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A Review of the Film "Route Irish"

category national | anti-war / imperialism | opinion/analysis author Monday January 07, 2008 10:25author by Gary MacLennanauthor address Dublin, Ireland Report this post to the editors

**Accessing "Route Irish" on the net

If you have a high speed connection, I'd suggest that you ight-click (pc) or ctrl-lick (mac) on this link and download to your desktop

Or you can go to
and watch online.

A Review of "Route Irish" by Gary MacLennan

Route Irish is an important documentary. Let us be clear about that. Its importance for the Irish lies in the fact that it deals with the current struggle to protect Irish neutrality, something btw which is enshrined in the Irish constitution. The centre of this struggle is Shannon Airport historically of military importance as the furthest length a plane could fly from America. Of course these days Shannon is no longer a logistic necessity. But as the Catholic Workers activist Ciaron O'Reilly points out, the US is pissing on Ireland to mark its territory. Its recruitment of Ireland to the "Coalition of the Willing" was and is a political act. Behind the use of the airport is of course the untold story of the massive corruption of the Irish elites by their American counterparts. There is enough of Irish nationalism left in me to provoke a sense of deep shame and outrage at the betrayal of Irish neutrality by today's leaders of the Irish State. But another and more sensible part of me wants to repeat my old mother's favourite saying "What can you expect from a pig but a grunt". The elites of Ireland are like the elites everywhere that form the periphery of the US Empire. They have nothing to offer but compliance, and corruption and contrition for any acts of protest that might emerge from below. And let me say it clearly now; we should make no mistake about this: Ireland's rulers have been begging their US masters for forgiveness for not being able to crush the protest movement.
In other words they have been grunting.

Points Somewhat Technical

The film's voice over commentary is perhaps a good place to begin. In documentary terms the historical voice over became known pejoratively as the "voice of god" around the 60s- 70s. As a result film makers would go to almost any length to avoid a voice over. Thankfully however contemporary documentarists have resorted to a voice over again. However these tend to be personal, reflective, uncertain, whimsical etc in contrast with the authoratively stentorian commentary of the 1930s.

Here the voice over is delivered very professionally in the best reflective personal style- enormously engaging. Nevertheless one of my complaints about this film is that in aesthetic terms it would seem ambivalent about the status of the voice over. As it stands it seems to me that the film is poised where the commentary could become a move towards a dialog with us the viewers. It needs to recognize the wonder that is there. The commentator cares. In this the age of disengagement, he is engagé. We watch the film and that too means we care. So the commentary could have been seen as almost like a prayer which we all share in.

What we in fact needed was more of the commentary and a good deal of editing of the other material. For instance the point about the opportunism of the Green Party politicians was made long before the film maker would acknowledge that. There are other areas too where the editor should have intervened and cut heavily.

The risk of course with a commentary is that other voices will be drowned out. And the film does conscientiously try to honor a commitment to let as many voices to be heard as possible. Yet there is a political point that the voice over strives to make and that is the relationship of the protest action to the broad peace movement.

The commentary makes the point that the leadership of the movement had been taken over by the Trotskyist SWP. The danger of sectarian conflict looms here. Were the Catholic Workers justified in their assault on the war plane? To the leaders of the peace movement it would appear that the answer is "no" and that the Catholic Workers' action was at best a "distraction". However a jury of twelve good men and women eventually gave the answer that yes the attack on the plane was justified. And all honor to that jury.

I will make my position clear here. I support what the Catholic Workers(CW) did. I understand very well that many in the movement would feel that the CW had acted on their own. Yet what they did would have had repercussions for the movement. In other words they acted outside the collective discipline of the movement. However the commitment of the Catholic Workers to non-violence means that they can never occupy a position like that of the Weathermen, who constituted themselves as the armed wing of the protest movement and in so doing facilitated the state's crushing of the movement.

More about aesthetic matters – esp the need for editing

Footage however interesting and unusual in itself does not a film make. Aesthetic clarity and discipline are an indispensible part of the film making process. The film falls between two orientations. It wants to be above all a record of the struggle and so we have a great amount of footage from the protests. There is of course great political value in showing the voice of the protest and allowing the marginalised and the despised their moment of speaking out. But the film also wants to be a commentary on that struggle. It seeks to defend the particular approach that advocated by the Ploughshares movement. It is this task that the commentary at times seeks to undertake.

My own position is that the film should have been more upfront about its intentions. I cannot believe that they did not build the film more around the triumph that was the trial. Let me be absolutely clear here. The acquittal of the Ploughshares activists was a triumph above all for ordinary people, whose voice was represented by the jury. The verdict came against all the pressure that the Empire, the Irish State and the media could bring to bear. Twelve ordinary decent men and women looked into their hearts and found the truth there. That is a moment whose preciousness should never be lost sight of, and it is to the shame of the film makers that they do seem to do so. Why? For me the answer lies in the dialectics of being part of a vanguard. Within this all protest can be seen to be useless.

Thoughts on vanguardism

Really I think someone needed to sit down with the crew and work out exactly what the film is about. It is torn between wanting to put up a lot of footage and trying to make a point. Of course it should have gone for the "point" - but what is the point???? There is a real tendency in the commentary to whinge about the movement. Some of this is very legitimate as in the role of the Greens and the Pollies and of course the sectarians who want to hold onto "leadership" i.e. power. However the abiding sin of the avant garde is there also. It complains of the people. They are never militant enough etc.
Above all the film maker needs a real clip around the ear for not understanding moral politics!! I just cannot believe that he could not see the need to highlight Ciaron O'Reilly's rationale for his actions. It says it all. I shed tears when I heard him say why he did what he did. And of course the trial was a god given opportunity for the vanguard to link up with the people. If the Plough Share actions have a justification it is for me that they provide ordinary people with the opportunity to do the right thing. One of the jury said precisely this and the film maker did not put it in. What in the name of jeezuss was he thinking about?

He had there such a victory to inspire people and he could not forbear going on about betrayals etc. What is it with the Irish? We cannot stop whining about traitors! I think myself it is a part of the "primitive rebel" syndrome. But ploughshare politics should be rooted in a real belief in grace. The jury were blessed with grace -truly amazing grace- and did the right and moral thing. That is the film's story.

Underneath the commentary is a feeling of despair - despair in the face of political opportunism, left sectarianism and the vast disengagement of society. But the answer for to despair is to affirm one's enduring belief in grace and the filmaker had the bloody evidence in front of him and could not see it.

Also let me finish by saying that CW lot could well meditate on whether they have fallen into the opposite of grace and that is nihilism. This is the post modern feeling that nothing matters so everything goes. Demos become fashion statements and commitment seems to be so old fashioned and (crime of crimes) boring. It is so easy in these circumstances for the committed to become strident and to complain of those who do not do enough. But that is to make the mistake of making oneself a judge of the people. God judges. We do not.

So the answer again lies in faith and a firm belief that everything we do matters - no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. As Milton put it
"God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Or as Kierkegaard would have it in his famous entry for July 29 1835
"As I stood there, without that feeling of dejection and
despondency which makes me look upon myself as the
enclitic of the men who usually surround me, and without
that feeling of pride which makes me into the formative
principle of a small circle as I stood there alone and for-
saken, and the power of the sea and the battle of the
elements reminded me of my own nothingness, and on the
other hand the sure flight of the birds recalled the words
spoken by Christ : Not a sparrow shall fall to the ground
without your Father : then all at once I felt how great and
how small I was; then did those two mighty forces, pride
and humility, happily unite in friendship."

By way of something like a conclusion
I can recall that when I was a boy in Omagh (over half a century ago) I was taken with my school to the Old Town Hall to see a film on the life of St Vincent de Paul. It had to be Maurice Cloche's Monsieur Vincent (1947). I remember scenes of Vincent picking up babies outside the church and something of his life in the galleys. But most of all I remember at the end of the film when he says that we must ask the poor for forgiveness. I think that is something for every vanguardist to think on. We need to seek the forgiveness of those in whose name we act. We do not need to complain about them. We need to be humble and understand why they cannot or will not do what we might label "enough". Something of that humility should find its way into the commentary IMHO.

