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Trial of Catholic Worker Five Begins Oct 24 at the Four Courts
international | anti-war / imperialism | feature Sunday October 23, 2005 21:42 by Paul MacGiolla Bán
Daily Peace Walk in Solidarity at 9am from The Spire
Indymedia photo essays of Ploughshares’ anti-war vigils Saturday‘s Vigil at College Green | Still on the Loose… Daily vigils last week | Rebel Priest Joins Ploughshares Vigil | Keep Death Off Our Runways | Vigil For Jean Charles de Menezes, killed by UK police on London Underground | Budapest Solidarity | London Solidarity | Melbourne Solidarity | WashingtonD.C. solidarity
In August Ciaron O’Reilly of the Pit Stop Ploughshares spoke at the Greenbelt festival in the UK. As their trial begins, this essay is a reflection on his talk, and of how the actions of the Catholic Worker Five challenge all of us. The war still rages in Iraq and the situation is deteriorating, without any sign of the US-led coalition withdrawing. While the mass media presents little challenge to US use of Shannon, the Ploughshares trial keeps Irish participation in the war at the forefront of our minds.
“Together with Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon and Damien Moran, Ciaron is one of the group known as the Pit Stop Ploughshares. In early February 2003, these five took part in the non-violent disarmament of a US Navy War Plane at Shannon airport. They have been charged with US$2.5 million damage to the plane, which was forced to return to Texas rather than continue its journey to Iraq. Their trial begins on Monday at the Four Courts“.
The festival is mostly attended by Christians, but there is little in the way of in-your-face religion. Some of the events have a very Christian focus, but there is plenty going on with a more universal appeal. And if sometimes I get frustrated with the multitude of ‘Make Poverty History’ T-shirts, there is also a more radical side to the festival. One example is the Belfast religious community Ikon, who tackled the taboo topic of homosexuality head-on with their session of worship, Queer. And another radical side to the festival was the talk by Australian peace activist Ciaron O’Reilly.
Together with Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon and Damien Moran, Ciaron is one of the group known as the Pit Stop Ploughshares. In early February 2003, these five took part in the non-violent disarmament of a US Navy War Plane at Shannon airport. They have been charged with US$2.5 million damage to the plane, which was forced to return to Texas rather than continue its journey to Iraq. Their trial begins on Monday at the Four Courts.
At Greenbelt, Ciaron spoke with his usual calmness and restraint. A fellow ’Catholic Worker’ and friend of Ciaron’s opened and closed the talk with a bit of music, and in between Ciaron reflected on the Ploughshares action and the war in Iraq. As always, no matter what troubles he has gone through as a result of his actions, the focus is on the troubles of the Iraqi people. Ireland’s Shannon Airport has been a pit stop for American soldiers on their way to Iraq for two years, with 25,000 troops currently passing through Shannon every month. Ciaron spoke of the imperative to act in response to this, in order to prevent loss of Iraqi life. Though the Pit Stop Ploughshares could not hope to stop all the planes passing through Shannon, at least by making one plane turn back to Texas, they hope to have caused some to be alive who would otherwise be dead - and somehow reduced the uncounted Iraqi victims of the bombs from US planes of war.
And yet the Catholic Workers do not believe that they can stop the war, at least, not on their own. Ciaron has an interesting philosophy on activism. He does not believe that an activist elite can change the world. This is why he and the other Ploughshares are willing to face up to their action, and do not apologise or retreat from what they have done. This is why Ciaron speaks of the need to ‘bear witness’ to the action, by acknowledging it, and remembering it without regret. As he said at a solidarity night for the Ploughshares in September, while the Irish state would prefer to bring them ‘kicking and screaming’ through the court system, instead they are going ‘singing and dancing’.
The Ploughshares’ action confronts Irish participation in this war, and prevents it from being shoved under the carpet. Their action seeks to bring the war to centre stage, and is a constant reminder of how Ireland facilitates the US military interference in Iraqi affairs. They make it impossible for denial and avoidance, and bring the war home to Ireland. And their action is a challenge to the rest of us.
Their action does not only challenge us to take similar action, although it certainly does that. But short of this, there is plenty more to be done. On a daily level, their action challenges us to keep the war at the forefront of our minds. We are challenged to find ways to keep it in the picture - to talk about it, to remember its victims. Is it something we have forgotten? Is it something we keep on our own agenda? Of course there are other issues and campaigns that deserve our energy and attention. But the US and UK-led war in Iraq is surely one of the most central issues in the world today. It is a modern Vietnam. After 100,000 people marched in Dublin in February 2003 and were then ignored, it is easy to feel powerless, and to feel that there is little we can do to oppose this war. But this war still has the potential to unite a generation of people who are sickened by the state of the modern world.
One of the main challenges and opportunities presented by the Ploughshares trial next week is that of solidarity. At the beginning of the month, the Ploughshares sent out an appeal for solidarity. In taking their action at Shannon, they took a huge risk, and put the issue of the war ahead of their own personal comfort. And those of us who respect and appreciate what they did have a duty to show them our support. They have held weekly vigils at the GPO throughout the summer to draw attention to Ireland’s role in the Iraq war. They also held a daily vigil during this last week. From next Monday, the first day of the trial, they will meet at the Spire on O’Connell St. from 0830 each day for a daily vigil and Peace Walk down to the Four Courts for their trial. It may be early in the morning, but they deserve our solidarity and support.
The Ploughshares are about more than just anti-war activism. They are trying to play a role in building a community of activists. Ciaron and Damien are involved in advocacy for the homeless. The Ploughshares house on the South Circular Road is also used as a space of hospitality for activists. I have been fed and watered there many times after a day’s community gardening in Dolphin’s Barn. They have also provided beds for visitors to Dublin from the Rossport Solidarity Camp and from the homeless campaign in Belfast. Now it is their turn to be in need of solidarity and support. As they say themselves, they want to confront the US, UK and Irish institutions which are taking part in waging war in Iraq:
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