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’
Nearly a hundred people attended the 6th annual Carlow famine walk on February 6th, organised by Afri in partnership with IT Carlow and Carlow County Council. A large group of students from Knockbeg College, accompanied by their teacher Ciara Murphy, were among those who walked the short distance from IT Carlow to the nearby Famine graveyard. (more…)
Féile Bríde 2019 will take place in Solas Bhríde on Saturday, February 9th with Registration at 9.50. The theme of this year’s Féile is Education, Action, Compassion, Hope.
Education, (including self-education) is an essential dimension of transformative action; and compassion in all we do has never been more necessary. Our speakers this year embody all of these vital qualities.
Richard Moore, whose living example of compassion is such that the Dalai Lama calls him his hero, will speak about ‘Education the Heart’ in the context of his extraordinary story. Caoimhe de Barra has devoted her energies to pursuing justice and human rights, as Michael Doorly has directed his to promoting global education and equity. Kay Mulhall personifies the spirit and aim of the Brigidines ‘to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and seek to build a more inclusive community.’ While Meghan Carmody represents a new generation of activists with passion and determination to see our world transformed.
Such people and actions – as well as Laoise Kelly’s magical music – bring us hope, the vital antidote to cynicism and despair. A new year, a new spring and a renewed sense of purpose can see us decisively turn the tide in 2019.
Donate now online using our secure iDonate service: https://www.afri.ie/donate/
“It was absolutely brilliant” was one of the comments made by a student participant in the 2018 Hedge School. The event took place in IT Blanchardstown for the 6th year in succession under the title ‘It is right to fight for human rights’. We had inspirational presentations from Emmet Sheerin of Trócaire, actor and activist Donal O’Kelly and representatives of the Rohingya people.
Emmet showed a short film and spoke about the extraordinary student-led ‘Divest’ campaign, which resulted in three Universities, Trinity, NUI Galway University and Queens in Belfast committing to divesting in fossil fuels; Donal O’Kelly outlined the history and context in relation to the forced migration of people and the Rohingya told the horrific story of what has happened to them at the hands of the Burmese military.
There was also great student participation, as usual, with wonderfully creative drama pieces, powerful music and poetry.
All together a highly successful Hedge School, summed up by another student who said “a fantastic event. Hope the Afri Hedge School continues for many more years to come. It is Invaluable”.
Contributions from Donal O’Kelly – ‘Welcome the Stranger’; Emmet Sheerin (Trocáire) ‘Student Activism – A Success Story’ and 3rd year Community and Youth Development students in I.T. Blanchardstown.
Free entry to all – donations welcome to cover costs. Lunch and tea/coffee is provided.
To register go to https://www.eventbrite.ie
Just A Second! Teacher Training for Secondary School Teachers
Monday 12th November 2018, 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 12th November 2018 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 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.
“I enjoyed the workshop very much. What was most valuable to me was demonstrating how necessary participative methodologies are in teaching Dev Ed (global education). This is something that I haven’t really explored before and it will be very useful to me in the future.” – Participant in the 2017 Afri Teacher training workshop.
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 as well as a copy of a new educational resource for teachers published by Afri.
How to book
Booking is essential to ensure a place. Contact Afri at firstname.lastname@example.org to express an interest and fill out a registration form.
Registration forms should be returned by 15th October. If booking after that date please contact the office directly on 01 8827563 or by email (email@example.com).
Amazon Activist and Solutionologist
Venue: the Teacher’s Club, Dublin
Date: Monday, August 13th
(Admission free, donations welcomed)
Nicola Peel is an award winning environmentalist, filmmaker, speaker and solutionist. Nicola has been working in the Ecuadorian Amazon for 18 years on a number of environmental and social projects. Finding solutions to oil spills with fungi, building rainwater systems for indigenous people suffering from contamination due to the oil industry, training farmers in agroforestry to prevent the slash and burn of tropical rain forests and cleaning the beaches of tons of plastic, turning rubbish into a resource.
Nicola’s focus has been to find practical solutions to respond to those in need who are suffering due to resource extraction, poverty and climate change.
She believes that ‘nature is our greatest teacher’ and during her presentation she will give examples on some of the solutions found in Nature.
During her visit to Ireland Nicola will be speaking in:
The 2019 Walk will take place on Saturday, May 18th.