Finally another piece of poetry and this is one of my favourites. I offer it as a piece for meditation for all of those who complain of the people. It is by Yeats, who though a thorough reactionary still had his moments of grace and this was one of them. It deals with his meditation on a conversation he had with Lady Gregory – "his phoenix" about the "people".

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939). The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.

22. The People

'WHAT have I earned for all that work,' I said,
'For all that I have done at my own charge?
The daily spite of this unmannerly town,
Where who has served the most is most defamed,
The reputation of his lifetime lost 5
Between the night and morning. I might have lived,
And you know well how great the longing has been,
Where every day my footfall should have lit
In the green shadow of Ferrara wall;
Or climbed among the images of the past— 10
The unperturbed and courtly images—
Evening and morning, the steep street of Urbino
To where the duchess and her people talked
The stately midnight through until they stood
In their great window looking at the dawn; 15
I might have had no friend that could not mix
Courtesy and passion into one like those
That saw the wicks grow yellow in the dawn;
I might have used the one substantial right
My trade allows: chosen my company, 20
And chosen what scenery had pleased me best.'
Thereon my phoenix answered in reproof,
'The drunkards, pilferers of public funds,
All the dishonest crowd I had driven away,
When my luck changed and they dared meet my face, 25
Crawled from obscurity, and set upon me
Those I had served and some that I had fed;
Yet never have I, now nor any time,
Complained of the people.'

All I could reply
Was: 'You, that have not lived in thought but deed, 30
Can have the purity of a natural force,
But I, whose virtues are the definitions
Of the analytic mind, can neither close
The eye of the mind nor keep my tongue from speech.'
And yet, because my heart leaped at her words, 35
I was abashed, and now they come to mind
After nine years, I sink my head abashed.


Gary MacLennan
8th January 2008

author by rzapublication date Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

good to see that someone has taken the time to write a review of this well made and thoughtful film. While I agree with the author's points that Eamonn's tendency towards extreme pessimism on behalf of the movement is frustrating, I disagree that the antidote is to focus more on the actions of the CW5 and their acquittal. While supporting the actions of the CW5 I do not believe that this trial was as significant as it was made out to be. It could easily have gone the other way, we cannot rely on the State's justice apparatus to legitimise our struggles. The rightness of the CW5's actions should have been obvious in themselves, we did not need a jury to tell us that.

In fact, I think that far too much time in the movie was given to a small group of activists who may or may not have represented the rest of the movement. Endless scenes of Eoin Rice parading around with megaphone and white boiler suit misrepresent the movement in my opinion. As an activist who was not around for that period, I would be interested to see the connections between that mobilisation, the lessons learned, and subsequent struggles, for example the Shell to Sea campaign. There was also very little coverage of anarchists in the struggle, who were certainly more numerous than the planespotters who were given such extensive coverage. We only had a short interview with one anarchist from WSM and a spectacular shot of the black block running in some direction or other during a Shannon demo.

author by Interesting to have a seminar.....publication date Mon Jan 07, 2008 22:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is a theory held by some if the movement had swung behind the proposal to occupy the runway on March 1st, on the back of two successful February disarmament actions by MK and CW5 (and the resultant 4 U.S. companies abandoning Ireland as consequence), it could have been game over. The U.S. deciding that 3 major breaches of security were too many and that the Irish state couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery in terms of securing the airport and U.S. troop movers. The context of public consciousness was laid by the peace camp in the January.

It would be interesting to have a seminar examining the peace camp, the Mary Kelly action, the Catholic Worker/Ploughshares action, the failed libertarian initiated occupation of the runway. What went wrong, what went right, what was the significance, how vulnerable wqs the Irish state at that point to being forced out of the war, at what point did the window of opportunity slam shut and the movement die.

author by Deirdre Cl - Former Pitstop Ploughsharespublication date Tue Jan 29, 2008 19:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Rza - I agree in a way with your comments about our acquittal. We didn't need it to legitimise our actions and, in fact, I fully expected a conviction for a long time and didn't need to be acquitted to feel vindicated. However, the State didn't acquit us, though the apparatus of the state hosted our proceedings - it was a jury of our peers, who heard the arguments. So in that sense, I think it was icing on the cake, and actually significant.

Below are my comments on the film.

The McLennon review is on the mark in many respects. The voiceover was one of the most engaging parts of the film for me. I really resonated with the sense of jadedness about slogans, and some of the general feelings and impressions conveyed. The narrator is articulate, which helps.

I felt the film could have been kinder toward non-NVDA activism as a whole. Not everyone is in a position to do NVDA. As long as they don't slam those of us who do (and some people in the movement do, obviously), I am fine with this. Demos can play an important role and outlets for those who aren't in a position to face arrest are necessary.

The narrator should also have set his parameters at the start, and said something along the lines of: 'This is my own personal journey through the movement, and represents my own viewpoint.' Because basically, that's what it is. It is not really a historical document in the objective sense, though if provided to an oral historian it might prove useful. I will talk about gender below in relation to my own experiences/the film, but want to say first that there was also a regional bias. There was very little, almost nothing, in the film of key activists in Galway and Cork - the Cork Anti-War Campaign, for example, and Galway Alliance Against War were extremely active at the time, along with the Grassroots Networks in both cities. The activists shown were often Dublin based, though not always, and they weren't necessarily the most key people either, just the loudest and most assertive (no disrespect to Ed, Tim and Conor, who I consider key, by the way, and who were Limerick based).

Thoughtful, intellectual types didn't get much of a look-in in this documentary. How about interviewing people like Colin Coulter, who has done research on the media in relation to the anti-war movement at the time and was on the IAWM steering committee?

The SWP has its flaws, that's for sure. But the libertarian left should look into its own heart first. That's for starters.

My further comments below are perhaps unfairly loaded with certain baggage that I'm currently examining regarding my own experience of being a defendant. I apologise in advance for being self-referential, but it's impossible not to look at this film in relation to these experiences, having spent so much time in the legal system facing serious charges. However, some of the stuff that I say had to be said at some stage in the general sense, and the film was just a trigger because it reflected more of the same. And I hope to keep up my critique, not just in the context of 'Route Irish', but generally. I feel it's about time I started to speak my truth about the anti-war movement in a variety of ways, including the coverage and documenting of it on the left.

I've only watched the film recently, and a lot of what I say is coloured by Karen, Nuin and my experiences of the three and a half years of being the women members of the Pitstop Ploughshares group. Here's some of the background: the three of us discussed gender issues a fair amount at the time, and I know they felt somewhat similarly (I can't speak for them now). I can already anticipate the accusations of 'shrill feminist' even as I write these words. It's been said to me before in the anti-war context, an indication of how slanted the movement was, but I'm not that bothered really. I'm happy with the label 'feminist' and my views are very considered, rather than Feminism 101, which I've also encountered in the movement. I've thought this through very deeply, ever since our post-acquittal public meetings where, almost invariably, around 70-80% of attendees were men. It made me wonder, given that studies in relation to the general population have shown that women are more often anti-war. I came to the conclusion that there were very strong and valid reasons why women stayed away from the movement so much. And 'Route Irish' certainly wouldn't make a rookie woman peace activist with a feminist conciousness feel that hot about joining up with future anti-war resistance efforts.

Overall, I was taken aback at how slanted some of the film was. For instance, there was a disproportionate amount of footage of Eoin Rice speaking at demos (a point already made by rza). Some (though not all) of Eoin's commentary was clever and eloquent, but at times I felt he was taking over the narration of the film inadvertently. And also, not everyone in the movement agreed with his chosen tactics, and it wasn't made clear that he was acting unilaterally, rather than on behalf of an organisation - which for honesty's sake I think should have been stated (this is a critique of the film rather than Eoin, so please bear that distinction in mind).

