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Ireland’s newest political parties just aren’t compatible with Ireland

Photo: newspaper headline screengrab from Irish Independent (July 22, 2015).

Photo: newspaper headline screengrab from Irish Independent (July 22, 2015).

Migration is a human rights issue. The universal declaration of human rights outlines that humans have a right to social security, a right to work, a right to an adequate standard of living and a right to an education. People who find themselves in countries where these rights are not being met may have to migrate to another country where they have a hope of having these rights vindicated.

Ireland ranks the 11th most developed country in a world of over 190 countries. We have it pretty good in comparison to everyone else. Yet we would refuse these human rights to immigrants should its newest party Identity Ireland get its way. More…

Read this: the GENE Review 2015

At the request of Irish Aid, the Global Education Network Europe (GENE) are in the process of carrying out a peer review of Development Education in Ireland that will inform Irish Aid’s future strategy in this area.

The Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) has played an active role in ensuring that the voice of the sector is reflected in the review and that, through its Task Groups (Adult and Community Education, Formal Education, Youth task groups), as many actors as possible from across Development Education in Ireland have been involved in the process.

Find out more and read the submissions online.

Read this: on religion and social change

Photo: I miss you my master...by Matthew Fang (Sept 30, 2007). CC By-NC-ND-2.0 license via Flickr.

Photo: I miss you my master…by Matthew Fang (Sept 30, 2007). CC By-NC-ND-2.0 license via Flickr.

I spotted Michael Edwards’ article on opendemocracy.net last week that’s well worth a read. It explores the role of religion in social change, titled Will the left ever get religion?.

And to whet your interest, a few quotes:

Why does religion drive so many people nuts? That’s the question that opens and closes our debate on religion and social change. On the surface the answer is obvious, at least for progressives—it’s because of the damage that’s been done by religion to the causes they hold dear: independence and equality for women, gay marriage and LGBTQ rights, peace and protection from zealots and fanatics, and safety in the face of sexual abuse. How come the ineffable being is always a bloke with a beard who privileges others who look the same as him? Religion has become the mother-lode of patriarchy, stupidity, homophobia and all things conservative.

But the opposite is also true: religion gives tremendous strength and staying power to the struggle for equality and social justice. It’s a force that makes people go to jail for their beliefs, break into nuclear weapons facilities and daub biblical slogans on the walls, found social movements that change society, organize workers to stand up for their rights, and confront dictators at the cost of their own lives. Religious groups are also the mainstays of health, education, social welfare and community-level conflict prevention in many countries. For Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero and many others, religion isn’t incidental to social change, it’s pivotal—it’s the reason why they are willing to give so much to the cause. More…

Successful Futures – a new opportunity in Wales?

The Wales Alliance for Global Education (WAGE) held its first successf_futures_coverseminar in Cardiff on 9th July 2015. Colm Regan of 80:20 and developmenteducation.ie was invited to make an input to start the day off.  He, like others that day reflected on the recently published Donaldson report, Successful Futures.


Professor Graham Donaldson was commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake a review of curriculum.  As he puts it in the introduction:

“My proposals are radical and wide-ranging. They are interrelated and should be seen as an integrated set and not separately. They build on the many existing strengths of Welsh education and aim to provide both a vision for the future and a means of realising that vision that is coherent and manageable.” More…

‘Unofficial Ireland and our sense of ourselves…’


They say the past tells us a lot about the present.  Queuing at immigration in the early morning at Lusaka International Airport in Zambia highlights the point.

Having submitted my passport, the immigration officer comments ‘Ah, you’re Irish, I was taught by the brothers’ – no visa required for Irish visitors.  My Northern Ireland colleague was not amused, travelling as he was on a UK passport and having to pay for an entry visa.

This experience is not unusual throughout Africa, or indeed for that matter in many parts of Latin America and Asia – at least those parts where Irish missionaries and aid workers have been active.  In such regions of the world, Ireland is known for the helping hand it has extended in education, health, agriculture and human rights – it is, as we say, part of what we are, at least in their eyes.  More…

Encyclical with a distinctive ‘edginess’

Photo: poster image taken from In Words and Deeds: 100 Years of Catholic Social Teaching – a poster pack (1991) Trócaire, The Irish Jesuits The National Conference of Priests in Ireland and the Catechetical Association of Ireland.

Photo: poster image from In Words and Deeds: 100 Years of Catholic Social Teaching – a poster pack (1991) Trócaire, The Irish Jesuits The National Conference of Priests in Ireland and the Catechetical Association of Ireland.

With his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (available online as a long-form letter) Pope Francis has entered the fray not just on the environment and its future but also more broadly on the ethics and impact of dominant models of economic development and ‘extreme’ consumption.  His encyclical highlights the fact that our fossil-fuel based, ‘throwaway culture’ coupled with our ‘irrational confidence in progress and human abilities’ and a ‘blind confidence in technical solutions, is ‘actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, even more limited and grey’. 

