Friday, December 30, 2011

Visiting Sam, Carla, and Matteo in Canale Monterano

My wallet was lost or stolen yesterday, our last in Rome.  Not only did I lose some money but also my drivers' license and our phone SIM card information, so I'm trying to recover.  However, we are having a great time visiting our Brussels friends at their vacation home in Italy.  Alexis and Matteo are both 15, so it's nice to have two teens in the house.  We went on a walk in the nearby nature reserve where there are sulphur springs, waterfalls and creeks, an old convent where a band was making a music video, and a lovely view of the valleys.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rome Continued

We returned to Rome and spent a day with Cristina DeFino and her friend from Dublin.  We went on an interesting tour of an old Roman estate that is partially excavated with a light show that demonstrates what the estate looked like when people lived in it.  We were not able to take pictures inside.
Afterward, we continued our tour of Rome and we were treated to a magnificent show by thousands of birds making various shapes in the sky.
Some pet parrots have been released in Rome

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Rome

Alexis arrived from Seattle Dec 19 and we walked around Rome the whole day.  She was sick the next day, but on the 21st we walked around Rome again, going to the top of a hill where we could look down over the city and see, for example, just how many amazing churches and other structures are there.

We moved to the coast Southwest of Rome, a little town called Ostia, where we spent the day in Ostia Antica that was built around 50 BC.  It was amazing - what's the Colliseum compared to an entire city?

Now we're enjoying Christmas day, our last full day in Ostia before going back to Rome for more sightseeing with Cristina DeFino, whom we met in Dublin.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fun with new friends in Modena, Italy

We had a whirlwind trip to Modena, starting with the strike by the railroad and bus workers, which meant an adventure getting there from Venezia.  We were hosted by a very cool group of young anarchists who mostly live in the same building.  We went to three demonstrations, had two meetings at the Libera Officina, and went to a concert!  Here are links to pictures:

Evening benefit for fired Fiat union organizer

Demonstration against eviction of Anarchist group

Demonstration against military academy

Gerry Condon talking about Bradley Manning

Concert - their version of grunge

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Protest against continued Afghanistan war and occupation in Bonn, Germany

On Monday December 5, 2011 Presidents Karzai and Obama along with several other leaders meet in Bonn, Germany to discuss the future of Afghanistan after the U.S. pulls out its troops in 2014.  To even agree that the U.S. should stay that long is a crime against humanity!  But to go further and declare that the rest of the world will decide about Afghanistan's future is worse.
Sign across the river from the conference

Helen and Gerry meet Malalai Joya

Protest near the official conference
Pictures of Protest against Afghan War and Obama and Karzai meeting

There are 3 days of actions and meetings, so we're here representing Veterans For Peace and showing that there are Americans who are against war!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

64 Members of European Parliament support Bradley Manning

This was a major victory for Gerry and I, Veterans For Peace, the Bradley Manning Support Network, and justice!
Christian Engström, Marisa Mattius, Gerry Condon, and Ana Gomes in the Euopean Parliament Press Room
64 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), including two of its Vice Presidents, signed a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns about the violation of Bradley Manning's civil and human rights. In their letter, the MEPs called on the US government to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to meet privately with Bradley Manning

VIDEO of Press Conference

(10 more MEPs signed afterward, a total of 64)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back to Brussels

Carla Goffi is now back in town, so we are staying in her lovely guest suite - we have our own kitchen, bath, bedroom, and living room - I can't imagine a better place to be!

Sam Biesemans and Carla Cazzaniga had us over for dinner with Carla Goffi and Gerd Gruene, president of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors.

Gerry is preparing for a press conference with Members of European Parliament who are sending a letter to President Obama and other American officials - asking them to allow the UN Special Rappateur on Torture to have a private meeting with Bradley Manning.  The press conference scheduled for Wednesday November 3, 11:30 am in the European Parliament press room.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our final days in Dublin

On the way from Cork to Dublin, we saw the most amazing rainbow!

Roger Cole and Nuala Dempsey hosted us for a night and formal dinner with Fergus and Teres MacAigan.  All are  with the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.  We had a lovely time and got to know a lot about the organization.

We spent our last two nights with Bill and Dot Fine, American expats who head up the Servas organization in Ireland.  They invited Glenda, her friend Arthur, an aspiring Irish actor and our mutual friend Cristina, for dinner with us.  Cristina is Italian and also a member of Servas.  We joined Servas - it is a way for guests to stay for two nights with a host and get to know each other as a way to promote friendship between people of different countries in order to reduce conflict and avoid war.  As such, the guests and hosts have progressive values and very meaningful stays together.  We became members of Servas while staying with Bill and Dot.

