Category Archives: Ban bus Ireland

The Irish Anti War movement

On the road

Our new flat locationOur new flat was a perfect base and we had our first presentations coming up. We were offered a forum of the Irish Anti War movement and a shared stage with some of the Raytheon 9. The Raytheon 9 are nine activists who raided an arms manufacturer for eight hours and basically wrecked the place. More power to them. One of the leaders who will go on trial in a few weeks is Eamonn McCann who is an old Irish radical and campaigner. He has a reputation as a fiery speaker and he didn’t disappoint.

It was a full house in an expensive hotel and the audience was quite ultra left and passionate about disarmament.

I was the warm up act and was given minimal time to get a lot of people excited about cluster bombs. I felt like a boxer as my time started,,,,, now. I do this kind of job quite well and launched into a very high speed and aggressive presentation about the field problems of cluster bombs and the Irish governments role in working towards a ban. I knew I was getting across to them as I had people beginning to cry in the audience. This I always find encouraging and it fires me up to sting them out of their mediocrity and get involved to do something. They got told nothing but the reality of what it’s like in a cluster bomb affected place and I definitely spared them the most graphic of my pictures.

I finished and was followed by Susan telling them what they can do to get involved and about some events coming up which we invited them to. After her came Andy Story. He was from Afri, a local NGO and was an excellent speaker and spoke about the Lisbon treaty. This treaty is another EU equaliser that aims to commit European governments to spending a more equal amount on defence and other things. Of course this was the kind of thing that the audience would really oppose. He was very articulate and measured and knew his subject well and could argue the points. This is refreshing as I find many activists just babble with no real aim or understanding of the issues they claim to represent but are full of fire and venom with very little substance.

Eamonn McCann had now arrived and I was curious to see what this guy was really like. I googled him before I came and he has a long and colourful list of activism. He is a campaigner from Northern Ireland and has been at most of the violent past events from Bloody Sunday to the Battle of Bogside and numerous other scraps along the way. Small and wiry with a shaved head and in his 60’s he looked like an angry whippet who would go after any other dog no matter the size. He’s noted for oratory style and passion and I was keen to see a really good and articulate speaker take the floor.

He began slowly and thoughtfully and seemed preoccupied with other thoughts but after a few minutes he warmed up and the whole scene changed. A veritable torrent of words and gestures pounded the audience as his mind wove from point to point and a definite spark was in his eyes as his blood rose. Here was a man who relished the fight and would give no quarter to any government or arms manufacturer. He also seems a man who could take it as well as give it as if he is to be jailed for the activities at Raytheon then so be it.

The really interesting part of what he had to say was how they were to base their defence for the Raytheon trashing. They had no intention to fight the charges or plead not guilty, on the contrary, yes to all facts. What they were going to do was base their defence on the fact that it’s their legal obligation as civilians to step in and protect if life is threatened. As they were trashing a company who made arms and in particular, arms that killed many civilians in Lebanon then they were doing their civil and legal duty to wreck that company as they killed internationally. It’s a great argument and I hope he gets away with it. I do admire someone who will knowingly take on the state or big business in full knowledge that some serious consequences are before them.

The floor was opened for questions and it was all interesting, one man stood up and launched a fairly barbed attack at me. He took the greatest exception to me saying anything positive about the Irish government in relation to a treaty to ban cluster bombs. As far as he was concerned, all in government are two faced bastards and I was a bastard too for saying they could do any good. Fair enough, your point was made. I didn’t get the right of reply but Andy Story took up the point and answered it as well as it possibly could have been answered. Difficult partnerships are sometimes essential to gain our goals and if you don’t have these then you risk throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Eamonn answered a few more questions and made a few more pointed statements then the meeting broke up. The guy who had the attack on me came over as nice as you like and apologised as he said in a rather meek manner that the Irish government are no good. I said I heard him the first time and that we all have our own governments to fight.

If people are so paranoid and that they hate the government so much then they are more likely to fall into the hands of government than be a voice against them for then they are marginalised and then their words might be of no value. Pick your battles, work out how to win them then get some work done. Another thing is if you criticise the government for being bad and want them to change, then the moment that they do change and do move on one issue in a positive direction you can only complain more, wake up to your self!

On the walk back along the river we talked about the upcoming weeks and dodged the local drunks, not so easy something’s, and found out the thing we saw floating down the river the day before was a body in a bag. Interesting this place Dublin.

Meeting the Irish Coalition and the Irish Foreign Ministry

Friday morning brought our first meeting with Irish Foreign Affairs. Many Irish NGOs and the CMC coordinator Thomas Nash were all there to have a round table with the government representatives. Simon Conway who will be the NGO conference event coordinator was also there and he laid out what had been planed so far and what still needed to be done. I gave an overview on the Ban Bus idea and preparation. The Irish government representative, Alison Kelly, openly discussed the plans of Ireland as the host nation.