In keeping with the vast bulk of scientific research and evidence, Encyclical_cover Francis argues that climate change is not just a ‘global problem with serious implications’ for people and planet, but is also based on substantial and growing international inequality whose impact is felt disproportionately by the world’s poorest people.  It is also rooted in a perverse logic that insists on short-term gain for some at the cost of long-term loss for all.

Contrary to much of western popular perception and (ill-informed) debate, he highlights the reality that the resources and wealth of poorer countries continue to fuel the development of richer countries at huge present and future cost.  He calls on the rich of the world to recognise the impact of their wealth and way of life and begin paying their ‘grave social debt’ to the poor by taking concrete steps on climate change and sustainable ways of living.

‘The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.’

Hats off to the SDGs – a brief analysis of the plan to change the world

Where does one even begin to unpack the new sustainable development goals (SDGs)?

When in doubt of what to think I always refer to the great Edward De Bono, thinking philosopher extraordinaire. De Bono created the ‘Six thinking hats’ tool to aid people to think fully and clearly about anything and everything. I use this tool today to begin my journey to understanding the SDGs.

1. The White Hat: the facts

The SDGs are a follow on from the millennium development goals. They are a set of universal goals for the world which will drive political and social action. They have yet to be finalised (end of September is the big day) but several drafts have been created. Currently there are 17 goals with 169 targets.

SDGsThe aim is to have the world reach these goals by 2030. Each target has indicators so that progress of the goal can be measured. For a breakdown of the draft goals and their targets see this helpful Guardian interactive.

2. The Red Hat: the feelings

SDG could just as well stand for Sad, Disturbed and Galled when one thinks about the problems of the world. I could go into facts and figures about topics such as hunger, child abuse and violence but they’re unfortunately aplenty in the web.

Sometimes we don’t even get shocked anymore by the sheer devastation in the world; we become so anesthetized to it all because let’s face it, it’s easier to forget the troubles of the world than carry them around.

There is another option. One can turn these feelings of distain into action. It is here that the SDGs can guide our actions. The idea of this social change brings feelings of hope, passion and determination into the hearts of the activists championing them. Eventually the SDGs may bring peace, security and happiness to those currently bullied by the world, and a sense of community and achievement for the entire human race.

3. The Yellow Hat: the benefits

The benefits of an equal, green and just world are endless. I have picked a target from the goals (target 17.39) at random to examine the benefit of 1/169th of the SDGS. Based on goal 17, this target reads:

“Establish and effectively implement a multilateral code of conduct for multinational corporations to secure social and environmental responsibility and accountability.”

An article by the Guardian in 2010 indicated that the combined environmental damage of the world’s top firms is over 2.2TRILLION dollars. This does not include social damage such as displaced workers/forced migration etc. Of course social and environmental damage is impossible to equate to numerical damage, but one can see from this attempt that the benefits of cutting these irresponsible actions is massive.

The old Buddhist saying rings true here ‘When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money.’ The impact of achieving this one target alone on the world is almost impossible to imagine, but it would definitely lead to a healthier greener world.

 4. The Blue Hat: the process

The United Nations conducted a massive consultation piece while drafting the SDGs. It is hoped that this process will help ‘buy in’ from around the world.

A major criticism of the MDGs was that they did not allow for good governance. One of the big ambitions of the SDGs will be to acutely track and monitor their development to ensure that all goals are being implemented by all stakeholders.

Each goal, however, can be adjusted to suit the ability of the country in question, meaning that each country’s ability is taken into account. This arguably strengthens the ‘how’ of the SDGs as it acknowledges that all countries are different, but they can all do something.

With regard to financing that will be decided in a large conference in July, but it is thought that public money, aid and monies from the private sector through taxation will fund the goals.

5. The Black Hat: cautions and criticisms

Photo: no critics no success by Celestine Chua (Oct 27, 2013). CC BY-2.0 license via Flickr.

Photo: no critics no success by Celestine Chua (Oct 27, 2013). CC BY-2.0 license via Flickr.

There are many logistical and economic questions to be raised on achieving the goals but there is one overarching philosophical and ethical cautioning that must be drawn attention to: Independence. Autonomy. Empowerment. Respect.

While the SDGs have done a better job than the millennium development goals (MDGs) to consult developing countries in their formation, it is of utmost importance that we avoid a situation of the West tells the rest.

While the balance between helping, leading and supporting is a tricky one, it is a balance that may not have yet been struck by the SDGs.

Furthermore the SDGs are supposedly universal. This means that even the most ‘developed’ countries have serious work to do (in particular with regard to consumption and the environment) and must follow the good example of other countries (for example did you know that Kenya scores better on the global green economy index than the United Kingdom?)

6. The Green Hat: creativity and new ideas

Photo: green ECOnomy not greed economy by Lily Rhoads (Oct 31, 2011). CC BY-2.0 license via Flickr.