Registration and opening ceremony
1. Registration takes place in the local town hall in Louisburgh.
2. This will be followed by the opening ceremony, which will last approximately 20-25 minutes.
3. Shuttle buses will take participants to the start point, following the opening ceremony.
1. The walk is 11 miles (approx.), walkers should walk on the left-hand side.
2. A shuttle car will be available during the walk for anyone who gets into difficulty.
3. No parking is available at Delphi Lodge.
4. Dogs must be kept on a lead.
5. Portaloos are available along the route.
6. There will be a tea/coffee (no food) station at the half way mark (approx).
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.
Reflections from The Famine Walk Weekend
By Liam Murtagh
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
As part of the Famine Walk weekend, a seminar entitled ‘Food for Thought’ took place on Friday 18th May in Castlebar. It was organised by FEASTA, the Foundation of the Economics of Sustainability and other groups and marked the 20th birthday of the founding of Feasta and the legacy of one of its founders, the late radical economist and author Richard Douthwaite.
Mark Garavan of Feasta highlighted the fact that about 100,000 people died during the Famine in Co Mayo – that’s about the size of the population of the county today. He drew parallels between social policy in the Great Famine and the situation today in many powerful countries when he said that in Ireland some £9.5 million was eventually spent on late and poorly designed ‘relief’ during the Famine period while £14 million went to sustain the military and police forces.
Keynote speaker Peadar Kirby, in a bilingual address, explored ecological parallels in culture, language and resilience – with a backdrop of the Famine, which he said was often termed ‘an Drochshaol’ (the bad life). He focused on the impending challenges for humanity of the crises of climate change and the extinction of species. He concluded by saying that we will need to draw on various resources including from resources from within our cultural traditions of language and spirituality to deal with these challenges that we face.
Reflections and Solidarity at Afri Famine Walk
The fate of people in famine situations and other disasters linked to injustice and oppression was highlighted and reflected on at events in Co Mayo organised by Afri on 19th May. Their 30th Famine Walk from Doolough to Louisburgh is an annual commemoration of the Irish Famine. Afri is an organisation that works on the promotion of global justice and peace, and the reduction of poverty.
The Afri Famine Walk retraced a journey of horror which occurred on 30th/31st March 1849. Two poor-law commissioners were to assess people in Louisburgh, entitling them as ‘paupers’ to meagre relief rations. The inspection never happened, but the people were instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge at 7am the following morning. They walked the hilly road in wintry, snowy conditions. At Delphi Lodge they were refused food, or admission to the workhouse, and so began their weary return journey, on which many, even hundreds, died.
Afri recalls the dead and displaced of the Great Hunger – and all those facing the same avoidable cruelties in today’s world. The Famine Walk leaders who were selected to represent the spirit of resistance and transformation addressed the walkers in a packed Louisburg Hall before the walk. They included Richard Moore, who was blinded as a 10-year-old child by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier in Derry during the Troubles. Richard was inspired by his own experience and by Afri’s work to found the charity ‘Children in Crossfire’. Another 2018 walk leader was Fatin Al Tamimi, Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. This year is the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Palestine war. Fatin spoke about the current suffering of the people of Gaza and her personal desire to be reunited with her sister who is living there.
At Delphi Lodge the walkers were addressed by Joe Murray of Afri and by the Manager of Delphi Lodge, Michael Wade who welcomed everyone. After a tree planting ceremony, singer Lisa Lambe gave a haunting rendition of the song ‘The West Awake’ before the walkers started on their journey through the stunningly scenic Doolough Valley and on to Louisburgh. Like the 1849 walkers, not all the 2018 walkers, including myself, could manage the full journey. However, unlike the 1849 walkers we received help in that we were transported for the later section of the journey to Louisburgh.
Liam Murtagh is involved in Transition Monaghan and regularly writes a ‘Sustainability Matters’ column in the Northern Standard newspaper.
2018 marked 30 years of the Doolough Famine Walk and was attended by around 300 people. The weather was good and the day was memorable with inspirational words from Richard Moore and Fatin al Tamimi and stunning songs and music from Lisa Lambe and Nigel Linden. Here is a short film which captures how the walk went.
Michael Davitt is one of Ireland’s great unsung heroes.
His work and commitment produced extraordinary results around land ownership in Ireland.
He influenced such people as Mathatma Gandhi and is strongly associated with ‘boycott’ – a non-violent methodology which is a relevant as ever in the world today.