We went to the Egyptian Embassy to participate, as Veterans For Peace members, to protest against the police killings of Egypian protesters in Tahrir Square.  Glenda was there, too.  Gerry was interviewed by an independent journalist.

We toured Kilmainham Jail, which was a good way to continue our Irish history lessons. Many heroes of uprisings for Irish independence were imprisoned here, and some were executed.  Other prisoners included women and children who may have stolen a loaf of bread to feed their family.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cork, Ireland - Occupy Cork, Solidarity Books

Cork has a lot going on and we had opportunities to learn a lot as well as speak.  Our hosts were James and Virginia, and there is a 3rd housemate who is out of town.  James works at Solidarity Books and is part of the socialist anarchy organization - Gerry and I gave a talk at the bookstore - I was able to present the Bradley Manning topic, so we are sharing the podium now.  Gerry also spoke at Occupy Cork.

Pictures from Occupy Cork

We didn't get to spend much time with Virginia, but she is involved with the Kinsale Transition Town, as a teacher of permaculture.

We finally got to met Veronica Kelly!  We met at a cafe to get acquainted, then the next day we met for dancing to a blues band - it was wonderful!  Her husband Serge joined us for a short while as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ring of Kerry

We took a bus tour today around a peninsula near Killarney.  It was beautiful scenery, although all day mostly on the bus and not enough time just to relax and enjoy the scenery.  However, we're both really happy we did the trip and we got to see more of the west coast of Ireland, this time further south than the Cliffs of Moher.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On vacation - Killarney, Ireland - a truly beautiful part of the world!

It's time to relax for a couple of days before proceeding on to more activist events, so we took a bus from Limerick into Killarney in the Southwest of Ireland.  We walked for a few hours around Muckross Lake, the smallest of the three main lakes in this area.  We walked along the biggest lake before getting to the small one, and at the end were given a ride back into town by some guys who are clearing the area of invasive rhododendrons.  Here's a slideshow of the hike.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Causing trouble in Ireland: VFP joins other protesters at Shannon airport

Limerick Ireland newspaper: US war veterans to protest in Shannon

Shannon airport is used to transport an average 600 U.S. troops per day to/from Afghanistan and Iraq as well as extraordinary rendition flights for purposes of torturing captives.  It is a CIVILIAN airport and these flights compromise Ireland's neutrality - the Republic of Ireland has not taken sides in a war since becoming an independent country in 1949.  Not only that, but the US military only pays $250 per flight, a fraction of the cost of using the airport.  The airport is about $8 million in the red.

An amazing amount of information is available at Shannon Watch, which, along with other anti-war groups, organizes a monthly vigil at Shannon Airport.

The action went well!  There were 20 of us and three media people - from Limerick Leader, Irish Times and an independent journalist.  We walked up to the Garda (Police) guarding the road into the airport and asked under what law they were preventing us from entering.  They were under an oath of silence, so they apparently don't know why they stand at a barricade monthly to prevent the ShannonWatch people fron marching down the road to the terminal. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back to Occupy Dame Street, Dublin

During the meeting with the Irish AntiWar Movement in Dublin last week, it was suggested that Gerry speak to Occupy Dublin, so he did tonight.  Pictures Their main point of discussion tonight has to do with whether to participate in a labor union march in a couple of weeks.  It was great to see how the real democratic process works here.

Occupy London

We joined Occupy London for awhile and Gerry gave a little speech of solidarity from U.S. Veterans For Peace.  Ciaron O'Reilly, who has been doing direct actions for many years, joined us and helped us stay the night at the London Catholic Worker House.  He was involved in the destruction of a Boeing plane that was at Shannon CIVILIAN airport being used to transfer troops to Iraq and Afghanistan against the policy of the Irish government to remain neutral with respect to these wars.  Other planes that go through Shannon are doing extraordinary rendition flights to take people to be tortured.  The Pitstop Ploughshares five were acquitted because they were doing the action to prevent a greater harm.

Ely and Lavenham, England

We made a quick hop from Dublin to London and then went up to visit a friend in Ely, Jill, and her dog Lambchop.  Jill took us to the most crooked place in the world, Lavenham!  The buildings are not straight, square, or plumb and go every which way - it's a wonder people can even walk around in their houses!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gaza flotilla support and Irish AntiWar Movement

On November 4 we attended the Dublin rally in support of the most recent effort to break the Gaza blockade.  Several good speakers informed us of the current status and politicians spoke in favor of the flotilla actions.

