The Manning Truthfest
Why should the Irish in particular care about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and want to offer their ongoing support and solidarity as she begins a 35 year jail term in a US military prison?
For one, Manning has Irish roots on both sides of the family. Maternal grandfather Billy Fox was from Rathmines, Dublin and two paternal great-grandparents - both Mannings - were also Irish, from county Cork. An Irish grandfather gives Chelsea the right to claim Irish citizenship and an Irish passport if she so wishes.
For another, Manning passed through Shannon Airport as a US military intelligence analyst en route to Iraq. We have been reminded this week about the ongoing US military use of Shannon (troops, weaponry, rendition flights etc.) by the jailing of 79 year old Margaretta D\'arcy in connection with her protest against these abominations.
What's more, we know something about the impact of resistance at Shannon on both US and Irish governments thanks to US diplomatic cables released by Manning and published by WikiLeaks. One classified cable reveals how negative public perception of Shannon as a warport in the wake of the Pitstop Ploughshares acquittals led to the Irish government placing more restrictions on its military use and how this was forcing the US to reconsider its position. Then US Ambassador to Dublin, James Kenny, wrote: "we would appreciate Washington’s judgment as to whether the process of notification of almost everything of a military nature (including by contract carriers) through Shannon is becoming too difficult to make the airport a preferred transit stop."
The Manning Truthfest
Last weekend 10 & 11 January, 13 Irish musicians, performers, academics and activists travelled to south-west Wales for a celebration of Chelsea Manning's truth-telling - The Manning Truthfest - organised with and for her Welsh-Irish family in Pembrokeshire.
See this article on uk indymedia:
and these three blog posts:
Raising spirits, awareness and funds
The driving force behind the weekend was Irish playwright and actor Donal O'Kelly along with Joe Murray of Afri (Action from Ireland) http://www.afri.ie/.
I was moved and inspired by the incredible testimony of Private Manning’s Welsh family. They are an ordinary family that has suffered incredibly and I wanted to do something to show my support and allow others to show theirs.
Having hosted the Manning Family during their momentous visit to Ireland, Afri was delighted to continue that support for the Manning Truthfest – ‘the return fixture’ - in Wales last weekend. Donal O’Kelly had met the family, heard their story and, never one to miss an opportunity for offering support and solidarity, came up with the wonderful idea of the Manning Truthfest. This was a voyage of discovery in many ways as musicians and artists were contacted and assembled, car pools sorted and the ferry crossing arranged. From the moment we gathered this group of artists seemed imbued with a special spirit. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Genny and the family, provided with excellent accommodation and from then on it was non-stop music. Despite the harrowing nature and the brutal treatment of Chelsea Manning there is much to celebrate in a life marked by courage and truth and it was appropriate that this Truthfest was awash with the sounds of music, song, poetry, drama, dance and drumbeat. Thank you to all who made it possible.
It was the courage of the people in Rossport to be true to who they were, recognise wrong and stand for what they believed to be right against a tidal wave of state intimidation and pressure that inspired my poems. Chelsea Manning has the courage to be who she is and to act according to her conscience despite that tidal wave of opposition. As a woman and an activist that is truly inspiring...
The security guy singing somehow seemed to exemplify how little shoots of transformation might grow out of this. He's coming to Dublin with 10 of his mates for the Wales-Ireland rugby match so there'll be a Wales-Ireland sing off in a pub in Dublin somewhere that weekend and I hope we can all meet up again. In terms of the bigger picture, I think the strategy of the truth festival is an extremely enjoyable, sustainable and public form of resistance that will serve the movement very well in the years to come. Saul Alinsky would be proud of the idea.
I feel privileged to be able to support Chelsea Manning and her family in any way at all. Chelsea's grandfather was from Dublin, and gave to his children a love for many songs in the Anglo-Irish folk tradition. I am delighted to be able to perform these songs with the Fox/Manning family joining in, or even just for their enjoyment and the entertainment of anyone else who shows their solidarity for these wonderful people.
Photos on flickr:
A last thought from Sorcha:
It was a very special weekend and a privilege to be able to celebrate truth and the courage of Chelsea Manning with her family and friends. Chelsea’s family have had little cause to celebrate over the past few years with the outrageous severity of Chelsea’s sentence and the torture she has undergone. To be able to celebrate her courage and not forget what motivated her actions in her home town was fantastic. May it be the first of many solidarity events between Ireland and Wales.
Caption: The Truthfest Ceilidh