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Posts Tagged ‘ United Nations ’

The Goggle Box – House Of Cards Splits The Deck

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House Of Cards Season 3 has been and gone and opinions are divided at best. Was the third season of a binge watch TV series ever going to go down a treat? Probably not. Are we all fools to have plowed through all 13 episodes in no time at all? Probably, yes. But the burning question, was it any good? Yes; and here’s why.

Lads, seriously, full spoilers for House Of Cards follow.

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The War At Home – Ireland’s Relationship With Israel

 

Ireland Abstained from a UN vote on Gaza (image: thejournal.ie)

Ireland Abstained from a UN vote on Gaza (image: thejournal.ie)

Ireland’s decision to abstain from a vote into the investigation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza yesterday at the United Nations Human Rights Council has caused uproar amongst the Irish people.

The news was met with utter disgust by a large percentage of Irish citizens, who feel misrepresented by members of our government. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams also showed his disdain by accusing the government of “political cowardice”, while Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power announced she is “shocked and disgusted with the Irish government’s decision not to support an international inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza.” Continue reading

Obama’s Dilemma And World Hesitation

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Over a year ago I contributed a piece to this website which mentioned the use of torture by Syrian government forces in an organised fashion. It should be no surprise to us that the Assad regime has gone ahead and used gas on its own people. The Assad regime is without a doubt an evil regime hell-bent on maintaining power in any way possible. It is disheartening and tragic that this can continue in the twenty first century. We are essentially sitting watching another Rwanda happen, albeit over a longer period of time.

Living in the large shadow of the Gulf War II it is to be expected that western powers are going to be hesitant to intervene in another Middle East conflict. Assad’s regime is reportedly preparing for a U.S. strike, with reports coming through of troops, ordinance and sensitive documents being moved to civilian buildings and discreet locations. Obama’s decision to delay any possible action seems to be allowing time for Assad to prepare for this possibility. However the decision is hugely complex and Obama will have a number of motivations for his decision.

Following on Britain’s example, Obama is seeking Congressional approval for his action. One can easily see the allure of having a strong consensus built behind military action, given the disaster that was Iraq. Domestic factors may be present in the president’s mind. Intervening without Congressional approval (as in Libya) would leave Obama and the Democrats open to criticism from Rand Paul et al, hailing the UK as an example of how a democracy should decide on entering into a war. This would be an easy card to play to an American public which may balk at the prospect of another drawn out war. They have seen enough American boys come home in body bags.

Syria is also stocked full of new Russian anti-aircraft technology, and the supply chain will not halt any time soon. The UN is also unlikely to reach a strong consensus due to Russia and China’s position on the Security Council. This is an issue which needs to be changed as the current setup of the security council prevents it functioning to its full and proper potential.

There are numerous other complications so boggling that nobody can say with any certainty what will happen. The Islamic fundamentalist elements among the Syrian rebels are a mysterious threat. During this week, Iran threatened retaliation against Israel if Syria were struck. The war has already spilled over into Lebanon. Egypt, once reliable as a bastion of stability, is now more chaotic than any other point in recent years. One cannot blame America for being apprehensive about beginning to bomb a region that could inflame the whole region.

The great tragedy of these complications is that the carnage continues. This was the second gas attack by Syrian government forces, twice crossing Obama’s ‘Red Line’. The UK’s rash decision to avoid war, and America’s hesitation will send out the wrong message worldwide. This message is clear when we hear reports of the Syrian government taunting America’s aversion to war and loss of superpower status. To prevent mass war crimes against whole peoples in the future, perpetrators must understand they will be brought to justice. John Kerry has a reputation as a dull operator, but he has been an ardent supporter of intervention. He is one of a few prominent politicians with the conviction to call the Syrian government for what it is.

The firm line taken by France is hardly surprising given their willingness to become involved in former colonies like Chad and Mali.

Obama had missed the opportunity to be decisive and take a firm line on Syria. The UK has essentially forfeited its chance to help. The memories of Iraq, and the continuing deadlock of the U.N. Security Council means we are facing into more misery and more dead civilians with no end in sight.

Irish Troops Reviewed Ahead Of Lebanon Mission

Three hundred Irish soldiers, including eight fathers and sons, are to be deployed to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) next month. Minister of State for the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe, Chief of Staff for the Defence Forces, Lieutenant-General Sean McCann, and Councillor Jim Henson reviewed the troops today in Athlone.

The review was the final phase of the battalion’s training as they get ready for their deployment next month.

At the review the Minister spoke of the proud tradition of Irish peacekeeping in the area. “I am again reminded of the great pride we can take in all that the Defence Forces have done and continue to do as peacekeepers throughout the world”.

Irish troops have been carrying out peacekeeping operations in the Middle East since 1958 and began working as part of UNIFIL in 1978. They are currently operating under the UN resolution which aims to monitor the end of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon, assist the Lebanese government in securing its borders, and ensure humanitarian access to the civilian population.

“Participation in missions such as UNIFIL is a continuation of our proud tradition of supporting the United Nations in the cause of peace and security”, Mr Kehoe said.