Gerry spoke before the Irish AntiWar Movement right after the rally.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sligo, Ireland - Gerry and Helen visit Stella

Sligo is a charming town with wonderful people, especially Stella Carroll and her family!  Stella lives a few miles out of town.

Stella had just started fostering a 5 week old kitten when we arrived and was bottle feeding it about every two hours.  She has two permanent residents, Luna the cat and Murphy the rockhound dog.  We also got to meet two of her kids and her 6 year old grandson, Fionn, who is quite a crack-up comedian!
We had a long walk with Stella and  Murphy, going through an old Abbey and graveyard.

Murphy's favorite game is chasing rocks - yes, he has a lot of damage to his teeth and has had to have them removed from his stomach.  Unfortunately, a Rottweiler followed us for a long way and wouldn't go back home and after about 1/2 mile or so Murphy decided to attack her.  He ended up with a sore leg in the process.

We dressed up for Halloween and went to a bar where Stella's daughter and her band played 50's bee-bop music.  We danced the whole time, then went and heard some Reggae music at another venue, getting home well after 2 am.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adventure in Ireland - 2 days on a small island

Thursday October 27, 2011
We took a bus from Galway to Limerick, where Edward Horgan met us and drove us to the college, where we had lunch with John Lannon, both of ShannonWatch.  They keep data about use of Shannon airport to carry troops and supplies to war as well as rendition for possible torture.  
We found out during lunch that Edward wanted us to come and stay with him on an island, to which we said “Yes, we love an adventure!” And what an adventure it was!  We drove past Shannon airport and took pictures of U.S. military planes involved with transporting people to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

We were rushed, though, because Edward said we had a date with a boat to get to the island.  I thought he meant a ferry boat.  We drove very fast on narrow, winding roads, passing everyone along the way, and somewhere during the end of the drive I figured out that the boat we were catching was Edward’s!  We stopped in town for some groceries and proceeded to a very small launch point where we loaded up only the bare necessities into the boat almost an hour after the sun had set.  It was getting darker by the minute.  No wonder he drove so fast and hurried through the grocery store.  He gave us waterproof, windproof suits to wear, which was good because of the saltwater blowing up around the boat as we went, and the wind.  Our minimal gear was put in waterproof barrels and a dry bag, and off we went.  The waves were rough at times and both Gerry and I had to move our bodies back toward the center of the boat to help stabilize it.  Out the bay and into the ocean we went, soon spotting a dim light in the distance.  Finally we arrived at the island dock.

Edward announced that this dock was the start of the main island road – pretty unbelievable, but of course there are no cars so it’s a footpath.  We followed him carefully in the dark up the road about ¼ mile and past a couple of his neighbor’s houses to his house.  He took a 4-wheel-drive bucket / cart back down for the rest of our gear while we lit a fire. 
There’s electricity in the house, a fairly recent concession on the island, and the water is from the rain draining off of the roof, collected in two huge tanks and filtered 3 times before coming into the house.  We filter it one more time in Britta-like filters if we’re going to drink it.  It’s really clean, and Edward says just a little bit salty, although I can’t tell.

Friday October 28, 2011 Turbot Island, Ireland
After a lovely breakfast we took a walk around the island.  It’s windy today, so we won’t be taking the boat back to the mainland for our main backpacks.  No matter – we aren’t suffering in the least.  Edward has warm clothes we can borrow, so the walk wasn’t too cold for us.  The house was pretty simple and smaller when he and his wife bought it 25 years ago.  The walls were thick solid concrete and he built another wall outside of the existing one that’s insulated and put in new double-pane windows and doors.  We saw a couple of examples of how his house originally looked.

You can see the mainland from here as well as some other islands.  It’s low tide, making it easier to walk around the end of fences that keep the cows mostly where people want them.  People gather the rocks to make walls, and the rock-free places are good for gardens.  Because of the wind, you have to build a rock wall around the garden.  There had been more soil on the island – now there is a lot of bare rock.  That situation was caused by irresponsible use of the turf for fires in people’s homes.  Edward burns driftwood exclusively.

We saw what looked like crab pots but are really used for lobster.  People do sell the crab as well and are supposed to throw the small ones back in the sea but sometimes just leave them on the shore to die.  We saw quite a few crab shells near the lobster pots.

