Previous editorials

Current editorial

February 2021

December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020

December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019

December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018

December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017

December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016 (supplement)

December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015

December supplement
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014

December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013

December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012

December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011

December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010

December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009

December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008

December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007

December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006

December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005

December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004

December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003

December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
July 200
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002

December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000

16 Ravensdene Park,
Belfast BT6 0DA,
Northern Ireland.
Tel: 028 9064 7106
Fax: 028 9064 7106

This is an archive of material
mainly from 1992 until December 2020.
Please go to our CURRENT WEBSITE
for material from January 2021 onwards.
What's new?

Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 130: June2005

Also in this editorial

So have the people spoken?
The elections (Westminster and local) were just about to happen in Northern Ireland when Nonviolent News 'went to press' last time, so here is just a little reflection well after the event.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) made substantial gains from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Sinn Féin also gained a smaller number of votes from the SDLP (statistics at the end of this editorial - the effect within unionism was somewhat less marked at local government level). But should we really be surprised at a 'divisive' election result, i.e. opposite ends of the spectrum winning when the electoral system under which it was held, the 'first past the post' system in single member constituencies, is the most unfair and most divisive electoral system there is? Going back to Christian terminology, perhaps the message is 'as you sow, so shall you reap'. Victors always claim election results as a great vindication of their policies, and while it may be endorsement when you get a strong increase in votes and seats, such an increase for opposite ends of the spectrum in a divided society is also an endorsement for division. And while the DUP got one third of the votes cast, it is only one third of votes, and one third of those who actually turned out to vote.

Much has been made of the reduction in UUP representation at Westminster to 1 member of parliament, but the SDLP, on virtually the same percentage of votes (0.2% less, in fact) got 3 MPs elected. Fairness doesn't come into it. But nothing could hide the unionist drift to the DUP.

One issue here is what kind of party the DUP is at this stage. It is quite possible to argue that the DUP of today, different as it may be in social composition and history, is not dissimilar in policies to the UUP of, say, twenty years ago, indeed, it is not dissimilar in policies to the UUP of today. No, it is not going to run into a resalvaged Assembly and power-sharing executive government without clear evidence that the IRA has abandoned violence and acting outside the law, but then neither is the UUP. They will still do a deal when it comes to the bit. When that bit will arrive is difficult to say and at the moment it looks like it is firmly lost in the post. And while the DUP may claim the Good Friday Agreement is dead they know only too well it is the only game in town - neither nationalist party, nor British and Irish governments, are going to settle for less.

The SDLP meanwhile failed to roll over and die, and while Sinn Féin made gains on the nationalist side that was mitigated by the likes of the Robert McCartney murder (which caused the loss of Sinn Féin's one Belfast City Council seat from east Belfast).

Politics have been at stalemate stage for some time in Northern Ireland and this election will not, in essence, make much difference. While it is sad to see the Ulster Unionist Party, who have taken risks for peace, suffer so badly and arch-survivor David Trimble bow out as leader, at this stage the UUP's position on resuming Stormont government including Sinn Féin is very much similar to the DUP's, or vice versa. If the IRA really does disarm and desist from arming and training, then the political fun would begin as different sides jockey for deals and positions in a new Stormont regime.

When 'the people speak' in Northern Ireland elections it is through unionist and nationalist voices, the issues being seen through orange and green spectacles. Taking the people beyond that, mixing the two colours to 'brown politics' and beyond, so to speak, is a lifetime's work. The possibilities are endless but it requires both willpower and imagination on a variety of sides. And neither willpower nor imagination are currently in great supply.

The statistics:
2005 Westminster election results in Northern Ireland:

DUP 33.7% (+ 11% since 2001 election), 9 seats (+3);

Sinn Féin 24.3% (+3%), 5 seats (+1);

UUP 17.7% (-9%), 1 seat (-4 seats including previous defection by Jeffrey Donaldson);

SDLP 17.5% (- 3%) 3 seats (the same);

others 6.7% of vote.