When this whole process began it was the Norwegians who led the way. In doing this they formed a coalition of core group countries who seriously wanted to see a strong ban happen. Ireland is one of these strong core countries and her brief was open and had one point, to get the strongest treaty possible. It’s impressive to see a government operate like this. They don’t talk about exceptions and reservations or keeping a few loopholes, they just talk plain and straight. There is a lesson Australia could learn a lot from.

Our little “studio apartment” was starting to wear a little thin as it was so small and so far out, at least a 45 minute bike ride from the centre each way. Nice on a good day but one thing to remember about Ireland is it rains. In fact it rains and rains and rains some more and pedalling out each night in the cold, dark and wet was by no means fun. Thomas said to us after the Foreign Ministry meeting that he would need a flat in a week and if we found one then we could use it till he came. There was some motivation and by the end of that day we had another place to stay with some space to work and centrally located. We moved in.

We were now on the edge of town and the river flowed past the front door. A magnificent aroma wafted across the water as I realised we were across the river from the Guinness brewery! I was in heaven!!!!

Croke Park surroundings

The venue that the treaty meeting will take place in is called Croke Park and its Irelands biggest football stadium. It’s also the countries largest conference space so it’s the government’s only option. The interesting thing about it is it’s in the roughest neighbourhood in Dublin. I have visions of deliberations breaking up each day and the diplomats getting mugged by the local drug dealers as the leave each evening. Mette and me rode our bikes through the middle of it last week and were conscious that we were trespassing on someone’s “turf”.

There is a wonderful phenomenon there, the pyjama boozer. It’s really quite the female fashion statement. Never in my life have I seen women at the pub in their pyjamas in the early afternoon. In fact, I’ve never seen women in their pyjamas in a pub ever and I’d include supermarkets and sporting events as well in that. That being said it is a statement worth making and a style unique to Summer Hill. The area of Summer Hill sits between Croke Park and the city and is an area divided between rivalled gangs. The violence there is not imagined but very real and as we get to know the city more, we hear tales of some of the thuggish crime as well as serious underworld goings on. All irrelevant to me but worth knowing about as no interest in treading on any of these jokers toes. Just stay clear of the rough stuff and get on with our job.

Ban Bus hits Ireland

In Wellington we spoke with many about doing an Irish Ban Bus and many were keen to see it happen. As usual, the problem is to fund, then execute it. Our old mate Rae McGrath put his hand up to track down a budget and we then got busy. The clock was ticking and time was certainly of the essence. With only a few weeks to go we have flown to Dublin and want to get the word to the masses as fast and far as possible. When it comes to NGO’s trying to organise something like this it’s a case of the few doing the impossible with very little except a huge amount of commitment. We had two friends already in Dublin operating out of a tiny room in the back of a church trying to pull logistics together. No power dressing or flash offices here but a great deal more productivity is what separates us from governments.

Susan and Tony were flat out working late into every night doing what ever it took to get civil society a good presence at the upcoming conference. One look told us not to try and lump more work on their shoulders. The first thing we did need was a set of wheels and a place to stay. Mette trawled the web and found a “Cosy studio apartment” a little way out of town. It had the perfect credentials as it was dirt cheap. We took it.

The taxi finally found the address and we met the old lady landlord. It was a nice suburban house in a quiet neighbourhood and the gable looked like the location of our new abode. This was not to be as our eyes were cast to the garage and the door was opened. It was a converted single car garage that was transformed to a granny flat. Well, it’s definitely cosy. Beggars can’t be choosers so that was going to be it for now. We moved in. To be able to move we packed everything vertically so as to get around the bed. There were two really oversized arm chairs at the foot of the bed which basically took up the rest of the space except for the TV that didn’t seem to work. Going out the back past the bed was a tiny shower um, toilet then kitchenish kind of thing. None of this mattered as it’s off the street and a place to sleep.

The next morning we began walking towards Dublin centre. Not really knowing where that was we got a few directions, found the docks, turned right and kept on going. When we finally got nearer the town we grabbed a cab and crossed the river to see Susan and Tony. With the money we did have we needed to set up. Transport and communications were next on the list so we door knocked all the bike shops we could find to get a pair of second hand bikes then a pair of cheap Irish mobile phones and some internet access. We were now fit to take on the world. Rae was working hard to finalise funding so I backed all costs on my credit card. This was a very scary prospect for me but you have to trust people in this world and I trusted Rae to come through with a budget and get everything sorted out. Our main concern now was not to lose time waiting. We had to spend and set up as fast as possible.

It’s magic what can be achieved with a mobile and a bit of the web. Piece by piece we started locking down and ticking off all we would need to do a good Ban Bus. Rent a van, get signage, design brochures, design T-shirts, find printers and start to line up places to talk to. The bikes were great and we sped from one side of Dublin to the next amongst some of Europe’s worst traffic jams with a massive road toll on cyclists and pedestrians. The logistics were almost complete and Rae would also be over in a few days. The money problem was being solved and we could now look for a second flat as more people would be rolling in and we would have no trouble finding bodies for beds.