to remember the significance of the place in which we were standing and to reflect on the real human stories of those who were buried there.
There were a number of teachers present and some parents of the young people as well as students and Lecturers from The Institute of Technology Carlow, Carlow College and representatives of the Rohingya Community.
The event concluded with music from RoJ, who played a song that he wrote on the theme of solidarity.
Adapted from report written by Katelyn Lyons.
Thank you to all who have registered for the conference. Please note that pre-booking numbers are very high this year and priority will be given to people who have booked tickets and paid in advance. The venue has a limited number of seats available and we don’t want anyone to be disappointed.
Bookings will close at 12 noon on Friday.
Féile Bríde 2020 will take place in Solas Bhríde on Saturday, February 8th with Registration at 9.35am. The theme of this year’s Féile is Rekindling; Revitalizing; Re-wilding; Restoring.
10.00am Fáilte, Solas agus Ceol: Welcome, Light and Music
Carrying and placing of flame to the accompaniment of beautiful music from Cormac Breatnach, Steve Cooney, Emer Lynam and Roger Whelan
10.15am Seeds of Change – Clare O’Grady Walshe
11.05am Breathing space
11.15am ‘We are the Ark’ – Mary Reynolds
12.15pm Every Day is Earth Day – Nellie McLoughlin
1.00pm Lunch and Tree Planting
2.00pm Rousing recital from members of the Dublin Ukulele Collective
2.30pm Rewilding – Letting Nature take care of itself – Shivam O’Brien
3.20pm Conservation, Education and Recreation – Michael Long
4.00pm Waltzing on Borrowed Time
Organised in partnership with third year students from the Community and Youth Development course in TU Dublin – Blanchardstown.
This year’s participants will look at the issues of food, fashion and fuel, how they contribute to climate change and what we can do about it!
Speakers include Saoirse McHugh, who describes herself as an environmentalist, a democratic socialist, and a grower.
Eddie Mitchell of Love Leitrim and North Leitrim Sustainable Energy Community
& renowned actor and activist Donal O’Kelly, who together with Brian Fleming and Ellen Cranitch will perform an intriguing piece called “Roxy’s Head is Melted”.
To register for this free event please go to: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/afri-hedge-school-2019-tickets-76758006263.
Monday 11th November 2019, 11am-3pm in the Irish Writer’s Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
Afri’s ‘Just A Second!’ teacher training for secondary school teachers takes place 11th November 2019 from 11am to 3pm in the Irish Writer’s Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. The training is an energetic, creative and informative experience, demonstrating effective ways of bringing global issues into the classroom. The training is led by Karen Jeffares, a global education expert, together with Pete Mullineaux, a leader in the field of combining drama and global education and author of Just A Second! Exploring Global Issues Through Drama and Theatre.
Teacher training resources will be provided – including lessons plans for a number of Junior Cycle subjects including English, CSPE, History and Geography.
Teacher substitution cover is available and a light lunch is included in the training.
Booking is essential to ensure a place. Contact Afri at email@example.com to express an interest and fill out a registration form.
Registration forms should be returned by 20th October. If booking after that date please contact the office directly on 01 8384204 or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Few remember that the war on Afghanistan started a month after 9/11, and now, 18 years later it seems no closer to ended than the day it started.
A forgotten war, it is now the longest in US history and is estimated to have claimed 150,000 Afghan lives and a confirmed 455 British soldiers.
Afghanistan has been classified the most dangerous country in the world, while UN data indicates that more civilians are killed or injured due to armed conflict than anywhere else in the world.
But still there is hope inspired by grassroots actions and civil society organizing. Dr. Hakim, who is himself a source of hope, will tell about the positive things that are happening, in the midst of the horror of ongoing war at this public meeting In the Teacher’s Club on October 2nd.
Afri is an Irish justice and peace organisation based in Dublin. Afri’s goal is the promotion of global justice and peace, and the reduction of poverty; this includes, but is not limited to, the progressive reduction of global militarisation, and responding to the threat of climate change, corporate control of resources and water, and interference with food sovereignty.
As part of our promotion of global justice, we have in recent years focused on the shortcomings and failures of the Irish state’s system of receiving international protection applications. To this end, we have raised awareness of Direct Provision through our work in schools as part of the Global Citizenship initiative of Irish Aid.