The other thing is, you'd think from watching this film that there was only one woman meaningfully active in the movement (Mary Kelly - please bear the abovementioned distinction in mind here too). In fact, there were various women that I knew who were active, in Dublin, Cork and Galway. This gender bias and personality-based focus has been typical of the left-wing media from day one - and I think I'm qualified to make a few observations on this in general. Even journalists who supported the Pitstop Ploughshares, for instance, just assumed Ciaron O'Reilly and Damien Moran were the spokespeople for the group, even when it was made clear that there were actually no appointed or elected spokespeople. The three women were largely (though not always) silenced and voiceless in the movement for most of the few years of our legal process, by all left-wing media-oriented people without too much exception. I lost count of the number of times the three of us laughed hollowly as some 'libertarian' journalist asked for the perspective of the two men while the three of us were standing in close proximity. We just found it to be, literally, a joke. In fact, I have to be honest and say that the only quarter from which I didn't experience any gender bias was my legal representation, and there would be obvious reasons for that, related to professional ethics. The left itself was amazingly biased. However, I will point out that this problem was perpetrated by women as much as men, and at times more so, actually (I had an article I wrote published under another woman's name once in a mainstream publication - which I foolishly agreed to and have since regretted - thinking I was 'helping the cause'). Believe me, I'm democratic in my scathing attitude toward the behaviour of the left - sometimes women worse exploiters of the female defendants, though there were many honourable exceptions.

The overall impression Karen, Nuin and I had toward the end was that we were regarded as adjuncts who weren't capable of articulating our own reasons for acting. It wasn't that we actually relished interactions with the media (positively not, actually, though I recognised the need to explain our action). However, the gender bias was just so blatant on the left that it made us fairly cynical about the movement in Ireland in relation to women activists and appreciation for their perspective. This film just reflects that. I'm not saying the filmmaker/voiceover narrator is sexist, by the way - just that the film reflects the general tendencies of the movement. I hope that nuance is appreciated.

In fact, I found that the MSM was much more balanced in terms of gender, as is mainstream society in general, because there are now more checks and balances in the institutions of the mainstream to guard against such bias. The libertarian left is often a free for all, and people's worst instincts can come out without any guidelines or checks. It has taken me the last year to really get over the impact of the silencing we experienced, some of it very unconscious, but some of it very blatant too. I know this is all very contentious. The last people who would like to be accused of gender bias are the very people who see themselves as champions of liberation. However, the libertarian left is often very bad at living up to its own standards.

Also, on a less contentious and more practical note, the impression was given in the film that Mary's action sparked off ours and other actions, and this isn't factual. In fact, given the sequence of events, our planning of an action far preceded Mary's act. This is just a neutral fact and I'm not making any value judgement; I have always publicly supported Mary's right to do the action she did. The film should have got that bit right.

I now await any onslaught.

author by Feudal castratopublication date Wed Jan 30, 2008 02:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Don't let yourself be silenced on this medium by critics. And don't underestimate the effect you personally have had on people either. It is considerable. Many people on the left fully appreciate your equal part in the action and the admirable and very dignified way you carried it out. Not everyone is won over by large ego's, strong personalities, publicty seeking and rhetorical devices. A clear honest and thoughtful message unpolluted by such things is often far more impressive. That is what you always delivered in your talks. Respect!

author by Deirdre Cl - Former PSPpublication date Wed Jan 30, 2008 18:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks to the last poster for your kind comments, perhaps too kind. And thanks to those who've sent supportive emails to me since my posting. I really expected an onslaught, so it's nice to know through private emails that at least some people are relieved that these issues have been aired.

I suppose I am concerned about putting out the impression that the three Pitstop Ploughshares women actually seriously desired exposure or were living in a state of constant anger about the issues (which I am decidedly not, as there a hell of a lot more to life than activism). This is why I had to think for a long time before I actually spoke out about this. Although life has moved on considerably since '06, and that court-based chapter of our lives has ended as far as the three women are concerned, it would be disingenuous to say that there wasn't some fallout, both in terms of physical health and disturbing retrospective realisations. This is despite the fact that I, for one, have absolutely no regrets about the action and still believe in it. If the left, including the libertarian left, doesn't learn from experience, however, the same mistakes get repeated when (God forbid) another unjust war requires mobilisation, and it's almost a duty for those involved, not just me, to at least attempt to rationally articulate problems that arose in order that further anti-war activity would a) include more women and b) attempt to be more equitable and democratic.

I do feel quite strongly that our situation has been illustrative of an overall trend on the libertarian left, and what better way to make a critique than to refer to my own observations from experience. A lot of unsavoury stuff doesn't get talked about for the sake of the cause or on the pretext of upholding morale in the movement, and this is counterproductive. A friend of mine was saying today that he felt there was almost an unspoken trade-off situation: you put up with things you wouldn't in normal life (in his case, it's often homophobia) because we are, after all, concerned with the people of Iraq and had to sacrifice other principles at times for morale's sake or to show a united front. That sort of emotional blackmail is very insidious, and I fell for it myself on occasion, in relation to many issues, not just gender (the trade-off is not always that unspoken, actually). For instance, on a couple of occasions when self-proclaimed pacifists got into fisticuffs because they didn't like being contradicted verbally, there were no real consequences or censure for those involved, from me or anyone (I may have registered my annoyance, but that's it). This is what I mean by the libertarian left facilitating people's worst instincts, and often it's the egos who chase the cameras who get away with the worst behaviours.

Oftentimes, we just got worn down by the collusion of people involved in the media side of things that we just bowed out a lot of the time. We were, for instance, systematically excluded from 'media' meetings relating to how to express our witness during the court cases (by just not being told when they were happening), and various people went along with this state of affairs.

Analyses like this need careful wording to avoid turning into a personalised slagging match (as often happens on Indymedia when you put your head above the parapet), as the situation was complicated and often unintentional (although things like plagiarism are, obviously, intentional, even when the person being plagiarised foolishly agrees to it). We just had to seriously query situations where people on the left, women and men, very blatantly privileged the voices of the two men repeatedly. Given that Nuin and Karen were both veteran peace activists (more so than either Damien our myself, certainly), and all three women were at least as capable of articulating our rationale for acting as the other two, it seemed to us to be nothing more or less than gender-based preference, with a bit of the personality cult thrown in (which I really think doesn't belong in an anti-war context) - lots of which was unconscious, of course. Unfortunately, in many ways, it still goes on at times on the left, with personality politics as strong as ever.

I should mention that there were many more honourable exceptions to this overall rule than I mentioned in the comments above, actually. The Irish Socialist Network and Galway Alliance Against War, plus the eco-soc in UCG all expressed an interest in hearing the women's perspective at different times in the process, and followed up on that in a meaningful way (as opposed to those who just said they value women's voices yet in concrete terms pushed men's perspective, and there was a lot of that, frankly). So it wasn't all bleak and problematic. Nevertheless, too much of the time people who should know better engaged in this activity repeatedly and with great effect; namely that various people approached me throughout the process to indicate that they had the initial impression that the three of us were mindless followers, and were surprised at how many considered opinions we had once they got to know us!

author by Anonpublication date Wed Jan 30, 2008 21:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This film reminds me of the joke "just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get me!" :-)

Seriously folks - can we move on from the navel gazing for just a moment? It's going to take much more than praying to heaven to stop the next war. Hope is not a strategy.

Maybe it's the influence of religion, I don't know, but when I look for the strategies we pursued to try and -- wait! Very few could even agree on the goal, but for argument's sake, lets say "to withdraw Irish participation from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq" -- I see lots of gaps, wishful thinking, untested assumptions, and so on.

