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Interview with Irish Social Forum Activist who helped organise Co-operation and Solidarity Summit
irish social forum |
Wednesday October 15, 2003 19:53 by ec
Awnsers are opinions of person - not ISF policy - ISF does not have policies ;-)
Q. What is an Irish Social Forum meant to achieve in your opinion in the short term? In the long term?
A. In the short term to allow all strands of the global justice movement on the island, to see itself, ourselves. For the development, environment, trade unionist, community, human rights and social justice people to come together, with respect for our variety of focuses and with respect for our different shades of red, green, and black and none so as to focus our minds on the destructive and anti-democratic forces of injustice and neoliberalism. To openly address, analyse and debate what is wrong with the current system of corporate globalisation and to work together to perhaps build and widen our knowledge, our analyses, and our alliances to see how our causes and common struggles link together and to work together of offer and work on solutions.
Firstly in the long term, personally, I would hope nothing less than fundamentally invigorating democracy on this island so to make democracy meaningful and participatory, responsive and self-reflective, so that people are empowered to take a regular and active part in the community and wider political decision making processes that effect our everyday lives and those future generations.
Secondly in the long term, personally, in the next few years I believe we have a unique opportunity to show the world that the most globalised country on the planet can transform its economy from a narrow economic-growth focus to a sustainable-economy focus; that we can have an equitable and just taxation system that favours people and the environment above banks, property and land speculators; that we can implement the ethics and the will of the electorate in our foreign policies and in our approach to international trade. Yes it is expecting a lot but we are not alone, the ISF is but one part in a global movement for justice and rights.
Q. Why did you think it was important enough to spend a lot of your free time in the last few months getting it off the ground?
A. I did spend a lot of time, and so did a lot of other people, the more people that show up the more I know that its work that's worth doing and work that just has to be done. Why is it important enough, I suppose because a lot of people around the world would just get jailed, tortured or shot for running around shouting their mouth off about injustices and trying to organise meetings to get people together to see what together we can do about it. When the evidence shows me that people are living in those conditions partly because of the foreign and economic policies promoted by the EU and the corporations of Europe I just have to do my wee bit to try and help out. The unjust tax system, the homelessness, the 25% of Irish children living in poverty, the rises in cancer caused by poorly regulated industry, the fish kills in the lakes and rivers, the gangster land dealers, politicians and bank owners holding us to ransom with their corporate land monopoly,the bare faced lies from most political parties over the treaty of Nice, the fact that Indymedia had photos of the military of the USA in Shannon 2 months before the mainstream press bothered to make an issue out of it,I wont go on.
Q. Have many outside of the 'usual suspects' joined in the dialogue?
Absolutely. I think people can judge for themselves that in the 10 months since the generation of the idea for An Open Space Dialogue Process for Irish Civil Society to Build and Irish Social Forum, it has definitely moved beyond what we often call the usual suspects. Of the speakers alone at next weekends first ISF there will be members of: Trócaire, Latin America Solidarity
Centre, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign, People's Rights Movement Of Pakistan, Irish Penal Reform Trust, Attac, Comhlamh, Workers Solidarity Movement, Globalise Resistance, Refundazione
Communisti/e, Peace And Neutrality Alliance, The Other Media (Of India), Dublin Bus Workers, Indymedia Ireland Collective, Macra Ni Feirma, Oxfam Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, Banúlacht, Akina Dada Wa Africa - Sisters From Africa (Akidwa), Acehnese Women's Democratic Organisation, Trade Justice Ireland, Debt And Development Coalition Ireland, Action Aid Ireland, World Bank Boycott, Tobin Tax Initiative, Alliance For Choice, Workers Beer Company, Feasta Democracy Group, The Democracy Commission, tasc - A Think Tank For Action On Social Change, Westmeath Peace Group, West Papua Action, UCD Boycott Coke Campaign, Soccer Against Racism Ireland, UCD Students Union and Anarchist Prisoner Support. And of the political parties there will be members of:
Labour Youth, Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party and The Green Party.
Q. Do you regret that the impetus that opposing the WEF meeting might have given the forum is missing?
A. Yes and no. Yes, it would have put 'What Sort of Globalisation Do We Want' on the political map here. It would have afforded an opportunity to every campaigning group on the island to show how their issue is linked and connected with the wider global political economy of neoliberalism. It would have shown that the likes of Goldman Sachs supremo and millionaire Peter Sutherland is the sort that this government takes its cue from, and not from the will of the people. We could have entered the word neoliberalism into the political
dictionary here. And a lot more Europeans would have been over too, which would have been great. I can't work out if the major difference would have been just having 50 extra people at the ISF with loads of media coverage, or whether we would have had 5,000 extra people at ISF. Well - we will never know. Until the next time they think of coming - and they will come. We will see what the EU heads of state meeting turns out like. We may have another ISF then.
And no, partly because a section of the people who were starting to get involved in organising the ISF seemed to me more concerned with using the
ISF as a tool, a platform for their own political gain and of course suddenly disappeared the minute the WEF was cancelled. Meetings are always much more productive and egalitarian if there is no section of those in it prioritising their own short term political gain above the common good of the ISF as a whole.
Q. Why should people make time to attend the events at the weekend?
A. If you care about the state of public services, privatisations, the environment, want to maintain free education and health systems, or try to do something about the military of the USA using our airports, about the reduction of human rights and increasing poverty in Ireland and around the world well then come along.
Q. How has the idea been progressing outside of Dublin?
A. Better in some areas than other. The North East Social forum meets monthly with a wide area of sectors represented, the Cork Social Forum meets monthly, the South East Social Forum is gearing up again this week after a Summer break, while the North West Social Forum has only had two or three meetings that I am aware of. Galway has been terrible quiet, but not for long I predict.
Q. Who should be involved that are not already?
A. We have trade unionists involved - but the ISF needs more Trade Unions. It's an absolute disgrace that that the ISF has not had more official trade
union support. Well hopefully after next weekend we can start the outreach work needed to bring them in - I mean the Unions support the European Social Forum and the World Social Forum. I think their official involvement here in the ISF will be part of a wider cultural shift in union leadership approach, a shift which seems to be a growing demand of union members.
Q. The usual accusations thrown at new initiatives in Ireland are (i) Front Group and (ii) talking shop. Have you a pre-emptive response to these?
A. No need to be pre-emptive - I have already seen and responded to the shleeveens and the begrudges on the Indymedia newswire - I would love to meet some of these people face to face. If you don't like then come along and help us fix. Front group? - no. Just read the ISF meetings minutes, available on Indymedia,or direct to your inbox via the ISF website. If anyone can think of ways to make the meetings more democratic do please tell and come along. Talking shop? - well what does the word Forum conjure in your mind. A forum is a place to go and listen, debate, share, learn, build alliances - as the Charter of Principles says it is not a locus of control to be fought
over by its participants. It is a place, it is a way of doing politics - it is not an organisation to be controlled by anyone, nor is it one that
will lead you to the barricades, offer enlightenment or make you vote on things.
Q. What are you personally looking forward to at this first event?
A. A good bit of craic, meet old friends, make new ones, scare the Irish government, build alliances, try to learn more and most of all to participate in hopefully a new way of doing politics.