In 1996, Michael Davitt’s granddaughter, Gráinne, joined Marciana Funez and Christy Moore as leaders of the Famine Walk.
Two important events are taking place in Co Mayo in May which aim to remember the Irish Famine and to explore its links with some of today’s sustainability challenges in Ireland and globally. Both events, which are free of charge, will take place on May 18th before Afri’s annual Famine Walk (Saturday 19th May, Doolough Co. Mayo). A daytime event, ‘Conversations on Cultural Resilience – Famine, Food, Energy & Culture’ will take place from 10-5pm in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology Castlebar, Co Mayo. Subsequently, an evening celebration of Cultural Resilience with further conversation, ceol and craic will take place in Blousers public house in Westport from 8-11 pm.
The events have been organised by a number of leading Irish NGOs and groups who have come together including FEASTA (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability), the human rights NGO Afri, the community resilience NGO Cultivate, a recently formed Irish language group, Teacht Aniar, and Food Sovereignty Ireland.
The open format of the events will be based on conversation through culture, using the Great Famine as a backdrop, reflecting on the policies and politics of famines. The events are being held in solidarity with the global justice movement and will cover issues such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, climate action and food sovereignty.
One of the event organisers, Mark Garavan, FEASTA member and lecturer with GMIT Castlebar says:
“County Mayo was one of the counties which suffered most when the great famine hit between 1845 – 1848. The recent extreme weather events in Ireland, international instability and the refugee crisis have focussed many minds on the fragility of the global economy and the vulnerability of ecosystems worldwide. There is a need to build resilience on a grassroots local level whilst also reinforcing global solidarity and justice. Unfortunately there is often a lack of dialogue on how we should go about this. The upcoming events aim to stimulate such a discussion and Mayo is the place where it can begin.”
‘Food for Thought’ will also explore and celebrate the legacy of the radical economist and founder of Feasta, Richard Douthwaite, who is known internationally for his writing on different aspects of sustainability creative and his work with communities in Ireland and abroad.
All events are open to members of the public to attend.
To register for the free events or see the complete schedule visit: https://foodforthoughtmayo.eventbrite.ie/.
Remembering and Solidarity
Saturday 19th May, Doolough Co. Mayo
Registration from 12.45pm in Louisburgh Town hall
Beginning at 1.30pm
Walk Leaders: Richard Moore, Fatin al Tamimi
Music: Lisa Lambe
Famine Walk 1988-2018
Saturday 19th May 2018 will see the 30th anniversary of the Doolough Famine Walk. Afri first organised the walk in 1988 to commemorate the Great Hunger of 1845-50. Regions such as Mayo illustrated how a natural setback such as potato blight can mutate to disaster in the context of unchecked market forces, lack of democratic structures and resources, and a pitiless, moralistic ideology. While some £9.5 million was eventually spent on late and poorly-designed ‘Relief’, £14 million went to sustain the military and police forces.
Our walk retraces a journey of horror which occurred on 30th/31st March 1849. Two poor-law commissioners were to assess people in Louisburgh, entitling them as ‘paupers’ to meagre relief rations. The inspection never happened, but the people were instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge at 7 the following morning. They walked the hilly road in wintry, even snowy, conditions. At Delphi Lodge they were refused food, or admission to the workhouse, and so began their weary return journey, on which many, even hundreds, died.
Afri, drawing on the local history of Louisburgh and Doolough, recalls the dead and displaced of the Great Hunger – and all those facing the same grotesque and avoidable cruelties in today’s world, from the so-called ‘War on Terror’ to the indignities of ‘Direct Provision’. We walk the famine road to remember the causes of hunger and poverty in our world – political, military, economic and environmental – and our failure to learn the lessons of our own history. Our Walk Leaders eloquently represent the spirit of resistance and transformation:
In the twentieth-anniversary year of the Good Friday Agreement we welcome Richard Moore, who was blinded as a 10-year-old child by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He reacted by founding Children in Crossfire, declaring: “I learned to see life in a different way. I may have lost my sight, but I have my vision”.
2018 is also significant in that it marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, and in this context, we are honoured to welcome Fatin Al Tamimi, Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The extraordinary voice of Lisa Lambe will provide the music for this year’s walk. We are delighted to have Lisa as part of this year’s walk line up.
Find out about our ‘Music From A Dark Lake’ CD, a compilation of songs from past Famine Walks.