This film and to a large degree much of the discussion on this site about this topic, reads like a book made to demoralize and further confuse.

author by ecpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 12:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'll try to reply to the what are the big criticisms of the film in the two reviews. I think the main bone of contention that Gary has with the film is -

"However the abiding sin of the avant garde is there also. It complains of the people. They are never militant enough etc."

Yes it does complain of the people in a way and I really had a hard time working up the nerve to really forcefully expressing this in the film. For a long time while scripting it I wavered between having the temerity to ask questions about the 'objective' effect that the big feb 15th demonstrations had in the runup to the war and what those crowds actually achieved. I very much expected the film to be criticised for this as it is in a way a deliberately provocative element of the film. They were unprecededented in scale but seemed to have very little purchase on events. It's something I thought worth trying to think about. I have to state bluntly here that I am mistrustful of analyses that unquestioningly celebrate the 'masses' or 'the people' and their actions.

I still think that there was a kind of strangeness to the huge flash in the pan protests on feb the 15th and that it is worth talking about it rather than saying about them - 'all good - great - the people were unquestionably good in their actions they were betrayed by their undemocratic leaders'. They created the strange situation I think where all sides (the people/states) kind got what they wanted out of the protests. Bertie here got to say I'm against war and these people support me. Bush used the protests to say - this is democracy working - this is what we want for the middle east. The people got to wash their hands of the crimes of their states and governments and really left it at that. The visible dissent was used in a kind of way by governments to say that a decision for war was arrived at after a process of contestation within their oh so democratic systems.

The film juxtaposes this quite deliberately with the other extreme of small groups and individuals taking huge levels personal and accountable responsibility upon themselves to do something more forceful about the situation. I was hoping that it would be provocative enough to lead to people thinking about the very large space between these extremes and to think about the fact that ways may have to be found in the future to move 'the people' into that space.

Gary's other criticism: 'He had there such a victory to inspire people and he could not forbear going on about betrayals etc.'

Well here - first of all - 'Huge Victory' i think is a very big overstatement of the Ploughshares 5 being found not guilty. I think if I'd made the film in such a way as to say this it would have been essentially inaccurate. The verdict was of course a clear vindication of their actions. But it was to me a small ray of light in a gloomy overall outcome to the period in ireland. What was communicated to the jury during the course of the trial, the justifications for and need for actions beyond really passive mass protests, could have been communicated broadly if the movement as a whole and particularly those who shoved themselves to the front as spokespeople and political representatives of the movement had stood firmly behind those actions and opened up a dialogue with broader sections of society about ways in which people might fill the gap between these and mass protests. They didn't. Instead they shut that dialogue down quite deliberately. The greens really exemplify this, they did at the time, and their going into government was objectively a betrayal of the whole movement they made every effort to stand at the head of. Maybe that was so obvious that I shouldn't have focused so much on it but I think it was a very important moment in Irish politics and worth documenting in detail.

Last of all Gary seems to in some way assume I'm speaking for the CW or Ploughshares group in the film. I'm not. I admire them and tried as best I could to support them afterwards - and I suppose they in a way become the 'conscience' of the film but they had no input into deciding what the film would try to say.

RZA: 'Endless scenes of Eoin Rice parading around with megaphone and white boiler suit misrepresent the movement in my opinion. . . . . There was also very little coverage of anarchists in the struggle, who were certainly more numerous than the planespotters who were given such extensive coverage.'

Eoin Rice was a very audible presence at many later protests in the whole cycle of events. He first appeared on March 1st as far as I can remember. I don't agree that there are endless scenes of him. Just footage of some events where he was a defining and extremely audible presence. I never saw anyone telling him to not speak or to moderate his tone so I can only assume that he spoke in some way to and for sections of the people present at the events and I have to say I enjoyed the way in which he addressed representatives of the state very directly in a very northern accent. He maybe grabbed the role of a spokesperson - but it was a role that was uncontested at the time.

People seemed happy with his rhetoric (a lot of laughing particularly going on around him) and it was objectively a defining element of the public events documented in the film. I concentrated very much (almost to the exclusion of everything else) on what I thought were the significant public manifestations of the whole 'movement' at the time - something I'll come back to replying to Deirdre. Anarchists are represented in all of the public manefestations they involved themselves in at which I or someone else whose footage I had access to were present. There is a substantial section on March 1st which was I suppose the culmination of Anarchist attempts to intervene in the progress of events.

Maybe I should have said somewhere - 'the anarchists' but I was reluctant to do so as they were part of a broader libertarian current within the whole series of events rather than a group acting on their own. I would be interested to hear what some of them who were involved in events at the time make of the film.

The planespotters maybe were less numerous than anarchists but I really think the fact that they were involved consistently over a long period and were a key source of information for the whole movement justifies the fact that they are portrayed by the film as a very important driving force in the progress of events. The film is after all to a substantial extent conditioned by my own experiences at the time and thus ultimately quite partial and subjective.

Deirdre: I felt the film could have been kinder toward non-NVDA activism as a whole. Not everyone is in a position to do NVDA. As long as they don't slam those of us who do (and some people in the movement do, obviously), I am fine with this. Demos can play an important role and outlets for those who aren't in a position to face arrest are necessary.

Maybe I didn't achieve it but one of the main things film was attempting to ask about the middle range between passive (spectacular) protest and serious NVDA willingly risking years of your life being disrupted by long sentences. There were attempts at the time to build a middle ground where people didn't have to necessarily gravitate to either extreme. I admire those attempts but I think they failed. I think there was a tensios at the time between opening a space for faslane style actions and opening a space for actions like March 1st where a more anarchist version of taking NVDA and getting away with it or at least trying to get away with it is the framework in which possibilities for 'mass action' are presented. I think from a few conversations after screenings for the film that this an unresolved tension in the shell to sea campaign too and hope the film leads people to think about that tension and maybe start publically discussing it on some kind of level.

Deirdre: The narrator should also have set his parameters at the start, and said something along the lines of: 'This is my own personal journey through the movement, and represents my own viewpoint.'

I do think this is made very clear repeatedly in the voiceover. 'I' this and 'I' that throughout. I do think audiences and viewers are comfortable and familiar enough with different documentary formats to take on board that this is formally a reflective essay from an individual point of view. The materials used to publicise and inform people about the film state this explicitly also.

Deirdre: " . . . but want to say first that there was also a regional bias. There was very little, almost nothing, in the film of key activists in Galway and Cork - the Cork Anti-War Campaign, for example, and Galway Alliance Against War were extremely active at the time, along with the Grassroots Networks in both cities. The activists shown were often Dublin based, though not always, and they weren't necessarily the most key people either, just the loudest and most assertive (no disrespect to Ed, Tim and Conor, who I consider key, by the way, and who were Limerick based). Thoughtful, intellectual types didn't get much of a look-in in this documentary. How about interviewing people like Colin Coulter, who has done research on the media in relation to the anti-war movement at the time and was on the IAWM steering committee?"

There is truth in these assertions but a film that would attempt a very national viewpoint and give space for a series of activist reflections on the period is a different kind of film. There are very very few formal interviews in the film (two in total?) and these were done as events transpired. The loud voices were often the voices that dominated public events - something pretty entirely beyond my control. I thought of the film as a mixture of 'verite' reportage style piece which would give a sense of the texture of the public events at the time and a reflective essay. I didn't want to make a balanced attempt at objectivity / look back / historical document talking heads film. So here I think deirdre is criticising the film (as others have done) because it isn't a different kind of film. That's fair enough but I think such films in general are also anything but objective in general. They tend to hide their often extremely subjective presuppositions rather than being or admitting any element of subjectivity. Witness the debate on here recently about the hidden history documentary.

