Chernobyl children arrive A group of 145 special needs children from orphanages and homes in the Chernobyl affected regions of Belarus flew into Shannon Airport on 27th June as part of a long standing Irish funded programme by Chernobyl Children International to help combat the long term effects of nuclear radiation on their lives. The children, who form part of the third generation of Chernobyl victims, were met by host families from ten counties with whom they will spend Rest and Recreation breaks for four weeks – research has shown benefits to the children’s health from being removed from their toxic environment. Meanwhile concerns have been growing about the effects of wildfires close to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zones on radiation levels – fires have been getting worse due to drier conditions from global warming.
Corrymeela changes, funding NI peace report A number of staff changes have been taking place in Corrymeela. These include John Stewart having taken the helm of being the new Executive Director saying “I’ve admired Corrymeela’s work on peace and reconciliation for some time and see it as a great privilege to join the team.” Meanwhile Glenn Jordan, with a long record in the church and community sector, is now Public Theology Programme Manager; look out for ‘Brexit and the Book of Ruth’ reflections including a resource booklet on the Corrymeela website. Matt Scrimgeour has moved on from being Head of Hospitality and Facilities at the Ballycastle site, having worked for Corrymeela for over a decade. Mark McCleary has moved to broadcast journalism having left his role as Head of Communications with Corrymeela. Chris Foxall and Lisa Mooney have completed their contracts on the programme team after a number of years. That is just some of the changes which have been taking place. Corrymeela’s programme is fully listed, along with other information. on the website at https://www.corrymeela.org
The Corrymeela website includes a PDF report “Funding Peace: A report on the funding of Peace and Reconciliation work in Northern Ireland and Ireland 2007–2017”, 80 pages, authored by Duncan Morrow, Lisa Faulkner-Byrne and Sean Pettis, 80 pages, https://www.corrymeela.org
Glencree film and seminar A quite poetic, short film rendering of “The Glencree Story” was launched in June (9 minutes); directed and produced by Alan Gilsenan; it explains Glencree’s past, the Centre’s genesis and current work; http://glencree.ie/about-glencree/the-glencree-story
A seminar was held on 23rd June on ‘Rebuilding Hope in the peace process and the next 20 years of peace’ where a keynote speaker was Seamus Mallon. Conclusions included that a Forum is needed to deal with the realisation of the peace process; media analysis has been impoverished by the Special Advisers now dominant in Northern Irish political machine; support is needed to galvanise grass-roots actions in integrated education into a new movement for peace across the island of Ireland. More information about Glencree at https://glencree.ie
Dáil and fossil fuel divestment? The Republic could make history again, this time in a vote on an issue where inaction has been disgraceful. On 12th July a vote is being taken on withdrawing state investments from the industry which is doing the most to fuel the climate change crisis – the fossil fuel industry. The Government has been in negotiations with Deputy Thomas Pringle, the Bill’s sponsor, about whether they will support the Bill on 12th July. Trócaire is urging people to contact their TDs and ask them to ensure their parties use this historic moment to push for much greater climate ambition in Ireland - Ireland is currently ranked second last in the EU on its performance on climate action. https://www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/divestment-making-history
Peace Brigades orientation day training, Dublin On 14th July, 10am - 4pm, at the Lantern Centre, Synge St, Dublin 8, Peace Brigades International Ireland will facilitate a workshop offering a chance to learn more about its work in the field and to explore nonviolent methods of human rights protection. The workshop will be participatory, using concrete examples from PBI projects that provide a taste of what it is like to volunteer there. This training is highly recommended for candidates interested in volunteering with PBI field projects, however it is also suitable for anyone thinking of volunteering with PBI Ireland or who is interested in practical approaches to nonviolent conflict intervention. To register, please email email@example.com. Contributions of €10 (€5 for unwaged) are welcome to cover lunch and space rental. Closing date: 11th July.
Environmental lost decades The Summer 2018 (No 32) issue of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland Newsletter is an excellent summary look at “Northern Ireland’s Lost Decades” since the Good Friday Agreement, in relation to regulation failure, missed green opportunities, the necessity for an independent Environmental Protection Agency, and resource extraction (including 1.7 million tonnes of sand extracted from Lough Neagh annually). FOE NI website is at https://friendsoftheearth.uk/northern-ireland
AVP film on its work A 13 minute film from the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Ireland explains its work and orientation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0k9UXocrng The AVP Ireland website is at http://avpireland.ie/ AVP is a training programme enabling participants to deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways. Workshops are non-residential, run by trained facilitators and experiential - not based on lectures.