Local elections:

DUP 29.6%, 182 seats (2001 result 21.4%, 131 seats);

Sinn Féin 23.2%, 126 seats (20.7%, 108 seats);

UUP 18%, 115 seats (22.9%. 154 seats),

SDLP 17.4%, 101 seats (19.4%, 117 seats);

Alliance 5%, 30 seats (5.1%, 28 seats);

others 6.8%, 28 seats (10.5%, 44 seats)

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:

World Biodiversity Day

I write this column on World Biodiversity Day (22 May). I looked through the day's newspapers to see if there was any coverage of the occasion and was disappointed not to find anything, although yesterday's Irish Times had a short article devoted to it. The article informed me that in Ireland many species of bird, such as the corn bunting, have become extinct, 95 bird species are in serious decline, and at least 120 plant species are endangered. This decline in biodiversity is due to a combination of factors associated with what is commonly called development; these include intensive farming, industrial pollution, loss of habitat, and the contamination of waterways through the widespread use of chemicals, including domestic ones.

When I visited the council waste collection depot earlier in the day I saw evidence of how the Irish way of life is a cause of the loss of biodiversity in distant parts of the world. There lying in a skip, destined for the local landfill site, were numerous lengths of red hardwood which had been used as door and window frames. This wood, not too long ago was a tree in a rainforest serving as a home to innumerable species of life, it also played a part in regulating the Earth's climate.

Another aspect of the Irish way of life that is responsible for the loss of biodiversity, and the oppression of people, is our dependency on soya beans, namely for animal feed. Earlier in the week it was reported that in the past year, 10,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest, inclusive of its immensely diverse forms of life, had been destroyed largely in order to grow soya beans for the European market, the year before the figure was 9,500 square miles. It is expected that a similar amount of forest will be lost this coming year. The enormity of this destruction is difficult to imagine, along with the death of the oceans because of our 'scoop everything up' method of fishing. The message of World Biodiversity Day is that we are not an island people any longer, and that almost every aspect of how we live adversely affects the health of the planet, as well as the lives of people less affluent than us.

Conference report
The arms trade goes boom

Report on the conference jointly sponsored by INNATE and the Peace People, Belfast, 21st May 2005

A disarmament event was held at the City Hall, Belfast during the week leading up to the conference, when a 'rifle' and 'missiles' were symbolically disarmed. The symbolism here was direct but also linking the need for disarmament in the world with the need for disarmament in the Northern Ireland context. A letter was handed in to Invest Northern Ireland about allowing EU Peace and Reconciliation money to go to Thales Air Defence (Belfast and Ireland's largest arms manufacturer), and the need for Invest NI to have a proper ethical investment policy. Invest NI's policy currently only covers 'business ethics' so highly polluting machinery or torture equipment - or arms - would not be excluded. Photos and reports on the action appeared in a couple of local papers.

The conference itself took place at the Friends Meeting House, Frederick Street, Belfast and was attended by over thirty people. Photos of the disarmament event and/or conference are available on request.

The first speaker was Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International who gave an overview of armed violence and outlined the Control Arms campaign which Amnesty is involved in along with Oxfam and IANSA, the International Action Network on Small Arms; Amnesty's objection is not to the arms trade per se but to its connection with human rights abuses, it supports transparency in the arms trade. Every year there are half a million people killed directly by armed violence, one a minute by a very wide variety of weaponry. Dual use products do lead to ambiguity (where e.g. software can be use for civilian or military use). The aim of the Control Arms campaign is to have an international arms trade treaty which would provide a binding set of core minimum standards to stop the most irresponsible weapons transfers. A draft treaty is available on the Control Arms website at The campaign has issued half a dozen detailed reports. There is currently a 'Million faces' petition, the world's largest photo gallery, in support of the arms trade treaty.

Both the UK and Ireland support an arms trade treaty, Patrick Corrigan saying that in relation to the UK this was a major achievement as it is the world's second biggest arms exporter, though continued pressure is necessary to get it implemented. Amnesty is interested in forming alliances with others, e.g. trade unions, on the issue. Research, to be published n the autumn, is currently being conducted on arms-related links in industry in Northern Ireland, following on research and a report in the Republic, 'The Claws of the Celtic Tiger' (available on the AI Ireland website at )

Kevin Mullen of CAAT, the Campaign Against Arms Trade ( ) spoke of how he had got involved with CAAT through the issue of arms being sold to Indonesia. CAAT tries to work locally and find partners to work with. CAAT publishes yearly figures on who invests in the arms trade (including universities and local authorities). It asks the question of what drives spending - the industry or military need. The Ministry of Defence in the UK has a revolving door with the arms industry, in some cases senior MOD officials dealing with an issue retire and suddenly pop up on the board of an arms company involved in that particular field. One aim of CAAT is to close the Defence Services export organisation which markets British arms overseas.