Photo: green ECOnomy not greed economy by Lily Rhoads (Oct 31, 2011). CC BY-2.0 license via Flickr.

As I stated in my introduction, the SDGs have not been finalised yet. There is discussion that the goals will be shortened to 10, amalgamating goals that are similar. There is also many discussions to be had regarding financing strategies for these goals. There is scope for the United Nations to address current criticisms of the goals and invite an even wider range of stakeholders to be a part of this process.

As a friend of mine (who is 16years old and a young activist) said,

“they’re (SDGs) only do-able if everyone knows about them and everybody jumps on board and tries to do them.”

A wise statement! The SDGs will lead to a world of dignity, partnership, justice and prosperity for all people and the planet, if we all take them on together and acknowledge the responsibility we all have in their success.


For more…

Drowning in the Mediterranean: Tears are not enough

“Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.”
- Insensibility by Wilfred Owen (October 1917)

Wilfred Owen’s poem dwells on the insensibility of civilians to the suffering of the soldiers in the trenches of the First World War. He condemns those who fail to feel for those suffering the inhumanity of warfare and the particular horrors of trench warfare.

Sensibility to the suffering of other human beings is certainly an important component of our common humanity. It is a necessary precondition to act and to achieve change.  And yet it is important to move beyond tears.

I was recently reminded of this when visiting an accommodation centre for migrants with a group of students. All of us were naturally struck by what we saw and the stories we heard. Some were moved to tears.

But are tears enough when dealing with the stories of migrants and refugees? I argue that it is not.

Meeting face to face with stories of human suffering and also, let us not forget, human strength, is naturally a moving experience. Insensibility to such stories is inhumane. But what is required in the face of these experiences is action coupled with an understanding of the factual and legal realities.

Facts and Law

Poster: UKIP poster promoted during May 2014 European Elections.

Poster: controversial UKIP poster promoted during May 2014 European Elections in UK. via UKIP website.

The facts about migration are not being presented accurately or even fully. The impression that is prevalent in the European public consciousness is that Europe is being ‘invaded’ by migrants; specifically migrants from Africa and the Middle East. More…

What we’re watching: men considering the ‘other’ side; the danger of a single story; updating Marx

The danger of a single story

In an increasing environment where there appears to be insufficient time and intolerance in considering the ‘story’ of another, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TED talk (with nearly 9 million views!!) is brilliant in alerting us to the ‘danger of a single story’ and warns that “if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

On the same theme, is an animated version utilising a Snail and a Caterpillar to illustrate the need to see life from the someone else’s perspective.

What if men experienced the ‘other’ side

To promote Menstrual Hygiene Day on the 28 May, WaterAid developed a series of videos that explored how differently the realities of menstruation would be ‘tackled’ if men were directly impacted. The daily challenges of menstruation impacts most severely on women and girls in developing countries.

See also the blog about one man who committed his life to developing solutions for the women’s menstrual challenges in India.

If Marx were to update his findings – more than a century and a half later?

In less than 2 minutes, BBC Radio 4 summarises Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation of the 1800s. Something to reflect on the next time you consider ‘un’fairly traded or unethical products/services.

Deadline tomorrow: Calling all 18-25 year olds! United Nations Youth Delegate Programme for Ireland



Photo: At the launch in the Department of Foreign Affairs of the first UN Youth Delegate Programme for Ireland by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon were, left to right, Orla Barry, MC, Donncha O’Callaghan, UNICEF Ambassador, Ban KI-moon, Sean Sherlock, TD and Minister of State with special responsibility for ODA and Evanna Lynch, UNICEF Ambassador by Tommy Clancy (May 26, 2015) (via NYCI).

“This new programme will support young people to be agents of change, where they are empowered to be active global citizens contributing to building a world of justice, equity, and dignity.”

National Youth Council of Ireland, together with Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are delighted to announce the launch of the United Nations Youth Delegate Programme for Ireland in 2015 (UNYDP).

This new UN Youth Delegate Programme for Ireland will support two young people aged between 18-25 to represent Ireland’s diplomatic mission at the United Nations on behalf of the Irish government and people in Ireland.

The role of the youth delegates includes opportunities to attend two intergovernmental conferences: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit (End of September) and the United Nations General Assembly (in October.

The aims of United Nations Youth Delegate Programme – Ireland are:

  • To directly involve young people from Ireland in the international development policy
  • and decision-making agenda;
  • To hear and include the voice of young people on development issues at local,
  • national, and global levels;
  • To promote development and youth policies among young people in Ireland;
  • To familiarise young people in Ireland with global development issues and
  • opportunities for involvement they have in this regard;
  • To support activities and development initiatives in Ireland.

Criteria and a call for applications for this prestigious and amazing opportunity are available here: www.youth.ie/un_youth_delegate Don’t hesitate! Get your application in for tomorrow.

  • Closing date for receipt of applications is Friday, June 5th 2015.