We saw lots of cows.  The wind was surprisingly warm, so by the end of the walk I had my gloves off and my jacket partly open.

It was nice to be without internet and phone service for a couple of days and we're back safely on the mainland with the wonderful cooperative household that hosted us last week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Galway, Ireland

Again we find ourselves in a town with an Occupy encampment.
Pictures of Occupy Galway

Galway has two colleges and a very active artist community.  We're staying in a cooperative home where six roommates share cooking, shopping, and cleaning responsibilities.  Our main contact with the home is Kerry E'Lyn.  There are five others in the house, including two named Colm as well as Alison, Jean, and Nile.  They are a fun bunch and the house is very well run, with shared dinners every night.

Kerry's partner Colm showed us around Galway and we also went out and enjoyed some Irish music and a pint with a few people from the house.  Everyone enjoys spending time together and we felt very welcome in their home.

Letterkenny, Ireland

The Occupy Movement is alive and well in Ireland.  We've visited Dublin, Letterkenny, and Galway sites so far.

Occupy Letterkenny is a Saturday event.  Click here for pictures.

We were hosted by Caroline Kuyper, who is a wonderful woman.  She rescued a 180-year-old house in the countryside and took us for a poetry reading and lovely walk to the lake and sea.

Caroline lives several miles outside of Letterkenney, which is just across the border from Derry in Northern Ireland.  She arranged for us to meet some others involved in the Derry Anti-War Coalition and we started our visit at Sandino's bar which is a very revolutionary place!  They told us about the two Raytheon 9 groups.

Raytheon had a software branch in Derry that was programming drone software.  The first Raytheon 9 group went into the building and threw computers out of the windows and generally caused havoc inside until they were arrested.  They were damaging property for the greater good of preventing people from being killed, so they were acquitted.  The second group was all women and after they did a similar action, Raytheon decided they didn't need to have people based in Ireland and completely pulled out!  What a victory!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Summary August 30 - October 20

Wow, we have been traveling pretty fast since we arrived in Europe in early September.  We have been having a wonderful time and meeting a lot of great new friends.  But we have not been very good about keeping our travel blog up to date.  So here is our attempt to catch up a bit.

We landed in London on August 31.  We were only there for one night and part of two days, but we were lucky to have great meetings with folks from War Resisters International and Amnesty InternationalAmnesty has a team for each country – the US website is

Andreas withWar Resisters International

Then we were took a bus and a ferry to “the Continent,” landing in France and going through Brussels before arriving in Cologne, Germany and taking a train to nearby Bonn, Germany.  In Bonn, Sept. 3-6, we attended the United Nations NGO Conference on Building a Sustainable Future.  We represented Veterans For Peace, which is a registered NGO at the United Nations.  We met many interesting people and learned a lot.  We spoke up several times, emphasizing the importance of ending war and militarism.  Our voices were heard and the wording of the final conference document moved the issue of ending war to a higher position, stating that peace is a “prerequisite for building a sustainable future.”  

This conference was an important stepping stone to the UN meeting on the environment next June in Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Brazil.  Coming twenty years after another UN environmental summit in Brazil, Rio+20 is seen by many as possibly a last chance to save the planet from environmental devastation and the breakdown of human civilization.  Now, that’s pretty serious stuff!  The Rio summit will coincide with the World Social Forum, an international grassroots gathering in nearby Porto Alegre, Brazil (the site of the first World Social Forum, and the inspiring speech of Arundati Roi, “Another World Is Possible.”

See Helen's full article on the UN NGO Conference in the Fall 2011 newsletter of Veterans For Peace  (page 3).

Helen and Gerry with Hanaa Edwar,
Iraqi Al-Amal Association Secretary General
and Iraqi Women Network

Thierno Kane from Senegal, representing the Open Society Initiative for West Africa

Vandana Shiva challenged corporate control

On a whim, we headed for Amsterdam, via high speed rail, fast but expensive.  We arrived late in the evening and checked into hostel (too expensive).  Then we went out exploring, soon landing in one of Amsterdam’s famous coffee houses.  Ah, relaxation….  We located a campground in a forest on the outskirts of Amsterdam.  We had a tent, air mattresses and bedding in our backpacks and it was great to set up camp.  We stayed there for a week and explored Amsterdam on rented bicycles.  Wow, Amsterdam must be the Bicycle Capitol of the World.  Thousands of bicycles are constantly on the move, as 50,000 college students reside there.  We really enjoyed Amsterdam and will probably return there one day.  But finally it was time to say goodbye to the coffeehouses and canals.
We took an overnight bus from Amsterdam to Berlin.  Buses are quite a bit cheaper than trains, but they are not so cheap either.  Berlin was fantastic.