The arms trade and corruption go hand in hand, Kevin Mullen said, with in the case of Indonesia payments having been made to the relations of senior government figures. International politics also plays a role. One area of arms sales growth is Latin America. Increasing transparency makes campaigning easier.

Tim Hourigan of Limerick and the Mid-west Alliance Against Military Aggression spoke about the realities of Shannon as a transit point for US military forces; 158,000 US troops passed through in 2004 (the number has increased, it was 128,000 in 2003) and it has replaced Frankfurt as the preferred US route to the Middle East. Using Shannon facilitates the US military because with carrying less fuel they can carry more military equipment. Many flights are 'civilian' planes carrying military goods and usage has also included a CIA torture jet which has stopped in Shannon at least 14 times (it was involved in the kidnapping and torture of 2 people removed from Sweden, a big issue there). Not only are the skies full of the US military but the Irish state pays for the US overflights to the aviation authority when it could opt out of so doing - in effect the Irish state pays €23 for every US military person passing through. Gate 42 at Shannon is exclusively military.

Tim Hourigan also highlighted arms related production within the Republic, e.g. Analog in Limerick which makes chips for a firing system for the Israeli military. Dual use products are common and Tim gave an instance of someone not knowing that he was making a system for weapons. In addition, pension trust funds and the like typically invest 15% of their money in aerospace and 'defence' - Paddy Corrigan pointed out that state pension funds in the Republic are similarly invested in the arms trade.

Henry (Hood)Winkler from Raytheon in Derry gave a robust defence of the arms trade, speaking to a Powerpoint presentation. Arms are a necessary evil, he said and the arms industry provides job security. Raytheon, meaning 'light of the gods', is part of the fight for freedom and democracy and is present in Derry through the good offices of John Hume. The US is not trying to keep its standard of living to itself but share it. Raytheon is the world's largest missile manufacturer and fourth largest weapons manufacturer and has done tasks like design the US Command HQ in Iraq. Javelin shoulder launched systems were sold to the Irish defence forces. The Derry Software Development Centre enhances Raytheon's efficiency in global weapons design, sales and purchasing. Its work on IFF, Identifying Friend or Foe, is important in hitting the bad guys. After some persistent questioning and intervention from the floor, highly critical of Raytheon. Henry Winkler said that other speakers had been accorded the right to speak and he left the room. He shortly afterwards returned in his real guise as a member of FEIC, the Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign, which does actually invite Raytheon to events to dialogue but Raytheon never comes. Those present engaged in some soul searching as to whether they had reacted as they should have to a representative of the arms industry. As the lunch provided by Food Not Bombs was late in arriving there was an extended informal networking opportunity and good interaction between those present - in other words, people chatted away.

Anthony Nicotera, one of the Boeing 7 convicted in Chicago of trespassing when they held a sit-in at the headquarters of Boeing arms manufacturers, spoke sharing some of the work in campaigning on Boeing's military involvement.

The discussion in the afternoon was more informal and focused on research and action primarily. There was some discussion of what methods were ethical in arms campaigning with varying opinions expressed. The tax paid to the military was another issue. In response to Kevin Cassidy saying a taxi driver had called out to him, when engaged in the disarmament action earlier in the week, "What about the water rates?". Jim Keys pointed out that given global agendas, the privatisation of water (separate water charges being introduced in Northern Ireland to get the industry into 'profitable' shape for privatisation) was not separate to issues of the arms trade. Another point raised was the use, in the UK context, of the Freedom of Information Act to get information, and the fact that with global connections, information can often be gathered in one jurisdiction about activities in another.

The morning session was chaired by Lindsay Whitcroft and the afternoon by Kevin Cassidy. Those who wished to network further after the formal close adjourned to a friendly local hostelry.

[Report by Rob Fairmichael]

Copyright INNATE 2021