'And 'Route Irish' certainly wouldn't make a rookie woman peace activist with a feminist conciousness feel that hot about joining up with future anti-war resistance efforts.' This section of Deirdre's criticisms of the film is so mixed and gathered up with her criticisms of the sexism encountered in the movement that I am having a hard time distinguishing clearly to what extent the film is being accused of reflecting this or perpetuating this.

If this means that the film reflects the way things were I think that's good. If it perpetuates it by misrepresenting the way things were then not so good. I'm happy to continue discussing this but uncomfortable doing so when I'm unclear as to the dividing line.

Maybe Deirdre could clarify this a little. I do think Deirdre is exaggerating for rhetorical effect when she says that the film makes it appear that only one woman was really involved in the peace movement here. This is where I get a sense that the film is being implicitly accused of being part of the problem or exacerbating the problem.

There are many scenes where women are the dominant voices. Off the top of my head - the scene with Nuria at the terminal. Becky talking about Mary. Woman speaking eloquently at FF ard fheis. Patricia McKenna in a number of scenes (however difficult her position within the Green party seems in retrospect) Margaretta, The action taken against Terry Leyden and the subsequernt interrogation which clearly unnerved him, Aoife of IAWM on Late late. The film ends a sequence featuring the statements given by Deirdre, Nuin, Karen when the trial ended.

The film also I think makes it crystal clear that the majority of those involved in the two disarmament actions were women. And just finally for now. (I'm rushing here for a train so apologies if this last part is kind of ending abruptly). For deirdre's comments about Eoin Rice - see my replies above to RZA. Thanks for all the feedback - as much as people have is appreciated - and I'll come back to this at the other end of the train line with a clearer response to the final section of Deirdre's criticisms.

>Back from the other end of the train line.

Well I thought this a lot more since the above was written and have read deirdres second comment. One person who e-mailed me said the that maybe the film was marked by unconscious sexism. Maybe.

The first thought process I went through about this was as seen above. Trying to do the maths on it. How many scenes - who is speaking?

The second maybe more friutful line of thought was to think about who the film identified with. In fictional films this is quite easy to work out in this case it gets a little more complicated. It is apparent though scene by scene in this i think that at many stages it is made in such a way as to identify with specific voices. A lot of these are men but many are also women. It also celebrates a series of actions in which women took a strong part.

I think what it really comes down to is that it was in the absolute main - and this was a conscious decision - shot at public events and focused on the way the movement articulated itself in public spaces.

The majority of the people I filmed at such events with microphones were men. I think the majority objectively were men too. The majority involved in the very real consequential actions of the time were women. Should I have been more aware of this when compiling the film and at the very least spoke to this in some way? I'd say having thought about it - yes.

It is a male point of view at the end of the day and I think i'd be disingenuous to say that it's one that is one totally uncontaminated by the quite male dominated 'indymedia' and activist culture that existed at the time and that still exists. Maybe focusing so hard on 'public' events and 'action' in the finished product is an expression of that culture. I still get the feeling reading Deirdres second comment that her thoughts about the whole period and her thoughts about the film are very mixed up together. It's quite hard for me to see where the film is explicitly being criticised as opposed to the culture being criticised. I'd be interested to hear more explicitly focusing on the way the film tells a story.

Last of all - the Factual thing about Mary's action and if it did or did not inspire the Ploughshares action. In the film this comes up in a Voiceover over John Gormley at Shannon immediately after Mary's action where I say that the greens - comfortable identifying with Mary's action suddenly became uncomfortable with these actions after the Ploughshares action. I think and the film states that that discomfort was because they after the second action suddenly started thinking about how serious it would be to be in support of this continuing into further actions. It's probably quite unclear in the film. But it does not explictly state that Mary' Action Directly Inspired the next. Just that that might have been the Greens impression of what was happening and what might continue to happen. Here's the paragraph in question from the script:

"After Mary's action it became even more apparent that the peace camp had become a lightning rod for strong anti-government feeling. I camped there sporadically at this time and watched as politicians of all stripes bar fianna fail and the Progressive democrats flocked around in an attempt to associate themselves publically with the issue. They seemed comfortable enjoying some reflected glory from Mary's action. They would all prove far less comfortable with the idea that what she had done might spark off an ongoing series of such actions, rather than remain as an isolated one off, a uniqe containable symbol of a broader dissent."

It's also not meant to be the definitive word on the period and i think conversations like this are useful in a lot of ways. Making films like this copyleft means that at the very least it's open to others to use it and the archive that's there from the process of making it as a basis for making films which focus on different aspects of that whole period.

As for the cryptic commenteer saying this is all depressing. Forget about it move on. You sound very like a censor to me. 'It's better that the children don't know that things get difficult and messy so don't talk about it'. I'll leave it at that.

Anyway - finally for now - there's going to be a dvd release of it soon enough and I'm going to make a point of including links to threads here like this on that so any conversations about it become kind of part of it.

author by Deirdre Clpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 13:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eamon, firstly, I think I acknowledged that my experience was part of my critique - I mean, how could it not be? At least, unlike you, I set my parameters. However, I went to prison and went through the court system the same as Mary, Eoin and Ciaron, so I think you should take my views at bit more seriously than you are in your response (or than any libertarian journalist, really, has taken the views of the three PSP women, to be honest).

I also think you're being incredibly disingenuous and intellectually dishonest when you say that because the film reflects 'more of the same', that might be a good thing. I had already made it clear that 'more of the same' wasn't a good thing, something that was obvious to many people at the time and that you're clearly not willing to admit.

So unless you're willing to respond in an intellectually honest fashion to my criticisms about gender, then I'm not really interested in engaging with this. You are defending the indefensible and it's clear that you've focused on the loudest personalities in your film. As for Becky Garcia, she was a supporter of Mary's and not involved for very long. We got footage of Patricia McKenna which was incredibly cringeworthy. She was basically telling the guards that as an elected rep, she should be let into the airport, implying that it was okay for the rabble to stay outside. Hardly edifying stuff. Besides that, her involvement wasn't that ongoing.

The choices in relation to footage and women other than MK hardly chose the most sensible women in the movement, apart from a couple of seconds of Aoife from the IAWM, who at least has some common sense, even if one doesn't agree with the tactics of that group.

As for setting your parameters, no, it wasn't clear, really, to me. Many documentary makers talk in the first person and yet still they set their parameters. I've watched lots of documentaries in my time.

I'm not engaging with this anymore. Your complete avoidance of the implications of what I was saying would end up being frustrating and wouldn't make for a good debate. It's again, more invalidation of a PSP woman's observations through sheer intellectual dishonesty.

There are so many things about your response I should address that are rather disingenuous, but I just don't have the energy. I'm bowing out in frustration, as has happened so many times before.

author by Deirdre Clpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 14:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors


New footage on YouTube.

From hereonin, I figure it's just best to go to the sources where the truth is most clearly conveyed for inspiration.

Some women have a way of speaking truth to power that goes to the heart of things. Cindy Sheehan was one, and her resignation should be a source of shame to the anti-war movement in the States. Let's hope we don't go down that road in Ireland some day should a woman of Cindy's calibre ever appear here (and we don't have that at the moment) - at heart that's what I'm saying. My critique of the film is necessarily interlinked with one of the movement, yes, and it's with the intention of trying to prevent future mistakes. I make no apologies for it.

author by ecpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 14:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maybe I didn't choose 'the most sensible women' in the movement and didn't choose the most retiring men (or most sensible for that matter) in the movement to focus on or push to the front of the film in various scenes but I don't believe I systematically discriminated between the two on the basis of gender which i think is maybe the overall implication of what you are saying.

The people I identified most strongly with at the time - conditioned as it was by who I met repeatedly in 2003 - got to know to some extent - thought were important enough to follow through the events - is reflected in the film absolutely. Tim, Ed, Conor, Mary, Eoin, Ciaron. And I followed them throughout in a way. I didnt explicitly rationalise this to myself in any way. And looking at the list it is unbalanced in terms of gender.