The regiment, which is made up of 300 Irish troops and 177 Finnish troops, is set to depart for the Middle Eastern country on the 6th and 15th of November. They will be taking over from the 106th Infantry Battalion which had been serving in the destabilised region with UNIFIL since May.

The minister acknowledged the challenges the men and women of the 107th infantry will face, alluding to the recent upheaval in the country and in the surrounding areas.

“We have all witnessed on our television screens just how volatile the Lebanon and the Middle East are at the moment. Performing your duties overseas can require considerable sacrifices. I know the dangers you will face and the hardships you will be expected to endure as part of your service overseas”.

Last week a Lebanese intelligence official, Brigadier General Wissam Al-Hassan, was killed when a car bomb went off in a residential area of Beirut.

The IrishFinn battalion, as it is known, will occupy a post just south of the village of At Tiri, chosen for its visibility of the surrounding areas and proximity to the smaller Irish UN posts.

A spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces outlined the risks in deploying troops into the area – “There are real risks in operating in an area where there has been recent conflict. The area is a volatile environment and there is still debris, such as mines, left from previous wars. Troops heading to the Middle East have to be mindful of the dangers which can arise at any moment.”

When asked about how the events in Syria were affecting peacekeeping in the area they said “day to day operations have not been affected yet but geographically we are very close to the conflict zone so we have to be wary of that.”

Community Supported Agriculture Conference Tipperary

The aim of the conference was to introduce the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to communities and growers in Ireland. As someone with an interest in environmental matters and a growing interest in community sustainability I was excited about travelling from Dublin to Cloughjordan, Tipperary with two friends for this conference. I was also very interested to see Ireland’s only Eco Village which is also situated in Cloughjordan.

The conference ran from Friday the 17th February to Sunday the 19th. I attended the Saturday’s full day of talks.  The amount of information presented throughout the day was fantastic leaving me with much food for thought. The topics covered on the Saturday included; the role of CSA’s in increasing community resilience and food sovereignty, why CSA’s play a vital role in the future of food production and growing for your community. We were also brought to the Eco Villages community farm by the community’s grower.

At the conference I learnt that CSA began in Japan in the seventies by women who were concerned about the poisoning of their food by Mercury in the water and soil. Although there are many ways to develop a CSA in essence CSA is a business transaction where a farm produces food and the community pays the farmer. The community will be involved in collective ownership of the process of producing the food. The extent of community involvement in the process will be decided collectively by the stakeholders (community and farmer). Various guest speakers who are actively involved in CSA spoke about their different experiences of CSA. It was interesting to hear of the vastly different approaches to this method of community growing. Some of the guest speakers spoke about very little community involvement whereas others had active involvement and participation within the community farms.  Essentially my understanding at the end of the day was that there are many different ways that a community can go about CSA and there is no wrong or right way to go about it. Effectively it is all about what suits the community and the farmer.

Within CSA methods of food production can be; consumer/producer driven, organic or non organic, can grow; seasonal vegetables/full diet/ single staple crop/single luxury crop. The length of the agreement (between the farmer and the community) can be for one season/a full year/ one harvest/ monthly/ multi annual. Payment can be in the form of; a full payment at the beginning of the season (better for the farmer as most of the cost is at the beginning of the season), a monthly payment, capital investment or contribution of labour.  Benefits of CSA are empowerment of communities and farmers, risk sharing and diversity in farming as opposed to the farmer shouldering serious financial burden and the risk of supplying single crops to large chains. CSA’s can experience difficulties in managing cash flow with so many ways of payment and satisfying a whole community’s needs and wants. Possible problems with CSA’s can be deficiencies in the soil of the area where a CSA is set up, contamination issues (e.g. mad cow disease) can wipe out a whole CSA and environmental damage (floods, drought, pests).

Another topic which was considered was the difference between food sovereignty and food security. Representatives from international groups including Urgenci and Trocaire spoke on the importance of this. Food sovereignty being the right of people to grow and eat culturally adapted food of their choice which involves empowerment of local communities and farmer and consumer rights. Food security meaning having enough food to eat and can include imported Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), factory farmed foods, food miles and can involve monopolization of the food market and destruction of farmers livelihood by large scale chains.

There was a sense of urgency during the talk on bringing CSA to the wider community as a method of ensuring communities remain resilient in the face of economic collapse/seed monopolization by large private companies. Currently Ireland has 4 CSA’s, 80 in the UK. As well as providing invaluable information the conference served as a a networking opportunity for communities and farmers. It was mentioned that a website should be set up for CSA as an information point as well as a point of contact for farmers and communities who wish to get involved in setting up a CSA.

During question time the former Minister for Agriculture addressed the crowd and stated that the Irish people need to make it their business to fight for the right for land to grow food.  This coming from a former minister says a lot. I for one would like to see a movement whereby communities begin demanding that disused land in their area is utilised as a space for growing food. Things are changing and government bodies must start supporting community resilience projects as is their duty under the United Nations Agenda 21 (related to sustainable development).

By Leeanne Timony

 

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