In April 2017 Afri attended a presentation by MASI in the AV Room of Leinster House to members of the Oireachtas about the sudden introduction of a new 60-page questionnaire by the IPO (International Protection Office) sent simultaneously to thousands of asylum seekers in the Direct Provision system with a 20-day deadline to complete it – with legal advice. As this was clearly impossible for the vast majority, if not all, of the international protection applicants in Ireland issued with this deadline, it spread panic and dread among people already under stress from the strictures of living in the Direct Provision system that ties them to food and shelter in conditions over which they are given absolutely no say. After this presentation, we asked Donnah Vuma from Zimbabwe, who spoke movingly at that AV Room presentation, to be one of the leaders of our annual Afri Mayo Famine Walk from Louisburgh to Doolough, May 2017. This is what she said:-
“I feel humbled and yet honoured to be here today. I have found it a challenge to say a few words. But I remember those who walked this path before, the people who sacrificed their lives to seek relief for the masses of their village. They did not second-guess themselves, they took the challenge with swiftness, in the worst of weather and on empty stomachs with nothing but the will to survive.
In whatever part of the world we may be, we need to remember those that are treated with injustice and inequality for the sake of their political opinions, religion, race and gender. We also need to remember the thousands of families – including infants and the elderly fleeing war and violence in Syria who have to walk more than 1400 miles to get to Serbia’s border with Hungary in the hope of finding peace and a future. Above all, we need to remember those who sacrificed their lives fleeing on coffin ships or those who were condemned to workhouses during the great Irish Famine – An Gorta Mór.
People fleeing their homes, whether during the Famine in Ireland or the war in Syria have brought to mind the words of poet Warson Shire “No-one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”. Amongst us are those who I am here to represent. They have travelled from countries afar to seek refuge among us.
No-one puts their children on a boat unless the water is safer than the land. I stand in deep solidarity and respect with those that have made such courageous journeys in the past, present and unfortunately in the future, in the hopes of finding safety.
Unfortunately, Ireland has delegated the questionable system of Direct Provision to take care of those seeking asylum. Seeking asylum is by no means criminal, no one should be punished nor condemned for seeking asylum in another country, no one should serve what seems to be an unending sentence for a crime unknown to one.
It is not acceptable to have a safety net yet to live in constant fear and uncertainty of your future. It is painful to live a life in limbo, not to be able to prepare a meal for your children, to be denied the right to work to be able to provide even the bare necessities for your family .. to have your dignity taken away and to be restricted from contributing positively to a society or community that has welcomed you and shown you love.
Till this day, I pray for a better way. I can’t help but feel hopeless and heartbroken. In my heart, surrounded by masses of people, often in the same predicament, I feel all alone. I close my eyes and picture home. I can’t help but wonder and ask the questions:- is Direct Provision doing enough to address the needs of asylum seekers? Whom is the new International Protection Act intended to protect? Need this country of plenty witness yet another catastrophe? How many more people under Direct Provision should we see lose their sanity or spiral down into chronic illnesses before we say enough is enough”
It is to be noted with alarm that many international protection applicants who submitted their cases around that time – May-June-July 2017 – without getting legal advice in order to comply with the 20-day deadline printed emphatically in bold on the official letter they received, are about now or in the near future, if they’ve suffered rejection of their application, grappling with threats of deportation.
This historical violation of applicants’ UN-guaranteed rights has never been satisfactorily dealt with by the IPO (International Protection Office). The injustice inflicted on many hundreds of asylum seekers at that time when the International Protection Act regulations were being introduced has never been owned up to nor have any measures been put in place to restore those people’s international rights to protection, which includes transparent process. It was not a transparent process for people trying to meet an impossible deadline, and declining to take legal advice in order to “do the right thing”. It would be a serious dereliction of Ireland’s international duty were anyone to suffer deportation on account of the botched introduction of IPO procedures in spring-summer 2017.
On the issue of deportations, Afri notes with horror that many people have been summarily and forcibly deported without reference to their relatives, including their children. One such case, Vahmra Haratyunyan, having been in Direct Provision for years, and subsequently lived in Galway, was summarily rendered incommunicado and deported to Armenia in August 2018, and his three-year-old daughter Aline and partner Viktoria left to face life without him. Their case was highlighted in the Jimmys’ Hall Today event Afri supported in the Town Hall Theatre Galway in September 2018 during the run of the Abbey Theatre’s Jimmy’s Hall, about Leitrim man Jimmy Gralton, deported for his political beliefs as “an undesirable alien” in 1933. Afri has deep concerns that the issue of wrongful deportation is an institutional phenomenon in Ireland today, as much as in 1933.