So after getting the rationalisations / defensiveness out of my system.

Mea Culpa wrt to the film and the fact that it unconsciously perpetuates rather than attempting to change this (male - dominated) aspect of the culture it represents and who it chooses to see events through. I hope that doesn't by definition mean it has very little or no value as an attempt to think about the events documented in it.

Maybe others could give their opinions on this. I am kind of shocked by this criticism and I know i'm being defensive.

author by punterpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 14:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Imho the film is way too negative and defeatist but it did have many good moments. Apropos Eoin Rice: c'mon! He's kinda entertaining but a 'voice' or 'spokesperson' of the movement??? He was a bit of a flake who hung around the margins and then disappeared for months before appearing again. A pleasant fella in his own way but a complete individualist. It's just wrong to see him as a representative figure.

author by Chekovpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 15:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To Deirdre: I'm not sure exactly who you are talking about when you mention the 'libertarian left' and 'libertarian journalists'. Any chance you could be a bit more specific (I understand your reluctance to name names and get into a slagging match, but it would be nice to know if, for example, I or any of the groups that I belong to is included). I do know that within the anarchist movement, we did make an effort to ensure that the pitstop women were invited to speak at meetings and so on and we didn't just ask the men. I'm pretty sure that of all the meetings where pitstoppers were invited to speak that were put on by GNAW or the WSM, a majority of the time a woman was invited - maybe I'm mis-remembering and distorting what happened, but we definitely did make an effort to spread around the platform.

To EC: I felt that the film was very much a 'one participant's view' of the anti-war movement. It didn't give any sense of the various arguments between the different groups and what their strategies or thinking was. It did touch on the IAWM, but only in an overtly critical way which didn't attempt to understand their thinking, when it came to GNAW, there was absolutely no reflection of what our thinking was, what we did, or why we did it. The only group whose reasoning was presented in any real way was the pitstop ploughshares and the small number of individuals loosely around them - basically those people who were personally close to the director.

My other major comment, which is related, is that the film really fetishised the 'spectacle' of protest. There was just so much footage of marches, placards and speeches. Personally, I find that stuff to be incredibly boring. The interesting thing to me is the political stuff behind it - who organised the protests, what their plans and political motivations were, how they fitted into their overall strategy, how rivalries played into stuff and all that. The film had none of that - I thought it was ever so slightly irritating that it sort of took a 'service provider' view to protests and focused heavily on a few of the wackier individuals who made a spectacle of themselves without showing the merest bit of interest in the opinions of those who actually did all the thankless and boring work of organising and coordinating these things (including the IAWM and GNAW).

author by Anonpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 17:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Seriously folks - I'm all for comic relief, but this is too much. "Disingenuous and intellectually dishonest" -- fierce stuff!

Now, some people in the movement have mental health issues, but the rest of you should have the cop-on to avoid shitfights which waste everyone's energy.

I'm with Chekov on this one: wouldn't it be more helpful if we discussed strategic thinking, the plans and thoughts behind the events reported? e.g. What would success have looked like circa 2006, and what would have been the milestones/events to get there?

The easiest strategies to consider are the Judicial Reviews by Ed Horgan, Eoin Dubsky and independent Kerry Councillor, Billy Leen. All three tried to get an injunction which would have stopped the US military use of Shannon Airport. Billy Leen actually won his case against Aer Rianta, but the High Court refused to grant the injunction anyway (http://www.rte.ie/news/2003/0801/aerrianta.html). So the primary objective of these strategies doesn't really need much comment or speculation. Secondary though were things like raising public awareness, applying pressure and exposing some useful info through the court's "discovery" process (about US flights, permissions), demonstrating that/whether legal, nonviolent, and civil measures can work.

author by Anonpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 19:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Besides the straight up "ban the war" legal strategy, there were probably many, but none that I've ever seen black-on-white-paper.

I'm not saying that everyone but the three people mentioned above, and people who supported them, were like South Park's underpants gnomes (Business Plan Phase 1: Collect Underpants. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Profit).

My point is simply that instead of spending time discussing plainly divisive and demoralizing stuff about the movement, why not take some time to document and discuss the thinking, tactics and above all strategies we've pursued and could pursue in the future.

So rather than looking at, say, the Potatoe Planters action on Good Friday 2003 to ask "how significant was it", we'd ask questions like:
- What were the objectives of the action?
- What strategy was the action a part of, or how did the action fit/gel with strategies being pursued by the activists or others in the movement?
- Besides doing a simple "rate my action" analysis against the objectives, were there unforeseen outcomes positive or negative which could be exploited in the future?

Please folks, let's move on from the shitfights and get some work done here!

author by Ciaronpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 23:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As a Ploughshares community there was a lack of time for formation for the Pitstops (8 days) and we suffered for that. At the conclusion of 3 1/2 years and three trials, we didn't take the time for debriefing and we are now suffering for that. I've got too much respect for the other four to do any debriefing (or bloodletting) in this forum. Suffice to say we were at our best as a resistance community in the hangar, in jail and in the courtroom - where we needed to be.

My understanding was that the filmmaker attended a small demonstration at Shannon during Ecotopia mid-2002. He then followed some of the characters present who went on to do serious things agaist the war at Shannon- Dubsky (windscreen painting), Mary (disarmament), Ed & Tim (plane spotting), myself (Ploughshares). My two speeches at Shannon in the film are before the formation of the Pitstop Ploughshares. Otherwise I'm sitting there as the cop read's out our community statement of faith, I do a reflection while burning American dollars on Ash Wednesday 03 while the other four are still in jail, outside the Dail I start a speech only to lose my audience to two passing politicians who get chased down the street. My suspicion is that Eoin, although not present mid-2002, got focussed on because he was a homeboy (from the same town as the filmmaker). After viewing the film a few times I think Eoin adds a lot of essential light relief to a fairly depressing narrative.

This is a linmited film and one person's persepctive...but also largely one person's labour and commitment. As the filmmaker states all the raw material is there if you want to go make your own film....go for it. Whether talking heads would be any more boring then demonstration footage, it's really matter of taste.

I'm glad the film exists and I'm helping promote it. I asked Alex Cox and Gary MacLennan to review the film to renew interest in it. I've known Gary for 30 years since we were getting bashed by the cops in the '70's together. He has a lot of valuable insight.

One of the problems of watching it online is that it is a viewing in isolation and doesn't necessarily lead to discussion. I tend to agree with Gary that the jury that came up with a unanimous acquittal, after all the resources of the state and mainstream media were expended to turn their heads from the dead of Iraq, needs to be celebrated.

After abandoning my expectataions that we were going to do this trial i Ireland the way we had done the ' 91 B52 one in New York. I adopted the attitude we did a great resistance action, if paul wants to write a song about it great, if some lawyers want to do a serious court case about it great, if a jury wants to acquit us great, if Eamonn wants to include it in a film great. It's about passing the ball.

It disturbs me that during these debates that peole refer to the war on Iraq in the past tense....last time I looked it's escalating and expanding. Or refer to the possibilities for an anti-war movemeent if there is a new invasion or war (on Iranb for example). I really can't understand this thinking. The war might be over for western activists. It isn't for the people of Iraq and the young U.S. cannon fodder still being shipped through Shannon.

author by Chekovpublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 02:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Apologies if that sounded harsh, I should also add that I absolutely think there is worth in a personal account of the movement and I think eeekkk's film is a valuable document and I salute him for taking the time to make it. As you know, I also support and commend the courageous actions of yourself and the other ploughares and do not mean to belittle it.