We were able to set up camp in a park near the center of town.  We camped for 8 days and then were invited to stay with a new friend from American Voices AbroadWe were in Berlin for two whole weeks.  We learned so much about the reunification of Berlin and how that has changed things, for better and for worse.  We met with Americans who had lived in Berlin for twenty and thirty years.  And we made new German friends too.  This included some who have been involved with organizing support for GI resisters, during Vietnam and since.  We were happy to participate in a vigil for Troy Davis, on the night he was murdered by the State of Georgia.  Many groups participated in the vigil at Brandenburg Gate, right across from the U.S. Embassy. We visited the Berlin Wall, and took many photos of the art and graffiti we found there.  We left our own messages in support of Bradley Manning, Andre Shepherd and Rodney Watson, courageous young war resisters who deserve all our support.  We also met Chris Capps, who spoke at a meeting to drum up support for the GI Café in Kaiserlautern ( see Kaiserslautern, below).  Berlin is a great place with a lot going on.  We will definitely return.

We took a bus from Berlin to Frankfurt.  We spent one night in the Frankfurt Hostel, a very nice hostel near the train station.  There were many young travelers from all over, including from South Korea.  We made some new friends from Connection-eV, a group of dedicated activists who have been supporting Conscientious Objectors in many countries for many years.  We attended their weekly meeting and learned about two C.O.’s who are currently being persecuted in Egypt and Turkey.  Connection members Rudy and Karin invited us for a wonderful, leisurely brunch in their courtyard garden the following morning.

Next we took a local train to nearby Wiesbaden, for another public meeting with Chris Capps (and his German friend, Patrick), who did a great job educating people about the importance of supporting GI resisters, and how a GI Café can really help.  Another Rudy, also a peace activist, let us crash at his place and treated us to a lovely breakfast.  He also taped an interview with us for a local radio station.

Next thing we knew, we had found our way to Heidelberg and we were camping again, this time on the banks of a beautiful little river, with plenty of freight traffic going to and from the Rhine River.  When we awoke there on morning number 1, we were greeted by a pair of local geese, who succeeded in getting us to share our bread.  See enclosed photos.  We also had several great visits with American expat Dave Blalock and his wife, Chris.  Dave is a Vietnam Veteran with a long history of speaking out against war and supporting GIs who do the same.  We remained mostly in “Old Heidelberg,” which was really beautiful.  The final night there, Dave and Chris joined us for a lovely dinner, some live blues and some great German beer.  Mission Accomplished!

Next we were off to Kaiserslautern, about an hour’s train ride west of Heidelberg.  Kaiserslautern is a town of 100,000 Germans, with 50,000 Americans – 30,000 U.S. troops and 20,000 family members and support personnel.  If anyplace needs a GI Café, it is Kaiserslautern, and that is the passionate focus of Iraq veteran (and GI resister) Chris Capps-Schubert and his wife, dynamic organizer Meike Capps-Schubert.  We spent several days with them and got a tour of the town and potential spots for setting up the GI Café.  We will continue to support this important project and we encourage all like-minded folks to do the same.

Gerry has been invited to speak in Brussels several months ago by Carla Goffi, a dynamic Italian activist who lives in Brussels.  Andrea Licata, an Italian No Bases activist for whom Gerry had organized a Northwest speaking tour, had set the ball in motion.  Sam Biesemans, a Belgian activist and longtime supporter of Conscientious Objectors, was our main organizer, in Carla’s absence.  And what a thorough job he did.  He arranged meetings for us with Peace House, and with the Quaker House.  At Peace House, we learned about U.S. nuclear missiles that are stationed at a Belgian military base, and the remarkable Bombspotting campaign.  At Quaker House, we learned about campaigns to encourage the European Union to boycott goods made in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank.  And much more too.

Brussels happens to be home to NATO headquarters and also the European Commission (executive branch of the European Union) and the European Parliament.  We did not visit NATO, but we had many productive meetings with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).  We met with MEPs from Sweden’s Green Party and Pirate Party, and from Portugal’s Left Party, among others.  Many MEPs expressed an interest in signing a letter in support of accused GI whistleblower, Bradley Manning.  Gerry is working with folks in the Bradley Manning Support Network to prepare to draft a letter pressing the U.S. government to grant the request of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to interview Bradley Manning privately concerning the torturous and abusive conditions of the first 9 months of his imprisonment. 