In July 2018, Afri was co-convenor with MASI and Anti-Racism Ireland of an event hosted by the Abbey Theatre Dublin, Ireland’s national theatre, called Jimmy’s Hall Today, during the run of the play Jimmy’s Hall there. First Lady Sabina Higgins participated by reading an extract from Edna O’Brien’s novel The Red Chairs prescribed by the author herself, a refugee of sorts from Ireland once upon a time.
The contributions, as well as speakers of testimony enduring DP and extracts from Jimmy’s Hall, also included a dance piece, It Takes A Village, devised by choreographer Catherine Young, that included thirty dancers from Direct Provision centres in Kerry, Longford and elsewhere. Among them was a Pakistani nurse, Vekhash Khokhar, four years in DP, who was under threat of a deportation order deadline that very date. He spoke from the Abbey Theatre stage about how he would fly out that evening, and hoped to return soon, and asked all present to do all in their power to spare others on stage the fate he was enduring. Despite verbal assurances from several official sources of easing his way back to Ireland once he left the state before the deportation order took effect, once out of sight he has never been given any assistance, and is struggling to continue his life in Pakistan, despite all the issues of danger that drove him to apply for asylum in the first place.
In February 2019 Afri were partners in an event organised by Rose Kelly in Moville, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, where a hotel was designated for use as a Direct Provision centre, with first-hand testimony of Direct Provision from Donnah Vuma and from Fathi Mohamed of Somalia, living with her baby daughter in Ballyhaunis Direct Provision centre for two years.
“It would be amazing to see more of this around the different towns in Ireland, because then we can start to really show the government how unsuitable the system of Direct Provision is, and how we don’t need reform of the system, we need the system to be totally abolished. But it’s also important that people can easily integrate into their communities, and easily pick up where they left off their lives at home, to be able to come into this community, carry on with their lives, and be able to contribute” – Donnah Vuma in Moville, February 2019.
Afri considers that the increasing dispersal of Direct Provision centres to remote regions makes it impossible for people to take up whatever drastically-limited work opportunities might present themselves, as travel is often an enormous problem, and they are not allowed to acquire driving licences while in Direct Provision, a bizarre regulation that defies logic and seems purely punitive.
The IPO interview that every applicant faces for refugee status, possibly the most important of their lives, with their and their childrens’ future depending on it, takes place in the IPO offices in Dublin’s Mount Street. That is a long journey from many DP centres, especially one like Moville, where the shortest travel time, using public transport, would take between 12 and 15 hours each way. How can one be expected to function with alertness in those circumstances? It’s a dereliction of international protection responsibilities that seems almost designed to inflict punishment rather than offer a process of protection.
An Afri public meeting, which took place in the Teachers’ Club in July, featuring Veterans for Peace Members Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff raised €1000 to support Ken and Tarak, while they await trial in Ireland.
The elderly campaigners, in their “Veterans for Peace” sweatshirts, addressed the audience about the reasons for their actions and their commitment to opposing US militarism which they stated was a major cause of misery around the world, including to serving members of the military themselves (quoting a figure of 22 suicides per day), along with being a major cause of world pollution.
Ken Mayers explained that the USA has 800 military bases around the world in addition to its 400 on its own territory, the infrastructure, fuel expenditure and waste of the total which he stated is a major cause of pollution. (This is presumably without even taking into account the use of nuclear-generated power and disposal of radioactive material, or depleted uranium projectiles, such as used in Iraq or the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.)
Both men belong to an organisation called Veterans for Peace which campaigns against the US militarisation of the economy, war, interference in the affairs of other states and for better treatment of veterans. Recently they also supported a campaign against concentration camps for migrants along the US-Mexico border.
Ken Mayers, 82 years of age and Tarak Kauff 77, spent 13 days on remand in Limerick jail, where their toilet did not flush unless they poured buckets of water into it. Other than that, they said they were treated well and the other prisoners treated them “like celebrities”.
The reason for their bail being refused during that period was Garda objections that they would flee the jurisdiction. Tarak Kauff exposed the illogicality of this ‘fear‘ to the audience, explaining that they had taken their action at Shannon knowing that they would be arrested and wanting to use the trial to expose what was going on at Shannon airport: “For us not to attend that trial, they would have to physically drag us away from there!”
