CRITICISIM OF MILITARISM The St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, County Down, where the Downpatrick Declaration was launched on Tuesday, December 7 last – the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of St Colmcille. Pic: cc-by-sa2.0
Signing up to the Downpatrick Declaration
Last December, a group of peace activists, artists, musicians and others, along with international justice and peace group Afri (Action from Ireland), signed up to the Downpatrick Declaration. It is about making peace the core of governmental policy, not just a sideshow.
On www.downpatrickdeclaration.com, it is explained that the declaration ‘invokes Downpatrick, a site recognised by all as emblematic of the island’s ancient history’:
“The Shrine of the Three Patrons, embodying the tradition that Saints Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille are interred there, celebrates the shared roots of the island’s different Christian faith traditions, stemming from the Abrahamic roots which they share in turn with Judaism and Islam.
“Downpatrick itself has known conflict throughout the millennia, up to and including the recent Troubles, but remains a beacon of the values of its patrons: Patrick, an enslaved immigrant, returned with a radical message of peace and love and rejected killing; Brigid lived a life of peace and harmony with nature, selling a bejewelled sword to feed the hungry, and Colmcille left the island in repentance for his own past involvement with violence, bringing to the world a message of charity and peace.”
The current Peace Process is a stark reminder of our country’s past, as it is also a sign that peace is an active process. It is a journey rather than a destination. One is tempted to remind the DUP of that as they, once again, throw the rattle out of the pram. A sense of entitlement is among the greatest obstacles to peace, justice and equality.
The Peace Process is unique in our history, in that it shows that there is an alternative to violence, both physical and institutional. Neither the bomb and bullet nor the wink and nod are paths towards peace. Respect and integrity have to be at the heart of all peace deals.
As the Downpatrick Declaration website explains, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement establishes vital principles for recognising one another and for peacefully acknowledging and resolving differences. Political leaders in Britain and the island of Ireland have endorsed exclusively peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues and rejected ‘any use or threat of force’ (Declaration of Support, § 4).
While both countries have signed the Peace Process, both still continue with the ‘arms race’ on other fronts, most especially in Europe.
According to supporters of the Downpatrick Declaration, both the British and Irish governments have betrayed the Good Friday Agreement in their so-called ‘defence’ policies – the UK with its involvement in NATO, and Ireland with its involvement in NATO’s so-called Partnership for Peace. Why adopt one position at home and another abroad?
The declaration supporters remind us that this is at odds with the Republic’s constitutional commitment to ‘the pacific settlement of international disputes... [and] the generally recognised principles of international law’ (Article 29), as well as with former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam’s 1999 statement that ‘all violence, no matter for what purpose, is unacceptable’.
On both sides of the Irish Sea the governments are intent of increasing their military spend and supporting the arms industry.
Just imagine if Ireland stood up and stated that it would not support the militarisation of European countries and rejected a call for a European army. Weapons do not bring peace, they wreck lives and destroy countries. In essence, the arms industry is a distraction from the reality of living and its ensuing necessities like food, housing, health and education.
With the Covid bubble bursting almost overnight, the fear factor was quickly replaced with the military might of Russia and the threat posed to Ukraine. This will ramp up talk of the need for more military spending (unless they employ a few Cork fishermen!). While Russia plays the bad boy with its military manoeuvres we turn a blind eye to the military jigs and reels of Britain and the US off our coasts.
The EU thinks that it has an important military role in the Russia/Ukraine crisis and was peeved to not be included in talks. Former EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker reminded his former colleagues, “We are the smallest continent in the world even though we always think we are the centre of the world. We are not, and never have been, the masters of world history.”
Perhaps it’s time for a deeper realisation of the essence of Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille. What price peace?