We also attended a conference on the Arab Spring that was organized by the Rosa Luxemberg Foundation.  We found this most enlightening.  Among the many experts who attended from the Middle East, Africa and Europe, not a single person believed the claims of the U.S. and European governments who were bombing Libya in order to “protect civilian lives.”  Everybody knew this was an attempt by imperial powers to re-colonize northern Africa, to curtail the peoples’ movement for democracy, and to control precious resources, including, of course, oil, but – most interestingly – water too.

We also got to meet with the Indignados, the Spanish forerunners to the Occupy Wall Street movement, who had just arrived in Brussels, along with many young supporters from France, Belgium and around Europe.  On Saturday, October 15, the last of our ten days in Brussels, we marched with the Indignados and many thousands of people.  Gerry was invited to speak to Italian radio and Belgian television on behalf of Veterans For Peace.  It was a beautiful, diverse march.  See photos.  Along with us was Carla Cazzaniga (and her mother).  Carla, from Italy, is Sam Bieseman’s wife.  Carla and Sam generously shared their home and great food with us for our entire Brussels adventure.  And Sam did a heck of an organizing job for us, also preparing the way for future visits in Brussels and beyond.

We were so excited when we learned about Ryanair, where some super cheap European airfares can be found.  Brussels to Dublin was less than $50 each and we could not pass it up.  A week or so before our flight, we sent an introductory email to some Irish peace activist email addressed we found in Houseman’s Peace Calendar/Directory.  Much to our delight, we soon had invitations to visit cities and towns throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, still part of the UK.  Wow, this is great!  We have already been in Dublin and Belfast and now we are in Derry.  We will be here for several more weeks.  We are very excited and happy.  And we are going to post regular updates, with lots of photos, on each city we visit.  So please stay tuned, especially if you are a lover of Ireland, or would like to be….

Glenda Cimino, our first Irish hostess, is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and has a long history of activism going back to the Sixties.  She invited us to stay with her in her 200-year-old cottage, steeped with history.  We had a lovely visit, and met with folks from Occupy Dame St., a tent city encampment in downtown Dublin.  Glenda is a member of the Irish Antiwar MovementWhen we return to Dublin in a couple weeks, we will speak at an event they are organizing for us (Friday, Nov. 4, 7 pm).

Rob Fairmichael, an Irish nonviolence activist and trainer with INNATE, hosted us in Belfast, and gave us quite an education about the history of the struggle in Northern Ireland between the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Defense Association as well as the British Army.  A peace and reconciliation process is currently underway, and most – but not all – have abandoned the armed struggle in favor of engagement in parliamentary politics.  We were invited to meet with a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Mickey Brady of  Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party.  One of his concerns is the 60,000 Irish undocumented workers in the U.S. More on this later.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Derry, North Ireland October 20

I fell in love with Sandinos bar last night - it's where the lefties hang out here in Derry and it has amazing posters on the wall.  There are three bar areas, each with a place for a band, and they have at least one live band every night.

Belfast October 17 - 19, 2011

Rob and Carmel hosted us for two nights. Their friend Mark joined us for a discussion in the evening and learned a lot about the Catholic / Protestant war as well as the anti-war and peace movement in North Ireland.

A member of North Ireland Parliament, Mickey Brady, met with us.  He is with the Sinn Fein party, which has the main issue of wanting a unified Ireland.  He is very progressive and not a "professional politician" - he worked in social programs before being elected to Parliament.  Another of his concerns is the treatment of ex-prisoners who had been in the Irish Republican Army.  They cannot vote and have other sanctions against them. He's also concerned about the treatment of people currently in Irish prisons, including strip searches that are not justified.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as use of Shannon airport in the Irish Republic are concerns as well.  He is very interested in signing and circulating a letter asking Obama to permit the UN Special Repateur on Torture to visit privately with Bradley Manning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dublin - October 15 - 18

We arrived in Dublin and have been staying with a very nice woman, Glenda, who is associated with the Irish Anti-War Movement.  Glenda lives in a 200-year-old house built on a row of worker's houses which was originally owned by a family who made hats from beaver skins.  They had a chapel in back of the house.

We took a double-decker bus into town and listened to Flann O’Brien presentations at Trinity College with Glenda.

Close to Trinity is the Occupy Dame Street encampment – it is small, looks like about 10-20 people sleep there.  Lots of great signs and the people are friendly.