They were eventually granted bail on condition they remain within the Irish state and having to surrender their passports, due to Garda objections again that they might flee, also not to approach any airports. On July 10th the Court turned down their appeal against these conditions, though the judge said that he might review that decision if the case were to be moved to the Dublin District Court, where the waiting list was much longer. The defendants and their solicitor, Michael Finucane, will be seeking to have the case heard outside Clare, where it is believed a fair trial relating to a Shannon protest is unlikely. A trial date is expected in September or October.
Ed Horgan took the floor after Mayers and Kauff to speak about the one million total of children killed in the Middle East as a result of war and sanctions and urged action to prevent further loss of children’s lives.
Then Emer Lynam opened the meeting to questions.
In reply to questions from the audience about the cost to themselves, Ken Mayers revealed he was due to be on his honeymoon by now with his bride.
Music for the evening was provided by veteran campaigner John Maguire who sang a song he had composed back at the first demonstration at Shannon airport, with a chorus that the audience soon got the hang of and joined in.
RoJ performed a song also of his own composition, accompanied by Paul O’Toole on guitar and Nimal Blake on cajón. Later, O’Toole also sang a song of his own, about the child who lost both his arms to US imperialist ‘smart-targeted’ bombing, then going on to sing one of Dylan’s numbers. Both RoJ and O’Toole are long-time professional performers and have produced CDs of their material.
All performers were warmly applauded.
The evening was a fund-raiser and it could be seen that the collection bucket, although covered, was stuffed with notes. Ken and Tarak also have a Fund Me appeal and Afri is also receiving some donations for them through the Internet.
Based on an article by Clive Sulish
Joe Murray recently attended a conference in London, organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War entitled ‘Save the Earth, Abolish War’. Below is a short report on the meeting.
Save the Earth, Abolish War
The first speaker was Peter van den Dungen of the International Network of Peace Museums, who referenced the title of a book he recently bought entitled ‘the end of the world generation’. He described as ‘diabolical’ and ‘the road to destruction’ the philosophy based on the theory ‘if you want peace, prepare for war’. He argued for the abolition of war and rejected the notion that it was not achievable – in the same way as people in the past rejected the notion that slavery could not be abolished; that women should not have the vote; that child labour was acceptable and that the dreadful practise of duelling was an honourable pursuit. Our ideas of right and wrong change, over time – and it is now well past time that the very idea of war was consigned to the dustbin of history.
The Second speaker was Dr Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility, who outlined the impact of war and militarism on our Planet in clear and graphic terms.
Human activities emit GHGs and cause global heating and climate disruption.
60,000 US Military vehicles run at 6 miles to the gallon
F-35 fighter planes do 0.6 miles to the gallon – 100 times the pollution level of a new car
B-2 long range bomber does 0.3 miles to the gallon – 250 tonnes of C02e per ‘mission’3.2 million tonnes of CO2e emitted by UK military in one year – higher than the carbon emissions from Iceland
BAE Carbon emissions were 1.2 million tonnes of CO2e 2017/18
The pentagon is the world’s largest Institutional consumer of petroleum.
US military emits 59 million tonnes of CO2e
US arms industry emissions for 2017 – 280 million tonnes CO2e
War on terror has caused 3000 million tonnes of CO2e
Military responsible for at least 5 to 6% of emissions compared with cars which cause Cars 15%;
Farming 15%; Civilian airlines 3%
Reducing the military boot-print
US negotiators successfully argued for military carbon emissions to be excluded from targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (Clinton Administration) but they were included under Paris agreement.
Military emissions are going downwards (slightly) under slogan “more fight – less fuel”.
Highlight the high military carbon bootprint
Highlight the huge imbalance between military and climate spending
Point out that security goals are better served by shift from military to climate spending
Make link between climate and peace (war)
Arms conversion – successful examples
Factory making windmills in Hull – Centre for Green industry in Hull – taking jobs from the military
Make war history
Shift to public transport
Shift towards plant –based farming and consumption
Afri is proud to host ‘Veterans for Peace’ Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff for a public meeting in the Teachers’ Club on Wednesday, July 17th at 7.30pm.
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.
Over 40 people attended Lón Intinne / Food for Thought at GMIT Castlebar on Friday May 17 2019, on the eve of the Afri Famine Walk. This event, a follow-up from last year’s, is a unique collaboration between Afri and Feasta with input from Teacht Aniar who have a special perspective on the Irish language.