Amnesty International on the Hooded Men In mid-June Amnesty International welcomed the decision of the Irish Government to request the Hooded Men case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. In March, Amnesty expressed regrets about the fact that a Chamber of the Court decided not to reconsider its 1978 ruling, where it concluded that the treatment to which the United Kingdom subjected the 14 ‘hooded men’ in Northern Ireland in 1971 did not amount to torture. “In March, the court missed a vital opportunity to put right a historic wrong. To our regret, it relied largely on procedural arguments and avoided revisiting the merits of its 1978 ruling. It’s wrong that States which resorted to torture have been able to find comfort in the flawed 1978 ruling. Torture can never be justified,” said Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaigns manager. https://www.amnesty.org.uk and https://www.amnesty.ie
Around Europe The Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) publishes regular issues of ‘Around Europe’, a periodical with news which will be of interest to peace-oriented people; the current, summer, edition has features of trafficking and slavery, peacebuilding, refugees, humane return policies for migrants, tackling hate speech online etc. It is available on the QCEA website at http://www.qcea.org/ (under Publications) and you can subscribe to receive information. In NN 259 we mentioned and reviewed ‘Building Peace Together’, a very useful resource from QCEA, http://www.qcea.org
EU: From peace project to military alliance? Church and Peace has expressed concern that the EU is becoming less a peace project and more a military alliance, in the light of the continuing trend of militarization apparent in priorities outlined in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027; “The financial plan foresees spending around 30 billion euro on defence, nearly a third of the total budget... while scaling back by more than half funds available for civilian responses to regional and global challenges.”
The statement also firmly rejects the plan to ‘merge all twelve existing external financing instruments’ into one under the heading of migration control. It is calling on the EU to ensure that there are three separate instruments for development; human rights and democracy; and civilian peacebuilding; not designating funding to these essential foundations of a strong civil society ‘is simply unacceptable,’ the network underlines. Church and Peace goes on to say the call to establish a ‘European Peace Facility’ raises serious questions as well, given envisioned funding of military transport, training, equipment and other military action. The network rejects labelling such a fund an ‘act of “peace”’, urging that such spending trends ‘urgently [need] to be reversed’. https://www.church-and-peace.org Church and Peace is the European ecumenical peace church network of communities, training centres, peace organisations and peace service agencies.
Sheehy Skeffington Summer School, Co Down
As part of the Castlewellan Soma Festival, the Sheehy Skeffington Summer School again has events happening. On Monday 9th July from 9.30 – 4.00pm there is a seminar at Down Arts Centre on “Voice, Identity and Power: Reflections on Finding Voice, Constructing identity and Finding ways to use Power Constructively and Creatively”, £10.00 (includes lunch); booking via Down Arts Centre. From 7.30 – 9.30 pm on Tuesday 10th July there are talks by Paul Nolan and Ruth Feeney with discussion at the King's Inn, Castlewellan on “The Good Friday Agreement: A Lasting Settlement?”, aadmission free – contributions welcome. On Tuesday 17th July at 8.00 pm in the Brunel Room, Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle there are dramatic presentations by Kabosh on a dialogue between Roger Casement and ED Morel at the time of the founding of the Congo Reform Association, and on a hundred years after women got the vote, plus discussion; admission £5.00. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Ireland, Palestine and illegal settlements On July 11th, Ireland can take the first step towards prohibiting trade with illegal Israeli settlements, when the Occupied Territories Bill 2018 will be voted on in the Seanad. When the Bill was first introduced to the Seanad in January by Senator Frances Black and the Seanad Civil Engagement Group, a range of parties across the political spectrum spoke in favour of it, as did many independent senators. Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Labour Party, Sinn Féin, and the Social Democrats as well as a number of independent senators have already declared they will support the Bill on the 11th July, but they will be under enormous pressure until the vote. You can contact your local representatives in these parties to them for this support and urge them to see the bill through. Fine Gael is currently opposed to the Bill. Visit www.whoismytd.com to see who your local representatives are.
A statement from the Trócaire Campaigns Team includes “Israeli settlements are illegal. They are a massive barrier to peace in the region, and have facilitated the widespread displacement of Palestinian communities. Trade and other economic engagement with Israeli settlements not only supports the violation of international law and Palestinian rights, it bolsters the entire settlement enterprise, making it more viable and permanent. Prohibiting trade with Israeli settlements is a meaningful way for Ireland to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory.” https://www.trocaire.org
Environmental Pillar laments destructive Heritage Bill The passage of the destructive Heritage Bill through the Dáil marks a dark day for Irish biodiversity, the Environmental Pillar (EP), Ireland's leading environmental coalition, has said. The Government's Bill was voted through on 4th July with the support of Fianna Fáil despite widespread opposition from all other parties, environmentalists, conservation groups and farmers working together with biodiversity. The Bill, introduced by the former Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphreys outlines plans to allow for the burning of heather and gorse in March and hedge cutting in August under a so-called pilot project which will encompass the entire country and has no scientific basis to justify the need for the move. EP points out that the burning of vegetation in March - which is currently prohibited - would critically endanger birds that are just starting to breed and will also impact bees that depend on gorse as a food source; While the provisions of the Bill for roadside hedgecutting in August still require clarification, as it stands landowners will be allowed to self-define road safety issues as they deem fit. This will result in severe consequences for late-nesting birds, such as the endangered yellowhammer, and pollinators who depend on hedgerows for food.
EP’s statement on the matter concludes “The result of [the] vote is a sad day for our wildlife, our biodiversity, and our heritage. Our hopes now rest with the Seanad and the Irish public to come out and rally against this Bill to stop it entering into law, which would only enhance our reputation as the laggard of Europe in protecting the natural world.” https://environmentalpillar.ie
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