My differences, I think, stem from a difference in political outlook. While I do appreciate the value of individual actions as catalysts, I think that any real change requires mass mobilisation. I reckon that a popular political movement's success or failure is basically determined by how well it can mobilise large numbers of people and what they are mobilised to do. Brave actions by small groups can play a crucial role in highlighting issues and sparks which cause large numbers to mobilise. However, mobilisations require organisation and strategies and these are, I think the critical factors in any popular movement. Hence I was disappointed that the film did not give them more space.

While eeekkk was very despondant about the motivations of the movement - and there was a lot to criticise, there were actually at least two different strategies of mobilisation at play, which at least went some way to attempting to make a real difference. The IAWM adopted a strategy of mass marches in the cities based on a very broad platform in the hope of applying pressure on the government. They built their mobilisations over several years, culminating in a truly massive march. GNAW had a strategy of physically closing Shannon airport and worked for 3 years in progressively building protests at the airport, culminating in the failed attempt to breach the fence on March 1st. Other groups had particular stategies and outlooks on how best the war could be opposed. None of it was successful of course, but I'd still like to see reflections and analyses of the various failings, to me that's the most interesting aspect of the anti-war movement.

author by Ciaron - Catholic Worker/Pitstop Ploughsharespublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 06:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No offence taken.

I think because we were introduced in Melbourne by mutual anarcho friends, that made my landing in the Irish anarchist scene in 02 (as shock horror a Catholic Worker) a lot softer, deflecting the usual suspicions and obstacles. I appreciate that and the further support & encouragement you offered as we faced trial/s. I didn't think you were belittling our action.

I apologise if this sounds a bit harsh.

I think if you take a few paces back and took away the nonviolent direct actions of Eoin Dubsky, Mary Kelly, the plane spotter crew and the Pitstop Ploughshares, the Irish repsonse to the war would have been pretty pathetic. Instead, (admittedly without a lot of competition) Ireland hosted probably the most disruptive NVDA to the U.S. military mobilisation for the war. Maybe that's a bit like winning the Eurovision but it's true! A U.S. war plane grounded in mid-02, in early 0-3 a U.S. Navy war plane disabled twice turned around and sent back to Texas, 4 U.S. companies pulling out of Ireland returning only when they felt confident - to quote Cowen "this movement and these anti-war actions will die out".

What other western pit stop (base, port, airport, whatever) on the way to war can speak of such disruption?

We do have different political outlooks. I'm all for large mobilisations as well. I think both the libertarian (less so) and the authoritarian/NGO/moderate anti-war movements missed three opportunities to mobilise around the trial of the Pitstops., This was a context of direct confrontation with the state (albeit inside a courtroom rather than outside in a field), there were U.S. combat veterans, experienced U.S. and other O.S. peace activists, experts to meet and engage around the trial, the ongoing war and possible future resistance to it. As EC points out the left did not avail of these opportunities, whether this was out of anti-Catholic prejudice, inexperience with activist trials or fear of making celebrities out of the defendants....I dunno. The experienced NV direct activists in our action group came from overseas (me 8 months before, Nuin and Karen 8 days before), a lot of our proactive solidarity and financial support came form the U.S. We brought two organisers in from New York and London to take over work around the trial to take the pressure off the defendants.

I now disagree with my comments made on the film about March 1st. 03. In the film, suggest the road into the airport should have been blockaded rather than the fence pulled down. I can now see the significance of closing that runway at that time. It could have been game over for the U.S. military presence at Shannon following three security breaches in as many weeks. I can't understand why people lined up together, easy to police, rather than spread out along the huge perimiter (with no perimiter road for policing) in smaller affinity groups with boltcutters and go throught the fence. It would only take a handful to make it to the runway to close the airport. We did this at BAe Warton in '96 with 5 people total.

The SWP (IAWM) didn't prioritise Shannon because they know that they lose control whenever they go beyond the pale. Remember the scenes at the Bush visit in the north when the crwod swept past the SWP stage and up to the riot police lines. The SWP left scrambling to sprint after the march and try and impose their control/leadership/whatever. The scenes were duplicated on the road to Dromoland Castle during the Bush visit to Shannon, when the MacBush theatre swept pass the SWP stage. So we had groups that were more interested in milking the war and the anti-war response than seriously engaging Irish involvement in the war. These groups largely blanked the direct actionists, denying them oxygen, leaving them hung out to dry facing the courts.

They use the argument we scare ordinary people. I have just returned from the Brigid's Festival in Kildare. The gathering was an older demographic (75% female and a lot of nuns), these people have no problem with what I did at Shannon Airport. This was my experience on the streets and in the courtrooms of Dublin and in jail in Limerick. - overwhelming affirmation for nonviolent direct action at Shannon from the person in the street. The only people whose nose was put out of joint by the NVDA was Special Branch, the state and the self appointed leadership of the anti-war movement in Ireland. The later who saw us as competitors in a limited market.

"....I'd still like to see reflections and analyses of the various failings, to me that's the most interesting aspect of the anti-war movement. "

I would too - a seminar, writing, whatever deconstructing the NVDA taken.

Related Link: http://www.londoncatholicworker.org
author by ordinary joepublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 09:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ciaron O'R: "I think if you take a few paces back and took away the nonviolent direct actions of Eoin Dubsky, Mary Kelly, the plane spotter crew and the Pitstop Ploughshares, the Irish repsonse to the war would have been pretty pathetic."

I respect Ciaran o'Reilly for all he's done but I have a real problem with his focus on 'individual' actions and his dismissal of mass events. For a start, there is no mention here of one of the most important direct actions - the ACTUAL pulling down of the fence and Shannon in November 2002 and the mass trespass by over 100 people with a dozen arrested. It's never mentioned because such mass actions don't fit into Ciaran's individualist heroic' view of resistance to the war.

March 1st was also a significant action and so was the attempted blockade of the airport towards the end of 2003. Neither succeeded but they were genuine attempts to draw lots of people into direct action against the US military traffic through Ireland.

Anyway, to say that the Irish response was 'pathetic' is just nonsense.

author by Ciaronpublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 11:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My remarks to which you refer were made in the context of the film's focus on the characters followed by the filmmaker fomr the mid-2002 gathering etc.

The fence pulling action was significant, as was the refusal to pay fine/imprisonment of Fintan Lane and the actions of Caoimhe Butterly and Michael Bermingham in going to lraq.

If one grew up in the '70's and observed the high risks Irish people took to resist imperialism and colonialism and compare it to the limited numbers willing to engage in the most low risk nonviolent civil disobedience at Shannon Airport....one would conclude without the actions of the forementioned, the Irish anti-war response was "pretty pathetic"". In comparison to the death and destruction faciltated by the Irish on Iraqis (and the risks taken by young americans tranisiting through Shannon to prosecute the war) the Irish antiwar "was pretty pathetic".

I don't regard myself as particularly heroic. Just very privileged - born as a first world white boy given the way the world is arranged

author by Anonpublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 22:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ordinal Joe is right, and he's wrong. I think he's right in identifying the individual-action focus of Ciaron O'Reilly, not not only does he not deserve any rosette for that (great work detective!), furthermore the appeals for this-being-significant and that-being-significant produces more heat and little more light. How can we assess the effectiveness of actions without understanding (or at least stating?) their objectives, or the strategies to which they belong? Seriously, I don't get it.

Ciaron - I think you should stop digging for a sec and think over what you're saying. You've just tried to compare (a) Irish in the 1970s who forcefully resisted direct attacks on their own homes, families and community, and (b) Americans who've voluntarily crossed the world (as much as any member of an armed gang is a volunteer, I know) to participate in the most patently unjust war since WW2, to (c) Irish in the 2000s who, being opposed to that war, tried to express their opposition nonviolently and effectively whatever ways they knew how to.

To liken the risk-taking of the foreign fighters currently destroying Iraq (US soldiers passing through Shannon) to either Irish in 1970 or today is plain wrong. You often make a lot of sense here, and you've got heaps to contribute to the movement - but you've got to know when you've lapsed into crazy-crazy talk.

author by Ciaronpublication date Sat Feb 02, 2008 00:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Take a few paces back.