John Hoban and Emer Mayock provided music to ground, enliven, entertain and provoke reflection throughout the day.
In the morning, after some words of welcome from Anne Ryan, Joe Murray of Afri introduced Hanny Van Geel of Via Campesina, who emphasised that 70% of the world’s food is produced by small producers, the majority of them women. The food sovereignty movement needs maximum participation from members of society: growing, cooking, writing, educating and advocating for small producers. The big question for the future is: who is going to be producing our food – small-scale, sovereign grassroots producers or big companies?
After a discussion with Hanny in which all took part, Joss and Ború Douthwaite facilitated a session in which all participants reflected on instances of transformation in which they had taken part or witnessed.
Participants brought delicious food to share at lunchtime, which highlighted the value of sharing as a way of being in the world.
After lunch, Anne Ryan picked out some themes from the morning’s work. In spite of barriers imposed by our State and the EU, thousands of people are already engaged in enterprises that are the seeds of a new socially just and ecologically sound economy. Anne suggested that one of the ways that the state could demonstrate support for these people in the avant garde is to give everyone a universal basic income. This would put a floor of basic financial security under everyone and allow creativity and diversity in the ways people approach solutions to our crises. The State also needs to put legislation, grants and other institutional supports in place to help the pioneers get their enterprises off the ground.
John Hoban started the afternoon with a new song about the four mountains of Mayo, which he sang for the first time in the outdoor space after lunch. He was inspired by two well-known hills in Leitrim – Sí Beag and Sí Mór, and included a theme of circular time, encapsulated in the refrain ‘I’m facing east but heading west’. Anne pointed out that there are many ways of looking at time that help us to understand its circular or counterflow aspects. It is possible to break out of the strong flow of the dominant ideology about what constitutes progress, especially if we work together to support each other in doing so.
Seán Ó Conláin introduced the second guest speaker, Michael McCaughan. Michael emphasised the value of multilingualism as a help to seeing the world and acting in it in diverse ways. Speaking in Irish, Spanish and English he emphasised the importance of minority languages and cultures in today’s mono-cultural world, and particularly the link with local resilience.
Baineadh cuid mhaith úsáid den Ghaeilge – i ngach slí – le linn an lae – mar ar deineadh anuraidh.
After a discussion with Michael, the group took part in an open space session, which is outlined in bullet points in the full report on the Feasta website here.
Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís!
Thanks to Caroline Whyte and Séan Ó Conláin for this report.
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With the announcement in the closing months of 2018 that a local hotel had been ear-marked as a Direct Provision centre, Direct Provision became a ‘live’ issue for the town of Moville and surrounding area. As something new to the community and a concept that most of us wouldn’t be familiar with, the discussion that has arisen is both understandable and necessary. The Irish Immigrant Support Centre (NASC) summarises the process of Direct Provision as follows:
‘People who arrive in Ireland seeking asylum or “international protection” (asylum seekers) are offered accommodation by the State in residential institutions, under a reception system known as ‘Direct Provision’. The State ‘directly provides’ essential services, including medical care, accommodation and board, along with a small weekly allowance. The Direct Provision system is overseen by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), a body of the Department of Justice. However, the majority of the centres around the country are privately owned and operated, and the standards of accommodation and living conditions vary widely.’
In order to further this discussion and better understand the reality of living in Direct Provision, a witnessing event is being held in Glencrow Hall, Moville on Saturday 9th March at 3.30pm.
The event will begin with a performance by Donal O’ Kelly of his piece on Direct Provision. Donal O’Kelly is a playwright and actor. In 1999, when the Direct Provision system of asylum seeker accommodation was first mooted by the Department of Justice as a temporary measure, he wrote a poem to challenge its introduction and performed it around the country. Last year, he revived and rewrote that poem as Direct Provision marked eighteen years in operation. He’ll perform the poem and talk about facets of the Direct Provision system, including the current limits on the right to work.
Donal’s performance will be followed by first-hand testimony from Donnah Vuma. Donnah, originally from Zimbabwe, has been living in Ireland for several years in the Direct Provision system with her three young children. She is a board member of the Human and Earth Rights organization, Afri, as well as a member of MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland).
The event is an informal one. Everyone is welcome. Entrance is by donation with all proceeds going to the local St. Vincent De Paul Society.
There will be an opportunity for discussion afterwards.
This event is being supported by Failte Inishowen and Afri
‘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’