What risks are people passing through Ireland/ Shannon Airport to Iraq today prepared to take to prosecute this war? What risks are people in Ireland prepared to take to resist this war? Those who are prosecuting the war are still passing through and taking the risks with their arms, their legs, their lives, their liberty, those who oppose the war have largley gone home and are sitting this out.

It is pathetic that movement people talk of this war in the past tense.
It's pathetic as EC points out that movement people didn't take the opportunity of the trials to offer solidarity and confront the state over its ongoing pro-war policies.

I guess disppointment is related to expectation. I guess I had high expectations in terms of Ireland, resistance and solidarity with those who resist before moving there in 02. I guess I was disappointed. Now I don't have those expecatations ao I'm not going to be disappointed.

As I have stated before if 1% of those who had marched against the war had gone into serious nonviolent resistance in the spirit of King and Ghandi and resisted until jailed AND the other 99% who marched were in proactive solidarity - fed the cat, chilled the hysterical parents, helped pay the rent - then we would still have a vibrant movement and the Irish state would have had great difficulty keeping Ireland in this war. How's that for a serious mass movement proposal rather than just another lefty talkfest?

What happened was those few who did risk their liberty in resisting Irish participation in the war were censored by the moderate, NGO and authoritraian left. The war and the anti-war movement was squeezed for all it was worth in terms of media profile lifting, recruiting and merchandising and then abandoned.

The war seems to be over for those who marched in 03. It's not over for the young americans passing through Shannon today or the Iraqis & Afghanis. The war escalates in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war expands - this week the U.S. began target bombing northern Pakistan watch this morph into B52 carpet bombing.

Friends are still resisting the war. They are before the courts www.pinegap6.org www.raytheon9.org and in jail for such resistance www.tortureontrial.org If we aren't presently resisting, and are serious about opposing this war, we need to be contacting these folks and offering our solidarity. The more solidarity there is the easier the reistance is going to be.

author by redjadepublication date Sat Feb 02, 2008 01:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ciaron: 'As I have stated before if 1% of those who had marched against the war had gone into serious nonviolent resistance in the spirit of King and Ghandi and resisted until jailed'

1%?!! You demand too much, Ciaron.

What if .001% of those on Feb 15th did NVCD/NV Resistance?

.001% = 120 out of about 120,000 on the streets

Ciaron: 'AND the other 99% who marched were in proactive solidarity - fed the cat, chilled the hysterical parents, helped pay the rent...'

Again, Ciaron you demand far too much.

.01% could do that job.

In those early days of the war the Air Transport companies started pulling out because of all the acts of NVCD/etc - if those corporations were made just a little more scared, i believe, ireland's participation in the iraq war would be truly in the past tense. Those Corps were not just scared of people with hammers but of a larger angry Irish public.

Time for a Margaret Mead quote:
''Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.''

I suppose this makes me an 'individualist' or perhaps vangardist in some twisted definition of the term - while others want to philosophize about the proper ideological stance to take before the prophisized 'revolutionary' rapture - I'll support and dedicate my energies and efforts to anyone that will nonviolently act to end this war, today.

author by Dunkpublication date Thu Feb 14, 2008 00:09author email fuspey at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks Eamon for pulling it all together as well as the supporting systems for spreading word etc...
See attached map of the warport, the subject of so much...

Regards the movement, posts here, where to from here, the war...

When war broke out I was living in England, very near Fairford where the B52 bombers flew from. Feb 10th's global day of action was the largest mobilisation of people in a single 1 -action in the recorded history of man, thats a big thing in itself, but, it did not stop things, the war happened, the occupation is still on and the film questioned what we did then, did later, did now to actually affect real change. I agree there is "im ok cuz i protested that day" element to things, people feel good, and although we all have "real world stuff to do" I agree that there is a need for a mechanism to take things from there on the streets to things that could have stopped the war. In England there was BIG problems too between the SWP / anti war movement and the NVDA groups, after F10 a big big call was put out for people to come to the nerve centre of the war machine fairford warport and to attempt to take action there. Once the call went out and a day chosen, the 2nd "big demo in london" was announced, NVDA groups were outraged as the 2nd demo took many whom might have gone to fairford. In the end @ 3000 people arrived to be met by @ 3000 cops, US army inside, armed gunship... ie: not a chance of breaching the lines.

How to win?
What do we want to win?
I was lucky back then to see and hear Micheal Albert, speak after his years of activity, he made some excellent points, id like to just make a few pointers to some of them
1- why is it many of us feel "im ok cuz i protested that day" is enough and how that can be changed.
2 - What makes movements grow, what makes them effective. Albert talks about stickiness...

"Fighting the good fight"
Both of these points lead to what is, or maybe should be, the core of what our activist is about: VISION. Its not enough to simply want the change, even if it seems utterly unatainable, we must have HOPE that our alternate vision is achievable and secondly that we can create mechanisms to bring about the change to lead to that vision.....

What little steps can be taken, what would make someone want to take those steps, what joy do they get from being involved with things....

As someone who tried to plug into things after returning home, there were indeed problems in our movement(s) at all levels in all camps. Thanks to Deirdre and others who have posted, sometimes its just the awkwardness of meeting new people and making new friends.... some are good at it...apologies if I was one of those who unintentionally sided with the lads.

Anyway heres a few links to audio, video, text that I feel is critical for us all to adress think about and apply to our own groups, networks etc

Audio and video from Democracy Now
We know what you oppose, but what’s your alternative?

31.33 in vid:
noam chomsky talking about todays level of hope....

35.20 in vid
intro + discussion with micheal albert
some bits in words:

How do we win?

Vision.... Understanding where it is we are trying to get to
can inform what we doing, give us hope, give us a reason for our activism....

Capitalism is a horrific system. Capitalism is a system that breeds an environment in which dignity is robbed, in which people are out—nice guys finish last......

And the question for me was always, starting right at the beginning in 1968, ‘67: what do we replace it with? ...

it (parecon) represents an answer to the question, “What do you want?” It represents a rejection of the idea that Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, put forward: TINA, “there is no alternative.”

One obstacle was ignorance of the reality, ignorance of the injustice. And that was the primary obstacle in the ’60s.
But there was a second lurking obstacle, and that was the feeling that there was no alternative.

So you need the vision to overcome that obstacle. But Thatcher was right: TINA is a big obstacle to building social movements for social justice.

Albert in a few other places

Michael Albert at "Beyond Bush", opening plenary for the Life After Capitalism Conference, New York City. Vancouver Cooperative Radio. August 20, 2004

some previous mentions of Alberts views on imc-ie:
Can we win? What sort of world will that look like?
response to
Whatever Happened to Anti-Capitalism?

a few points on how the global networks that we are part of ARE changing the world
response to
Not Guilty. The Pitstop Ploughshares All Acquitted on All Charges

Micheal Albert
- founder of Z Magazine, Znet and co-founder of South End Press. He is the author of numerous books, his latest is, “Remembering Tomorrow: A Memoir.” Also "Parecon : participatory economics"

1- The Stickiness Problem
The Stickiness Problem: audio descriptions of
Whats wrong with the left - its not stickyhttp://radio.indymedia.org/uploads/lifeaftercapitalism_...1.mp3 2.16 mins
making the movement Sticky - how to do ithttp://radio.indymedia.org/uploads/lifeaftercapitalism_...2.mp3
these are audio cuts from the "Life After Capitalism" that was referred to earlier
(imc-radio is still down so files presently unopenable, but perhaps found on :
[R-G] Audio Links - Life After Capitalism Conference in NYC - Beyond Bush Opening Plenary
http://lists.econ.utah.edu/pipermail/rad-green/2004-Sep....html )

Shannon Warport
Shannon Warport

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